Now I know how Hannibal would feel during burpees… – Skinny Rebel review

A few months back, Kate & I received an opportunity to test out “Skinny Rebel“, a class offered by the guys at Train Dirty…which is described as “a personal training workout with a difference”…

A myriad of things (think building leaks, illness and general work/life balance being the wrong way round) set out to try and prevent it happening, but a few weeks ago I was able to try my hand at the sort of thing that typically happens when you live in say, Colombia or the Rift Valley – hypoxic training…or for those of you who don’t recall this from your sports science degree – reducing the oxygen available to the body. In this case, it’s all down to a clever little mask.  Which makes you look either like Bane or Hannibal. And sound a bit like Darth Vader.

*Disclaimer – the session was provided free of charge, however all opinions are my own*

A nice and leisurely 8am session was a great idea, meaning I didn’t have to leave my flat until 7.20 to get to the gym, WIN.The Conrad St James is super easy to find – bang opposite St James’ tube (although I walked from Victoria, which took about 10 minutes) and very close to Met Police HQ. It is, as you’d expect, a gorgeous location, with the kind of reception staff you would expect from a high standard hotel. (also meaning there are gym towels, lockers, a fridge full of still and sparkling water and the ever-present hotel gym green apple offering!)

The gym is tucked away downstairs and upon entering, my initial worry was confirmed – it was a typical hotel gym aka about 4 square foot, with a weird “this can do everything” weights bench and your usual limited cardio and weights equipment.Ugh.


However, don’t judge a book by its cover Katie.

I was welcomed in by James and we had a chat about the class, the team, the locations (think luxury hotels in St Tropez and Lisbon….much more appealing destinations than London on a dreary Wednesday morning!) and what was coming. I went along with the naive feeling that, being a fair few months into a marathon training programme, I was in pretty decent shape, but was promised that this would really help to test where I wasn’t in shape. And where I needed to focus.

Circuit 1 went something like this:

Bear crawls, ropes, more ropes, duck walks, boxing, burpees. BURPEES. I hate burpees. However I have a real respect for anyone who puts them in a circuit though as I know they do their job.

Circuit 2 was similar, a few changes in exercise, but of note was that BURPEES were in there again! At this point I was pretty glad I didn’t have the mask on yet, purely because the feeling of burpees couldn’t possibly be made any worse…

However, after this, out came the mask. And yes, I looked like Hannibal. If Hannibal had blonde hair.  I found the biggest challenge was learning not to panic when you couldn’t breathe. It’s like swimming, or anything where you need to focus on your breathing – the more you panic, the harder it is. I have a feeling if you do yoga and are good at controlling your breathing, you will do this a heck of a lot better than me…


The choice is yours whether to wear the mask or not – and I’m not going to lie, it was a pretty tough session even without the mask on! I wonder whether I would have pushed myself more not wearing it – I was struggling so much with getting used to it and worrying that I couldn’t breathe that I probably put less intensity into the exercises themselves (i.e. burpees) I think thought that after a couple of sessions you would easily crack it and begin to reap the benefits. There’s a whole host of studies about the impact of continued oxygen deficiency on the body (it boils down basically to being able to do a better job of transporting and using the oxygen you have available when you limit it) – and this is a legit way to do it rather than a) becoming a pro cyclist and going the short way round or b) spending months living up and training down mountains.

Fail #1 is misplacing my HR monitor. I have no idea where it is (probably under my bed) – and I wish I had had it for this session to see the impact that putting on the mask actually had. Claims are big – up to 1000kcal in a 45 minute session.

Fail #2 is thinking ‘I’m sure I will be fine wearing a mask’. Nope, it’s less fine than you think it will be – it took me a good circuit and a half to feel comfortable wearing it and less like I was going to have a full scale panic attack. But once it’s on and you’ve got used to it – you begin to forget it’s there. Until you realise how much harder it is making things feel!

Fail #3 is doing an arms session the day before. NO! This made my press up ability very limited – and meant my planks suffered as well. I get to the point now where I just think I am in a permanent state of DOMS.

In summary:

  • It’s new, exciting and different
  • You don’t HAVE to wear the mask – you’ll get a decent workout whatever you choose, but it’s a great little thing to try
  • You also won’t be FORCED to wear the mask – I whipped it off a couple of times mid circuit for a few quick breaths and then popped it back on again, it’s amazing what a bit of calm and reassurance can do to you
  • You can do A LOT in a hotel gym with minimal space. This I think is down to great planning and a trainer who knows what gets results – big thumbs up to this approach
  • Always trust a PT who can judge you early on – the best ones can read through the lines and push you to do what you can, rather than what you think you are a bit too tired to do

I then popped to work with a spring in my step – I showered at the office so didn’t get a chance to see if you were able to use any changing facilities – and was buzzing to tell people what it had felt like!

Skinny Rebel workouts run at Conrad London St. James for guests and your regular selves. The workout is priced at £40 for one 45 minute session, with block booking offers available. For more information and to make a reservation, email: info@traindirtylondon.com – or they’re also on Classpass.  The team also offer a range of PT options – visit the website for more information.

 

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