Health & Beauty: Fight Club!

Article excerpt

Byline: KAREN HAMBRIDGE

BOXING training and martial arts have been used by men and, increasingly women, for many years to get fit, tone up and trim down.

There's no doubt the two disciplines have significant health benefits, both physically and mentally, and exercise is said to be one of the best stressbusters around.

But in one gym in Coventry stressbusting and physical exertion are being taken to new levels.

KAREN HAMBRIDGE reports.

YOU'VE had a hard day at work, clients have been difficult, employees have been demanding.

So what do you do to unwind? Nip down to the pub for a few pints or get to grips with a personal trainer and roll around a bit on the floor?

For many businessmen and public service workers in Coventry it appears to increasingly be the latter, although simply to say they roll around is a little misleading.

What's actually happening is a new style of fitness training incorporating aspects of physical combat in a structured and safe environment.

And this innovation, being promoted by the Effective Fitness Gym, off Kenpas Highway, Styvechale, is fast becoming a favourite with blokes who want an exercise regime which really allows them to let off steam.

Lee Loughran, who runs Effective Fitness, said the classes of combat sports - based on boxing and involving 'sparring' with a partner and grappling on the principles of wrestling - were among the most popular they had introduced.

They evolved out of the gym's judo instructors' one-to-one sessions with clients who didn't fancy taking part in group classes.

Lee, 27, from Burton Green, explained: "A lot of people were interested in the fitness side of martial arts but they didn't want to be involved in the mysticism or wear the white suits.

"Grappling and combat sports really developed from that and became classes in their own right."

Such is the popularity of the sessions now, Lee has taken on extra staff to ensure trainers are always available.

"It really has been word of mouth - the grappling started about 12 months ago on quite a low-key level.

"Now we can get 20 people at a session. Combat sports is starting to take off and we will be pushing that hard next year."

He said the competitive physicality of the classes was, for some, a welcome change from the more gentle, contemplative fitness trends over recent times.

And it was exactly this battling, one-on-one element which appealed to stressed-out blokes, particularly of a certain age who may have been sporty in their youth but slacked off as work and family became more important.

"Basically this is a revolt against what has been happening in fitness over the last couple of years.

"There has been an emphasis on more gentle pursuits, like yoga and meditation. This is back to basics and a lot more physical.

"It's a total body workout, you get all the fitness benefits of improved strength and muscle tone and you get a great stress-busting workout too."

Although the techniques look very rough and tumble - while watching the combat sports, for example, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in a boxing gym - Lee emphasises they are very safe.

And while they don't feature rows of keep-fitters flinging themselves around, the classes do feature the usual warm-up, stretch, cool-down routine.

Lee said: "You don't have to be ultra fit to start off. As you get better at the class your fitness will improve, like anything else it's progressive.

"And it is very safe. It is all based on personal training. Clients always work out with a trainer and the work-out is done at the client's own level. …