Ministry does Fitness

How did I end up setting my alarm after a stressful day of not quite half-marathoning to go to the Ministry of Sound somewhere near Elephant & Castle?
Well…I guess that is a mix of things, I saw a few familiar faces turning up and posting IG and Twitter about this place and thought it looked pretty good fun – not your normal gym class.

Secondly, I recently cancelled my gym membership – quite simply, I wasn’t going. With marathon training in full swing and moving to a new office with no Virgin Active branches within walking or easy tube distance I wasn’t going. I’d been yearning for some time to get back into my strength training – I started off doing it myself and really got into the swing of it.

But after a while it drifted off and no longer found the motivation to lift weights on my own and explore new areas as I didn’t really know what I was doing. I experimented with a PT to help me but, jeez they’re expensive!!

Around the same time Ciara (@BlueeyedSoul13) had cancelled her membership and we were chatting about what gyms were around and better ways of doing fitness classes. I mentioned I’d browsed the MdF site a time or two without committing and before long we both agreed to meet ‘under the arches’ at Ministry for a Cardio session at 7.45. I specify the time because we both thought it was a 7.30 and missed out of 15minutes of beautiful, wholesome sleep.

Four Prinicpals of MdF –
– Freshness, fun and non-stop amazing vibes every day
– Work, Learn and Party, together
– Real, Fast Results
– 100% of your fitness needs

Monday – 7.45 Cardio with Nik
I eventually found my way out of Elephant & Castle tube station, got my bearings and headed for the ‘the arches’. I arrive about 7.20, greeted by Ciara who eventually found her way and I got booked myself in.

Now, I’m not the fittest person around (I know, you’re shocked, get yourself back on your chair), so the proceeding 20mins were stood around nervously chatting to Ciara in a corner as all these incredibly fit looking people walk in (mostly women), I was relieved to also see a few blokes has arrived too.

I’d done HIIT sessions at the gym before but they always went one of two ways, either really tame and didn’t test you, or completely the opposite and they broke you into a ball of sweat on the floor – they were never consistent, and a little uninspiring, particularly when your coach is basing the class of an app downloaded off the App Store.

Was I nervous?, hell yeah, could I do all the exercises?, would I make an idiot of myself?, would I throw a kettle bell half way across the room (actually that kind of did happen), would I die from exhaustion? Only one way to find out…….

We were called in after seeing lots of broken, sweaty people come out from the 6.45 class (I mean eager or what?), and proceeded to hi-5 both instructor Nik and assistant coach on the way in to the darkened room.

I think they keep it dark so you can’t see the impending hell in front of you.
We had a quick demo – the way it works is groups of 4 go around 7 stations, 3 times for 45mins – easy right? That means you have to remember 21 exercises (fyi they are written on the wall, but what are upside down, flipped, double-weighted, squat thrusts anyway?)

So what did we do: Each station was a different exercise and utilised a different way of making you sweat Medicine Balls, Kettle bells, woodway curve, TRX, sled/prowler. They have a lot of kit and it’s all really good condition, and nice to use – even if your hands smell of metal a bit after using the kettle bells. It was 30seconds on, 15seconds rest until you had gone through all 7 stations where you had a 60 second rest and went again.

I came out the other side, so yes I survived – sweaty but so pumped for the rest of my day – it was incredible! I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt, I actually felt like I’d just been for a good night out at a club with friends (not that I’ve been to many nightclubs in my time).

Time to get showered (I had brought my own towel but you can hire one for £1, which I might do tomorrow) and that was so nice – I did spend 30secs in the shower just resting on the wall with the water showering me. Then it was back to the bar (yes they have a bar) for Pro-yo breakfast (yoghurt in a squeezy pouch thing) which was delicious. I will probably try one of the protein shakes tomorrow as there is no breakfast after Strength.

Favourite exercise: Kettle bell swings with switching hands
Least-Favourite exercise: Sprinting on Woodway Curve (and I thought running would be the easy bit for me)
Tuesday – 7.30 Strength with Alice
My alarm goes off at 6am, bag already packed, workout kit laying on top, ready to go by 6.30.

My first thought of the day is that, I felt really good yesterday after the Cardio session and it carried me through the whole day. However, waking up, I was instantly reminded that I’d done a good workout – my shoulders, biceps and Core definitely knew they’d been working.

I found it easier to get out of the tube station today and got to Ministry just as the previous class were coming out, I checked in and chatted to Bethan (@aprettyplacetoplay IG & Twitter), who said she would come join us for this as it was her favourite session. Bethan did a whole week of classes and blogged it – we wanted to make the most of our entry week offer but, that was a bit further than I wanted to go.

On the way in we hi-5’d our coach for this morning’s session (Alice) and assistant coach (Nat) – something that we all agreed – it’s a tiny thing, but it really says welcome and this is no ordinary gym class.

Same setup, 7 stations, but this time you only did each station once, but did 7 sets of two exercises at each station.
The time you spent doing the exercise had gone up from 20 in Cardio to 30s in Strength and only a 20second rest between sets but no 60second break between stations.

The hardest part of this was using the woodway curve to do Mountain Climbers – I find it hard enough just trying to run on the damn thing without holding on for dear life! Try it when you’re at the gym next – hands out front, get your bottom as low as possible an go – your knees wont thank you, but it’s a great core workout.

Once amusing moment during the “skull-crusher” was Alice stealing my dumbbell off me, shaking her head at me and went and got a bigger weight. And this is why I love it so much here – the coaches won’t break you (I once had a PT session where I couldn’t walk for three days after & needed a sports massage), but they won’t let you get off easy, you’re there for a workout and to improve yourself, there is no point going otherwise and they make sure you’re giving your full potential. I also got told to lower my squat right at the last set too – it’s amazing when someone tells you to go lower – you find that bit extra you didn’t know you had!

