PUSHING THE LIMITS

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Train Dirty’s Dean puts a Conrad client through her paces.

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The oxygen-limiting training mask used in the Train Dirty Skinny Rebel workout.

Fitness has taken a turn for the extreme as devotees of gym, track and trail look for the next, most challenging way to push their bodies. We’ve tested the latest workout to be adopted by the trainers at CONRAD LONDON ST. JAMES to decide if this movement is more than just a fad.
If you’re a regular gym-goer, or even an idle spectator of trends, you will have witnessed something of a revolution in the fitness industry. Optimal performance is no longer a term exclusive to professional athletes. Extreme fitness concepts, such as Barry’s Bootcamp, Soul Cycle and CrossFit have developed a cult following. It’s a fitness-driven fat-feeding frenzy.

There was a time when exercise and travel were largely incompatible, but not any more. Conrad Hotels & Resorts knows its well-traveled guests are game for a challenge, which is why it has introduced a new fitness program called Skinny Rebel from independent training outfit, Train Dirty London, at Conrad London St. James. It’s a one-to-one personal training session combining high-intensity and total-body functional training with the use of oxygen-limiting masks, forcing your body to make adaptive changes as to how it utilizes oxygen. Train Dirty London claims that one session can elevate the heart rate to 199 beats per minute and burn up to 1,000 calories. It sounds improbable, I thought, so I decided to step up and test it out.

Dean, one of the founders, meets me in the foyer of the Conrad London St. James one cold morning. From the neck up, he could easily pass as a tech entrepreneur, all beard and cable-knit beanie. But don’t let looks fool you — Dean is a former professional rugby player. Smiling, he tells me that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become his “real passion” since injury cut his rugby career short, which is in equal degrees comforting and worrying.

The Skinny Rebel works like this: the session is 45 minutes long and comprises five rounds of five or six high-intensity drills with no rest in between (at least theoretically — believe me, you’ll try to steal as many free seconds as possible). Each exercise lasts for 40 progressively damnable seconds. After warming up, we move straight into the first round of exercises, made up of deceptively taxing bear crawls, burpees, weighted press-up crawls, mountain climbers and explosive jump squats. While the novelty of round one made it pass seemingly quickly, round two feels as though time itself has ground to a halt.

many people prefer extreme workouts to steady-state exercise because they’re physically addictive.
For the final two rounds, Dean produces the oxygen deprivation mask, which looks like a prop from a dystopian-future film. With my breathing restricted, I find myself focusing less on the pain and more on trying to absorb as much oxygen as possible. I have to forcefully contract my diaphragm to take in enough air. Weirdly, the exercises take on a more profoundly psychological challenge with the mask on, because every synapse in my brain is telling me to rip the thing off, which I duly do before collapsing onto the floor as the session ends. Apart from the time when two ex-girlfriends and I found ourselves in the same yoga class, those were 45 of the toughest minutes I’ve ever spent in a gym, and yet the sense of accomplishment afterwards was somehow rapturous.

This style of training is challenging, but that’s exactly why so many people are choosing extreme workouts over steady-state exercise — not only do they afford us more time during the day, but they are also physically addictive. So if you find yourself at the Conrad London St. James and want to challenge yourself, then try Skinny Rebel. Your body will thank you for it, once it’s done cursing you.

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Book your Train Dirty London Skinny Rebel workout at conradhotels.com/london

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