About 45 minutes into my class at the new HIIT-focused gym Orangetheory, I realise I’ve really been slacking through my years of self-prescribed HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) routine.
I’d breezed through the first half hour in the strength training zone, powering through a mix of strength and core exercises like squats and presses, bent over dumbbell reverse fly, and pendulum legs – moves I incorporate into my own workouts. I even upped the weight of my dumbbells beyond that recommended for women for some of the moves. I was feeling a little cocky.
Then came the cardio zone. “OK guys, it’s time to increase your pace to ‘all out’!” bellows the cheerful instructor as a whole row of us huffed and puffed away on the treadmills. In Orangetheory terms, this requires you to up the treadmill speed until you’re sprinting as hard as you can. Not wanting to fall off the treadmill (and because I hate running), I’d increased it by just 1km/hour. With still 15 more minutes to go, I’m completely winded from having alternated between running at an easy pace and sprinting (or at least, my version of it), and rowing hundreds of metres on the WaterRower. I’m ready to tap out. Why did I ever think I was fit?!
BIGGER, BETTER AND BOLDER
HIIT classes and HIIT-focused gyms have become common in Singapore. A guilty pleasure among hyper-competitive Type As who find perverse joy in alternating between intense periods of speed followed by recovery periods, it has since been adopted even by the less fitness-inclined. What
it claims to offer is irresistible: to help burn fat, improve endurance and build strength – and trigger the coveted “after-burn”, where your metabolic rate is increased for up to 36 hours after the workout.
The new breed of HIIT gyms offers more than just punishing workouts; they incorporate technology so workouts can be tracked more accurately, as well as equipment that were previously available only to athletes.
Orangetheory, for example, kits every participant out with a heart rate monitor to connects her to its system, which displays in real time the heart rate, number of calories burnt and “splat points” (total time spent in the
orange and red zones, where you’re working at 84-100 per cent of maximum heart rate for the “after-burn”) on a leaderboard above the studio. The higher your “splat points” – 12 is the recommended – the more you burn, during and after class.
Participants at fitness hub TripleFit’s EnduroFIT class and Australian HIIT gym chain F45 Training are also each given a heart rate tracker to follow and display heart rates and effort expended. Classes are shorter than Orangetheory’s hour-long session (30 and 45 minutes respectively) but include a greater variety of equipment such as assault air bikes and a horizontal ski machine known as SkiErg.
NOT JUST FOR THE PROS
Facelift aside, these HIIT gyms and classes are far from unfriendly or intimidating. On the contrary, they reiterate often that their classes are suitable for all fitness levels.
“Someone who hasn’t worked out in years can find herself next to an Olympic athlete because workouts here are tailored to personal fitness goals,” says Daniel Floyd, managing director of Orangetheory Fitness Singapore. “Also, the heart-rate based interval training means workouts are based on every person’s heart rate instead of how much weight she can lift or how fast she can run.”
Darren Marc Tan, brand communications manager at TripleFit, adds: “This allows our coaches to know who is pushing herself excessively and who should be taking a step back from her workout.”
Such an all-inclusive approach is one reason why these gyms have gained such popularity. F45, which launched its first outlet in Singapore in 2016, now has 15 gyms throughout the island.
Women especially have taken to these classes. Nearly 70 percent of Orangetheory’s clients are female who are between 25 and 40 years old. Over at EnduroFIT, there are more males, but women aged from 25 to 35 still account for 40 percent of class participation.
And unlike the lean, mean machines I expected to encounter, these ladies came in different shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. Several obviously seasoned participants waltzed through the workout but the rest of us were just there to suffer together, fitness goals or none.
MORE THAN JUST A WORKOUT
Beyond the tangible benefits, the greatest appeal of the next-level HIIT workout lies in its ability to cater to any personality type – whether you enjoy the camaraderie of group classes, or simply have a competitive itch to scratch.
I spoke to Heleyna-Ann Fernandez, a teacher, after my class at Orangetheory, who said she tried HIIT classes but got hooked only until she started there. Apart from the friendly coaches, its well-thought-out “killer” classes complement her regime of yoga and weight-lifting.
If you thrive on motivation, the social media savviness and strong community engagement of Orangetheory and F45 will keep you returning for more: upload a picture to the former’s community page after class, and share “what you burn for”, or receive weekly meal plans and health and
fitness tips on F45’s Challenge page.
For me, knowing that my results are displayed to everyone (even if no one’s paying attention) pushes my competitive streak into high gear. I’m usually motivated enough to push myself during my own circuits, but there
is no greater incentive than running alongside others and sneaking glances at their speeds.
I ended my class at Orangetheory sore in spots I’ve obviously neglected during my regular workouts. I achieved 18 splat points, which put me somewhere in the middle of the leader board, which, if I do say so myself, is not half bad for someone new to the class.
Amid the rush of post-workout endorphins, the greatest sensation I leave the class with is the satisfaction knowing that I can up my fitness game – so long I have the right incentive. This new brand of HIIT classes might just provide that boost for me to get there.