7 workouts for 7 days aka exercise that doesn’t feel like exercising

By Paola Bassanese

7 workouts for 7 days: aka exercise that doesn’t feel like you are exercising aka if you don’t like exercise read this first.


By Paola Bassanese

What do you do when you really don’t like exercise but feel that you “have to” just because you are lovingly nurturing an unsighlty middle-aged spread?

You try as many classes that don’t feel like exercise and see what sticks!

In an attempt to improve my health and fitness levels plus reduce my body fat percentage, I embarked on a mini challenge trying new fitness activities that are fun and stimulating. See my previous article Why I don’t like exercise and what I am doing about it.

My plan was to do 7 workouts in 7 days but as I fell ill right in the middle of my challenge (plus scheduling activities proved to be more time consuming than I expected), the new title is now “7 workouts for 7 days” aka you can vary your fitness regime choosing different types of classes to keep things interesting.

By the way, I don’t like going to the gym and counting repetitions, I find it dull, dull, dull. My brain needs to be engaged. I also prefer to be outdoors breathing fresh air when possible.

Also, let’s all remember that our bodies were designed to move and be challenged in different ways, varying from running to walking, from pushing to pulling, from lifting to carrying weights.

1. Megabands.

This was the first class I tried for my fitness challenge. I did the exercises outdoors which made a huge difference to my mood and motivation. Megabands are huge latex rubber bands (make sure you are not allergic: if you are, your instructor will give you some gloves) and provide a great amount of resistance.


The bands vary in resistance level so if you are a beginner you work with low resistance bands and you build up in intensity over time. The megabands provide the equivalent resistance of using kettlebells.

What I loved about this type of exercise is that it is intensive and explosive: you work out for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. In fact, interval training is great for fat loss and you maximise your efforts in a relative short time. The music is also a great motivational tool and sets the pace for the exercises.

The class is fun, fast-paced and you can either work 1:1 with a personal trainer or work with a small group (2-4 people).

For more information contact  Breathe Fitness.

2. Pilates.

I went to Shoreditch Pilates and trained with Laura and Lucy trying both the beginners’ and the intermediate class. The intermediate class I took was Dynamic Pilates and it was mat based using a foam roller to challenge the body and the core stability muscles. Unlike a traditional gym, the Pilates studio is bright, spacious and peaceful.

The instructors are trained in Body Control Pilates and from August 2012 they will offer Reformer Pilates too.

The classes are mat-based and focus on strengthening and lengthening exercises. The studio holds between 6 and 12 people so it never feels crowded and the Reformer studio holds 3 people. You do feel you have done good work the following day when all your muscles ache. The philosophy here is “less is more” ie you activate those muscles that are weak so that the whole body gets a better alignment. In other words it’s not about huffing and puffing and being exhausted but rather it’s all about the right breathing, precision and the correct technique.

For maximum results I was advised to do Pilates twice a week plus practice at home (5 minutes is enough). You can expect changes in your body shape after 2 months if you practice regularly.

Contact Laura at Shoreditch Pilates.

3. Zumba.

Combining Latin rhythms and even a bit of belly dancing, Zumba has become one of the most popular fat burning classes worldwide.

Each teacher will tailor the routine according to different ability levels or injuries and the emphasis is on keeping things energetic and fun.

From school halls to traditional gyms and even on stage in Trafalgar Square, Zumba classes are enjoying a cult following.

You end up drenched in sweat and you have fun doing the choreography. If you are a keen dancer Zumba® is perfect but if you have coordination or spacial awareness problems this may not be the right exercise for you.

I loved the high energy and the happiness you get from jumping around. I also find the music to add to the party spirit so out of all the various fitness classes you could join, Zumba has one of the highest ranking in terms of fun and entertainment. You don’t mind feeling tired because you are smiling throughout the lesson while shaking your body like a cocktail shaker.

My instructor, Margarete, is from Brazil and has been teaching Zumba® since 2007; she adds samba to the Latin based routine plus her sparkling personality makes her one of the best loved Zumba® instructors in London.

Expect to burn fat and improve your lung capacity by going twice a week for a minimum of 2 months.

Margarete Ribas teaches at Virgin Active and other venues in London.

