Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Go with the Float; Fitness A New Wave of Classes Is Taking Us Offshore and into the Open Water. Samuel Fishwick Gets on Board

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Go with the Float; Fitness A New Wave of Classes Is Taking Us Offshore and into the Open Water. Samuel Fishwick Gets on Board

Article excerpt

Byline: Samuel Fishwick

LONDONERS are not an aquatic species. If Britain once ruled the waves, now we live on, below or a few storeys above terra firma. Call us wet, but we're landlubbers.

Now, though, new waves of floating fitness classes are pushing us out of our comfort zone -- and we're feeling the benefits. Virgin Active has launched Hydro, a HIIT class in the pool that involves sprints, lengths, and aqua-jogging, while SwimSanity is a high-intensity aqua aerobics class on the timetable at Bannatyne Health Club in Russell Square and Chelsea Health Club in Fulham. Paul Hyman, director of Active360, regularly shunts wary Londoners on paddleboards into Paddington Basin in Merchant Square, where they offer stand-up paddling (SUP) yoga and Pilates classes.

"It's a little bit harder trying the same moves while floating, but not radically harder," he says. "If you're doing a headstand on the board, that's upping it significantly from one on a flat surface on land. But if it's the easier balances, it can surprise people at how quickly they take to them." Like a duck to water? "More like a person to a board."

It's a great workout for the core. "The instability adds to the value of the exercise because it brings in muscles you wouldn't use otherwise," he says. "The oblique muscles around your core get a lot of work, while your hips are working quite hard. You're bringing in different muscles. In yoga and paddleboarding, generally, there's a lot of involuntary use of the muscles, where they're acting as stabilisers. Even if you think you're not doing very much and are just paddling around slowly, you're actually exercising more than you imagine."

Virgin Active is organising free yoga, Pilates, meditation and paddleboarding classes next month, on a Floating Pocket Park, a platform drifting on Merchant Square's waterways.

"We do three types of yoga; calm, align and strength," says instructor Lisa Brockwell, who will be holding classes of between 20 and 30 people at midday and 6pm. Calm focuses on "settling into postures and releasing tension"; align on "body sculpting"; and strength on "toning up and getting a cardio workout". …

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