What did I think of Strength – well, I’ll be back! I’ve really let me Strength training slip lately and although any of the classes will help you improve, this one is targeted at an all body session. Alice and Nat were amazing, there wasn’t an exercise I couldn’t do and I came out sweating like hell, but also really pumped for the rest of the day.

Favourite exercise: Skull-crushers
Least-Favourite exercise: High-Low Planks
No Ministry today >>sad face<<
Although I am starting to stiffen up quite a bit – although that could also be the fall I had last night while tail running my club’s Cross-country race last night.
Today was always planned as a rest day from Ministry as both Ciara and I (along with Will and Melissa) are heading to a special Chase the Sun race with dinosaurs in Crystal Palace – who doesn’t want to do a race with dinosaurs and a dinosaur medal?

Thursday – 7.30 Core with Alice

This was a tough one to get up for, after Chase The Sun and a night tidying up before my folks arrive for the weekend, getting my bag packed and kit ready for a 6am alarm was not easy. But then that’s the great thing about doing this with someone else – I don’t want to let Ciara down, I know she’d be fine and have fun if I wasn’t there, but we said we’d do this together, that accountability is worth more than the price of the class to get you out of bed and on the tube.

I really enjoyed Tuesday’s Strength Session with Alice and was looking forward to what was in store this morning with a Core session. Straight away I could tell this would be tough, 4 times round the 7 stations this time, remembering all the exercises was enough to make me sweat.

There was only a few seconds rest between stations too, so by the time you’d dragged yourself off the floor and got to the next station you were going for it. This was manic!

It wasn’t as ‘core centric’ as I imagined, but it was still incredibly good session and a really good workout, if not a little manic.

Favourite exercise: Mountain Climbers on Woodway Curve
Least-Favourite exercise:Hip raises with feet in TRX ropes
Friday – 7.45 Showcase with Niamh
This was it, the beginning of the end (of our first week at Ministry).

It was a bit sad really, we’d had a great week and I kind of didn’t want it to end – I was going to miss that pumped feeling first thing in the morning.

Showcase, what’s that then – good question, I didn’t know either. All I knew was that if you only had time for one session per week, this was the one to go to.

Hmmm, either going to be fun or extra tough, or hopefully a mix of both.

As usual high-fives on the way in and it was go. The exercises were different but the layout and the process was the same.

This time was three times round the circuit, two different exercises then on the fourth you had a choice – you could choose which of the two previous exercises you would do again. I went for ones that I knew would improve me, typically I went for the strength option rather than the Core or Body Weight exercise, even though I did throw in a few Medicine Ball Burpees on the 6th station.

That went super quick, it was brilliant, I was soaked with sweat but feeling completely awesome again too. Both Ciara and I declared we would definitely be back for showcase again – personally I’d like to do an evening session when the bar is open and I hear a few of the coaches sneak into Ministry of Sound too!!

Favourite exercise: Throwingmedicine ball between two people and squatting between
Least-Favourite exercise: Box Jumps (I suck at jumping)
Endurance – 7.45 with Niamh
This was the one session we missed from the week before so it was only right we went back to try this out. I’d chatted to a few of the other guys in the changing rooms about endurance – word on the street was that it’s very similar to the other classes in terms of exercises, but you’re doing each for longer and even shorter rests – oh goodie!

We brought Melissa (@moosenshoes) along thanks to our free guest pass, it’ll be fun…they said. Introducing via Endurance was an interesting choice.

Well it was pretty much as it says on the tin – its long holds in positions, no rests between sets and minimal rest between stations. All in all it made for an hectic, but energizing 45minutes.

Both Ciara and I came out saying that it was probably the one that tested us the most, but also the one we enjoyed the most to – we’re sadistic like that. We’ll be back for Endurance again this week!
Favourite exercise: High-Low planks (not really my favourite it’s just that I managed to do them)
Least-Favourite exercise: Box Jumps again (I still suck at jumping)
It’s not your usual gym classes, in fact it’s so much better – you can do your own thing and push as hard as you feel capable. The coaches are there and they motivate you and there to make sure you’re doing it right – most important when it comes to the Strength session. I’ve only ever had one exercise I couldn’t do (hanging from bars) out of probably 140 exercises over the 5 sessions.

It might seem a little intimidating at first, but everyone is really friendly, far more than your usual Virgin Active or Fitness First. It’s almost a little family – you get to know and recognise the same people, provided you don’t mind stepping out of your shell a little and talking, it’s a great friendly atmosphere.

What I loved about Ministry:
– You can do your own thing, you can push as hard or as little as you need
– The coaches are incredibly motivating and really kept you pushing right to the end
– The screens (the screens display how long you have to go in your set and how long you have to rest) they’re invaluable, when you see there’s only 8 seconds left, whatever it is – you hold it to the end. Also tells you when you need to be ready for your next set
– The music & lights – it’s pretty cool, the music you stop noticing after a while but when you’re doing reps of an exercise it really helps with the rhythm of things
– The environment, it’s a nice place to work out, the showers are clean, the lockers are safe and the kit is awesome

– the protein shakes – i’d love to know what they use because they are the best

I guess the telling thing for me is that when I moved work and started Marathon Training I went to the gym, twice, maybe three times, in the past two weeks I’ve been to Ministry 6 times and I cant wait to get back.
FYI: I paid for the classes myself, MdF are not sponsoring or paying me for this blog! (yeah, that’s how much I loved it)

You can use this discount code for 10% a pack of classes -> BIGCARL_17