4. Powerplate.

My training session was 1:1 with senior instructor Ronnie who has 14 years experience. Ronnie has a background in personal training, martial arts and core stability; she started the session with releasing my shoulder because I told her my right shoulder had stiffened when I fell ill with a cold. The training session was an interesting mix of working on the Powerplate using cardio, balancing and strengthening exercises plus some additional work on TRX and balancing exercises using a Swiss Ball. This was a very efficient form of exercise combining strengthening and fat burning.

The studio is bright and has a small patio so on a sunny day you can exercise outdoors.

Powerplate sessions are very efficient as the vibrating platform which you exercise on engages more muscle fibres than just working out on a stable floor. For time-poor busy peole this form of exercise is probably the most suitable as it a very intense 30 minutes long.

I felt that all my muscles were targeted and my immune system was given a bit of a boost because I raised my body temperature and by the end of the session the sniffles had practically gone.

Contact Ronnie at Powervibe Studio.

5. Swing.

I wanted to try a completely different approach to exercise and attempt something as far away as possible from a traditional gym. Swing dancing is a great form of exercise as you spend most of the time jumping, kicking and twirling around.

The term swing dancing is an umbrella category including Lindy Hop or Jitterbug, Balboa, Charleston, Blues and Solo Jazz.You can actually dance after only one class! It may take two months to master all the steps but you can join the social dances straight away after learning the basics. Social dancing, I am told, is the best way to learn and the name says it all: “social”. You get to meet new people and learn different styles and interpretations of the dance. Just two minutes into the routine and I was out of breath and started sweating.

Best to wear non-grip lace up shoes and if you like you can wear vintage clothes to add to the fun and atmosphere.

My first ever experience of swing dancing was at an open event in Newington Green. It was an outdoor swing dance showcase with a group dance lesson. The instructors were Peter and Leah and they made the moves look smooth and easy. When it was my turn to try I wasn’t half bad (I was told I was a “natural”!) and I really enjoyed myself. A very high fun factor for this fitness activity.

You can join swing dance classes throughout London with Swing Patrol.

6. Body combat.

I attended a body combat charity marathon and I am proud to say I survived it!

Body combat is traditionally taught in gyms but depending on the instructors you can also join other public events like charity fundraisers.

Combat is a great all-round type of exercise as it’s high intensity combining cardio, fat burning and strengthening. There’s also some elements of martial arts so you do some tai chi-type movements to catch your breath.

The pumping music keeps you going and it’s mega loud. Body combat can also be a lifesaver when you are feeling frustrated or angry as the punching and kicking are really therapeutic.

A combat session is extremely effective and like with any other form of exercise, consistency is key so attend a class twice a week for noticeable results.

Chris Cerclay teaches body combat classes in London.

7. Bikram yoga.

You probably have heard of hot yoga and its benefits. And yes you do sweat but no, you don’t smell!I tried my first ever Bikram yoga session at Soho and stayed for the full 90 minutes (it’s bad etiquette to leave in the middle of class). You get precise instructions on how to position your mat so you can get a clear view of the mirror but guess what: a latecomer placed his mat right in front of me so I couldn’t see the mirror. Only his sweaty back.

Apart from that, the class was excellent: the sequence of 26 poses work the entire body including your internal organs. In fact, instructor Simone cleverly explained how each position benefited individual muscles, joints and organs. She made sure we all did the positions correctly and focused on our breathing and keeping hydrated.

It is recommended to do Bikram yoga 3 times a week for maximum results. I personally think it’s better to go on a beginners’ yoga course first before you try Bikram because during a Bikram yoga class you can’t get individual corrections and you are supposed to be quiet throughout.

There’s no rules in terms of how long it will take you to “learn” the routine as it could take months or years; it’s more about the process of listening to your body and help it heal itself. In fact, every time you attend class you learn something new.

I was told that in my first session I should take it easy and go at my own pace without forcing any movement. Also when I asked about fat loss, there’s no point in getting fixated as it is a by-product of the intense exercise; the main emphasis is on injury rehabilitation and improved flexibility and focus.

Classes are very popular therefore they can be crowded.

Check the timetable and read the FAQ before your first session at Sohot Bikram Yoga.

The verdict

2012 is the year of the London Olympics and there’s no excuse to be lazy while top athletes bust their guts trying to win a gold medal! As I need constant stimulation to keep motivated to exercise, I have decided to do all of these classes on rotation and keep finding more to add a bit of spice to my fitness regime! If you, too, are embarking in a new exercise regime remember to get regular massages: check out my special London 2012 Olympics massage offer.