Fitness First’s new Beat gym is a boutique concept centre at Charing Cross. Part of the company’s ￡70 million rebrand, it focuses on optimizing your workout for fat-burning through heart rate based training
The idea for Beat was to create a gym that didn’t just have a box full of equipment but a more engaging environment without endless racks of weights and random machines.
Contrary to conventional gyms, Fitness First Beat is about optimizing your workouts using heart rate based training with Polar Heart Rate Sensors. These are linked to the Polar Beat app (via Bluetooth) that allows you to work harder and achieve faster results.
Every class has an expert instructor that helps and encourages participants to work harder at their personal fitness levels. Members are able to experience heart rate based training that works them at their perfect level of intensity specific to their fitness goals. For example, not everyone in the class will be at the same heart rate for the same piece of equipment.
Polar Heart Rate sensor that is used during a Fitness First Beat class
Whether you are time poor, have a serious lack of workout disciple or are up for an incredible fitness challenge, the classes that Beat offers are not for the fainthearted and ideal for naturally competitive people!
I’m not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED before taking this class. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and, as always, I was afraid I would mess up or not be able to do it. Once I arrived, the staff was incredibly helpful and inviting. They told me exactly what to do and where to go, which eliminated that awkward standing around waiting time.
It was a modern, trendy, and clean environment with dimmed lights and giant bright screens on every single linked to the heart rate monitors that class participants wore. The middle of the gym was completely open and the gym was lined with treadmills, rowers, and other cardio machines. Looking around timidly, the staff must have caught on to my nervousness and assured me I would be able to complete the workout (though I was still unconvinced at this point). I was given a heart rate monitor to put on and we got started once everyone arrived.
There were about seven ridiculously in shape men (not at ALL helping my anxiety) and me. Our expert instructor, Lee, explained our heart rates would show up in a grid-like form on the TV. Each box that our heart rate percentage and name were in was highlighted in a different color depending on the percentage of our optimum heart rate we were working at: blue for 60 percent, green for 70 percent, orange for 80 percent and pink for 90 percent. For each exercise, we wanted to be above 70 percent – the optimum for fat-burning and fitness – which meant that you had to work harder, faster and more intensely during every exercise to reach it.
The workout began with a warm up that included burpees and running in place to spike our heart rates. After that, our first task was cardio. We had to go on a Curve treadmill and get our heart rate between 80 and 90 percent. The treadmills are completely non-electronic and instead rely on your own body weight to determine your speed. The more you ran on the curvy part of the treadmill, the faster you went. Doing this for three minutes had to be one of the most tiring things of my life… I felt like I couldn’t breathe or walk properly, but it was off to the next exercise. Every class works like a circuit, so essentially everyone is doing one activity for a few minutes, then we would switch. It was a mixture of cardio, then strength and so on.
Between the cardio exercises, we did weighted lunges with sandbags over our shoulders instead of weights. Lee, our instructor, said that using the sandbags is less intimidating to people than using dumbbells. It reduces the stress of seeing traditional workout equipment. Each exercise required a different heart rate percentage, but the bottom line was that we had to keep our heart rate over 70 percent.
Many of the exercises were strength accompanied with cardio. For example, one of the exercises required us hold a heavy handbag while squatting and toss it up in the air and repeat for a minute. This worked our muscles, but also shot our heart rates up because we were moving with such a heavy object. We also did a lot of partner activities, such as tossing a sandbag to and from each other, as well as sprinting exercises with a team for three minutes. In addition to the sprints, Curve treadmills and lifting the sandbags, we worked out on Versaclimbers (hello 80s!) because they are a great machine to perform short bursts of cardio on.
Honestly, each exercise had me huffing and puffing and wanting to quit. One of the only things that kept me going was the competitive spirit in me when I saw my heart rate was dropping, which (surprise!) is the point of the class. This workout class is tough, and the heart rate monitors DO truly encourage you to work harder because who wants to be the only member of the class stuck in a blue or green box while every one else is pumping into the orange and pink zones? Nobody. It also encourages you to work past your weakness, which is an unbelievably satisfying feeling.
It sounds extremely tiring – and it was! – but it is a great workout. I walked out of the gym physically feeling like jello, but mentally feeling like I was made of steel.
At the end of each workout, you are e-mailed a complete summary of your results including the calories you burned, which exercises you worked the hardest, areas of improvement, your peak heart rate and your average heart rate throughout the class.
There are 14 classes held per day, each about 40 minutes long. Members have the option to choose between five classes that each require a varying level of fitness. Those new to working out may choose a class such as Move Better that requires a minimum of a 65 percent heart rate level, while athletes (or masochists) may choose the HIIT Pro class that requires a minimum of 90 percent heart rate level during alternate periods of high intensity exercises.
When classes aren’t in session, members can use the equipment on their own time for a more traditional workout, while still practicing with the unique equipment used in each class. This includes: Curve treadmills, Versaclimbers, Blade Spin bikes and Water rowers.
Beat also has a brand new spin studio that uses the same heart rate monitors to optimize each workout. Victoria Pendleton Pro Cycling is also a spin class that is offered, designed after her training. Aside from being a world-winning track cyclist, Pendleton is also a Fitness First ambassador Who knows, maybe she plays her fit and famous playlist during the class!
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