“Al fresco gym”: three words that make me smile broadly and declare “where and when?”.
Digme have been busy this summer. I thought it was pretty cool that they’d opened a gym in a train station when I tried their high intensity class Matrix recently, but they’ve taken training locations a step further with a series of pop up classes on the roof of the Montcalm Hotel over the course of the summer.
I went along to the last session of the season before the long nights draw in.
What They Say:
A workout set to the stunning backdrop of the City’s iconic skyline, based on Digme’s HIIT programme and its three pillars run, condition and move.
After going to Project Awesome’s 6.30am outdoor sesh earlier in the week, an 8am start for this class in the City felt pretty leisurely, and I was thrilled when the late August morning presented bright skies, hopping on the commuter train up to town full of anticipation.
As I headed down to the tube I chuckled at what I’m must look like… I was most definitely the only person on the Waterloo & City line in rush hour wearing bright blue booty shorts! Strolling through the City streets it struck me how this is one part of London I never quite feel at ease in. Back in the day, when I was training as an accountant with Deloitte, it seemed like the natural path to end up there – but wow am I glad life took a different turn! I don’t think I was ever really destined to be a City gal.
The Montcalm Hotel sits on Finsbury Square and I headed on up to the top floor, meeting a friendly lawyer in the lift who’d brought along a couple of her associates for a bit of team fitness before the working day… that’s the kind of boss I like!
The Aviary bar was serving breakfast to hotel guests inside while, on the outdoors deck, there were a group of people finishing off what looked to be a pretty sweaty training session. We were up next.
The set up was cool. The class was split into three sections; cardio, condition and move, and five keiser bikes sat in a row on the edge of the terrace, facing the square and the stunning view of the City high rise. Behind them were rows of mats for the condition and move sections.
As in the Matrix class, the format was three rounds of 4 minutes on each station, progressively increasing intensity each round. The little kicker is that, after each round, the whole class joins together for a ‘dig’; 60 seconds of a high intensity body movement – as many reps as you can.
I was grouped with the three lawyers and another girl and we started on the bike. The first of the three rounds is really a warm up, and it was truly delightful to sit on the bike, legs spinning leisurely, looking out at the beautiful view in the watery morning light and watching ant-people scurry around below.
Next station: “condition”. We spent a minute on each of 4 bodyweight combinations – including push ups, lawn mowers and a particularly tough ‘frog squat’, which essentially involved a minute of quad burn!
Our final station was “move”. This is the tough one that Digme classes are renowned for; simple bodyweight movements that look a lot easier than they feel! The hardest of the four movements for me were 360s, where you rotate 360 degrees round and back on hands and feet without putting your knees or bum on the floor… it was hard even in the warm up round!
The bike sucked in rounds two and three and my heart rate was soaring… but, when I managed to raise my head, the view did distract a little bit! As we moved through the next two rounds, I looked around at my team and was really impressed… everyone was doing the full movements and holding on for the whole four minutes each station. There was a silent collective understanding that we were all going to hold on goddam it, we were in this together!
The “digs” were delightful; one was a new move for me that may well replace the trusty burpee as a new fave love/hate… it was essentially repeatedly lying on the floor and then popping up a la surf board. A burpee in disguise really… but a little bit harder.
Throughout the session Dan, our instructor and head of fitness at Digme, cajoled us, gave us performance cues, and provided scaling options where required (not that many people needed them… this was a pretty fit bunch!). As Dan called “lunge to London!” – I had a huge smile on my face as I looked at that view with the sun on my skin and a burn in my legs!
We finished off with a stretch and smoothies on the terrace. It was simply a wonderful start to the day: sunshine, sweat, smiles and hard work with a bunch of lovely people.
These pop-up sessions combine three great things: a brilliant workout, being outdoors and views. Put them together and just feel those endorphins rise!
The workout is well designed, simple, and is manageable but challenging whatever your fitness level; you can make it as hard as you want to.
There are so many rooftop bars in London, I think it would be simply awesome if more of them opened themselves up to these kind of pop-up classes on summer mornings before the cocktails start flowing… here’s hoping in 2018!
Where: Aviary, 22-25 Finsbury Square EC2A 1DX
How to book: http://www.digmefitness.co.uk – there are no more rooftop classes this summer, but keep an eye out for their return!