RISING is here at the British capital’s iconic London Eye, queuing with the tourists for a panoramic view of the skyline – so far so standard, but I’m starting to notice some odd looks coming my way. I’m dressed in gym gear and toting a heavy-duty resistance band… and so are my friends. Yup, I’m not here to sightsee, I’m here to sweat! We’re going to prove that you don’t need a gym, a load of equipment, or even more than the time it takes the London Eye to rotate, to get a muscle-shredding, gains-delivering full body workout.
Barry’s Bootcamp is the international group exercise company with gyms in New York, London and Milan to name a few venues, and trainer Sandy Macaskill, who set up the London operation, has challenged RISING to a taster of his training philosophy – here’s what we learnt that you can apply to your own exercise routine, wherever you do it…
‘I don’t have a crazy switch in my head where I can turn focus off and on whenever I want to’
1. Everyone Can Be Lazy, It’s Not Just You
The last time RISING was at the London Eye it was to drink Champagne, and to be honest that’s what we’d prefer to do in this heatwave – but now we’re here as part of a psyched-up group, a workout is actually an exciting prospect. It’s just that humans are designed to be lazy, and self-motivation is hard, even for a professional trainer like Sandy Macaskill. ‘I don’t have a crazy switch in my head where I can turn it off and on whenever I want to,’ he says. ‘I’m like the average guy where I can be pushed, but I can also stroll around the gym watching TV, chatting to people. My old trick used to be, like refilling my water cup, as often as I could. It would take me about three hours. I mean I should have all the motivation in the world to be fit, and I still struggle.’ So, don’t rely on self-motivation, because it will fail – find a training buddy, or 10.
2. Fit The Workout To The Window, And Mix It Up
As we’re lifted into London’s iconic skyline there’s no time to gawp through the glass. We’re straight into a full-body workout, with a minute of resistance-band squats. We only have 30 minutes before the rotation is complete, and a small area to work in, so the circuit has been designed around that, rather than following an inflexible, predictable template. Mixing things up is good, and it also cuts down on your available excuses for ditching the session.
It’s a good training philosophy to follow, says Macaskill. ‘One week I’ll spend more time focusing on time under tension, then next week I’ll do really light weights, and max reps. Then the next week, we'll go heavy and we'll just do really basic moves – I do believe in that whole mixing it up thing because you need to keep your muscles guessing. If you just do that same thing, you’re just working the same fibres the whole time.’
3. Don’t Let Complexity Trump Intensity…
We’ve all been there – we only have 20 minutes for a workout, our brain is fried from that four-hour meeting and our fitness program is demanding we do some 40-minute complex-athon involving wobble boards and exercise names we have to Google. Suddenly Netflix is looking like the only sane option… ‘I don't like doing a workout which is just all gimmick and standing on one leg – for me, that doesn't work,’ says Macaskill.
RISING, for one, is starting to feel the pace – I started smashing through the resistance band arm curls with half-a-smirk, which has soon dropped to a-whole-grimace – it turns out 60 seconds of high speed band reps is nothing to be sniffed at. Because the resistance builds towards the end of the rep, rather than the beginning, which we’re used to from weights, the exercise is delivering more bang for our usual buck, ramping up the intensity levels in our mobile gym.
4. …But Make Sure You’re Working Towards Your Own Goals
Just because you’re working out in a group, doesn’t mean you should park your own goals, for the sake of ‘fitting in’. Interestingly, we’ve been told to take breaks when we need to, when in the past RISING has done exercise classes where they tell you to keep moving at all times. I’m really feeling the burn now, as we push out twisting arm raises, and then pause to hold a squat position under tension. But knowing I can set my own mini-rest period means I can focus on doing quality reps that produce a real training effect.
‘Like Barry himself told me, in my first class in New York, he was like: ‘You can make this what you want. If you want to lift heavy, grab some heavy weights and lift heavy, and just take more breaks,’ says Macaskill. Finding your own challenge in a group exercise environment is a refreshing approach and it means you can work it into your own long-term goal structure much more easily.
‘Monday mornings people are like, ‘ugh’ – but then they walk out of the gym in a completely different mindset’
5. Don’t Underestimate The Power of Movement
As RISING sweats through a triceps-torturing series of dips, we spot the tourists in the next pod staring at us with dropped jaws and snapping away with their phones – they’re so amazed by the spectacle of a group of determined fitness fans that they’ve totally forgotten the sights they paid to see! That’s when it occurs to me – whenever people are exercising we become objects of fascination to everyone else – why? Perhaps we all unconsciously recognise that movement is an essential component of who we are, and even how we express ourselves?
So, what if prioritising workouts exactly when we least want to do them is key to making an active lifestyle stick? Macaskill agrees: ‘Monday mornings people are like, ‘ugh’. But you walk out of the place in just a completely different mindset, because all it needs is one person to be doing something; the trainer gets involved, everything just happens, and you’ve shaken off the cobwebs.’
6. Never Use Your Environment As An Excuse
As RISING tumbles out of the London Eye pod, psyched from the amazing views, and the endorphins pumping around our muscles, we realise that we’ve redefined the possible terrain for micro-workouts. Macaskill has this advice for anyone looking for a travel workout: ‘If you're on a beach, or outside away from home, just mark out two spots, 20 metres apart, do ten squats, sprint to the other end, do ten push-ups, sprint to the other end, nine squats, sprint to the other end, nine push-ups, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Do that. If you need to go again, do it again. If you’re by a pool, same thing but swim between them. At the end of that, you’ll be properly done.’
WHAT NEXT? Not in a gym, or on a beach, or even able to get out of a hotel room? Still no excuse – do a press-up pyramid, right now: do however many press-ups you can do, once – 20 for example. Then rest for 20-30 seconds, do one fewer press-ups, rest again. And repeat all the way down to one press-up… You can do one press-up, right? Congrats, you’ve just smashed out a workout!
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.