Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Fun in the cold, dark mud

Over the summer, while staying at Lee Abbey, I went to a short daily exercise class which consisted of 15 minutes of flailing around to music. A short and stupid conversation with a friend from Bath later, and I found myself charged with setting up a similar session in Bath. Except weekly, and for longer.

This is going to be a "how to run an exercise class" post. Before we get going there needs to be a MASSIVE DISCLAIMER that I am not in any way trained, qualified or insured. If you do anything here, or indeed turn up to the session you do so at your own risk.

That out of the way, this is how I run a high intensity training session.

Time and place

The hardest part is the location. I'm lucky enough to live within easy walk of Victoria Park in Bath, which is an expanse of grass big enough to play some music without bothering anyone other than the ducks and a few dogs. As the weather gets worse it's going to be interesting. We're already coming back covered in mud so I'm polling all the attendees to see who has access to places with a roof. We meet at 8.30 on a Saturday morning, because who wants to be in bed when you can be cold and wet in the dark?

Community and communications

Most of the fun comes from convincing folk to join the group. We stay in contact via a WhatsApp group for instance messaging, and faster excuses. The groups has about 10 people in it, and I reckon about half have ever turned up.

Exercise routines

I've chosen to run the sessions in a tabata format. That is, for each exercise we do 8 runs of 20 seconds with a 10 second rest in between. In theory, the first is supposed to be hit hard to a target for the next 7 but that is something that varies from person to person. We do 8 exercises, plus a warm-up and warm-down and the whole thing last about 45 mins.

This isn't true tabata - it goes on for far too long, for one. But nobody wants to go out to the park in the dark and wet for 5 mins.

If you've been to an exercise class in the past you'll know the basic exercises. We don't do anything clever, and certainly nothing that needs any skill to teach. I trawled the internet, looking for sites with some interesting exercises on them that do not require any equipment and came up with a list. I remix the set slightly each week, to get a blend of hard cardio and more strength based routines and they go on my exercise spreadsheet, because my life is spreadsheets. That sheet has a few workable sessions, if you'd like something to get started as well as links to the sessions on Interval Timer (see below).

Running the session

To run the session, I use a couple of apps on my phone and a bluetooth speaker. My speaker of choice is the Anker Soundcore because it's waterproof and apparently runs on magic dust as it never, ever needs charging.

I use Google Play for the music (see below) and Seconds Pro as the timer (also available on iOS). This does cost the princely sum of £4.50, but for the cost of a beer it's great.

The secret weapon of all this is the site Interval Timer. This allows me to create the classes on a desktop PC before uploading them to my phone (by emailing myself the link). All I need to do on the phone is remember to turn on the audio alerts in the setup for the individual routine.

Bring the noise

Finally, the music. Some people think you can exercise to anything. They are wrong. There is a perfect balance of beats per minute, high energy, and emphasis on the treble so it cuts through as everything goes dark. Most important is that it infuriatingly tugs at your memory because you KNOW this song but you can't remember WHERE FROM or WHAT IT IS but while you're thinking about that you're not thinking about the fact you're lying in cold mud in the dark at 8.30 on a Saturday morning.

Basically, you want 90s dance music. If you're not thinking about Saturday Night or remembering that Rhythm is a Dancer, you're doing it wrong.

And happiness!

And that is it! Walk to the park, connect the speaker, start the music, start the timer and off you go!

With success, you too could create something wonderful like this:

Bath HIIT results

This post is the third of five written in NaBloPoMo - the National Blogpost Month which, yes, is a thing. My plan is to write one post a weekend for the month of November. Due to some amazing planning, that means I have to write five posts rather than the four you might immediately expect. These posts will be a bit shorter than normal most likely and all of the posts will be tagged with (sigh) NaBloPoMo2019.

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