As the year comes to a close and you begin to think about May Dip and summer getaways, you may consider taking steps towards becoming a fitter, leaner version of your late semester two self.

Look no further than Saints Sport’s Athletic Union, which, alongside its gym equipment and machines, boasts an array of fitness classes for all to attend. These classes can satisfy any and all exercise cravings, as they are ongoing throughout the term. Just book one (or two) into your week, and you could very well be on track for the “summer beach bod(y)” of your dreams.

Each semester, the AU offers a new set of fitness classes for gym members. Classes can be booked in person at reception, over the phone, or online up to two days in advance. While I completed most of my booking online, this proved to be quite competitive, as classes filled up quickly and spots were allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Nonetheless, I managed to sample a handful of the many classes on offer, and I have created a run-down on a week’s worth of these classes.

Beginner’s Pilates, Monday 9.30-10.30am with Carol

This class could certainly be the perfect start to anyone’s week, regardless of whether you have experience with pilates. After two weeks of relatively hectic travelling, I headed to the AU Studio and joined half a dozen women to participate in what would be a reinvigorating, uplifting class.

The instructor, Carol, was very friendly, introducing herself to me at the start and asking me if I had any injuries she needed to know about. The exercises focused on stretching the body through simple movements such as rocking forwards and backwards or side to side and stretching your legs up in the air whilst lying on your back.

Throughout, Carol did a great job realigning her students’ posture and positioning, as well as assisting with certain movements. With sunlight streaming through the overhead window panes, I enjoyed a relaxed, refreshing hour of stretching. The movements are simple and the class goes at a relatively slow pace, and this is exactly why it can be ideal for anyone with stress or excess tension in their body. The class serves as a much-needed moment of clarity on a Monday morning.

Workshop Workout 1, Tuesday 9.30-10.30am with Ally

Tuesday, I headed to the fitness centre bright and early to join a faithful group of a dozen or so participants in the AU’s Workshop Workout 1.

This session is hosted in the main gym area for regular, individual workouts. I was the youngest participant and the only student, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the class. In three-minute rotations, an AU instructor guided pairs of class members around each machine in the gym.

I had the chance to use several machines that I had never used before. The instructor, Ally, was incredibly accommodating, introducing herself to me at the start of the class and helping me through each rotation if needed.

She made an obvious effort to circulate around each station and ensure proper use of equipment. Adequate resistance was also provided.

I would recommend this class if you want to incorporate new machines into your gym workout routine.

Zumba, Wednesday 6.00-6.55pm with Ailsa

Raring for a quick exercise sesh before dinner, I entered the studio to find about thirty or so women ranging from age 17 to 50. Over the course of the class, I learned to flail, whack and jump, and “dance” with these women in time to energetic remixes of a conglomeration of tunes.

The instructor, Ailsa, was a bubbly young woman who demonstrated steps in front of the class in an over-exaggerated, slowed-down fashion that made the moves easy to follow. The class was 50 minutes long, but it flew by and was very entertaining.

Ailsa demonstrated a series of steps –– in other words a “dance” combo –– that she would run through several times without music, then again with music until attendees understood the order.

The class was a fantastic cardio workout. It is accessible for individuals of all fitness levels because you can minimise or maximise your movements however you please. Even if you felt awkward doing the movements, no one cared. This is the perfect class in which to move, groove, and shed pounds.

Kettlebells, Wednesday 7-8pm with Ross

Hosted in the studio, Kettlebells was a fantastic workout for the butt, back, and arms –– if carried out carefully and correctly. This was the only class I had no prior experience with, as I had never used kettlebells before. However, this was not a problem, as the instructor Ross demonstrated every movement before a series of two or four twenty-second sets.

With a handful of other classmates, I had the freedom to use one or two sets of weights, switching between a heavier and lighter kettlebell depending on the exercise. We began by stretching the upper body out, specifically focusing on our arms, shoulders, necks, and waist rotation.
We then stretched out legs, hips, and backs and completed a few minutes of cardio to get our heart rates up. Ross demonstrated each exercise, timing the class on a stopwatch for each and walking around to ensure proper alignment. He also checked that we were challenging ourselves enough.

While the class seemed to target the arms, I would highly recommend that before attending you have some back strength and awareness of good posture, as with certain exercises, I found myself swaying my back and putting strain on my lower back due to incorrect alignment.

Yoga Restorative, Thursday 11am-12pm with Anne

With a little less than a dozen other attendees, I filed into the studio on Thursday morning for some yoga before a long day of classes. Amidst the group were several other students, but the rest of the attendees consisted of elderly women and one man.

What began with deep breathing and easy stretching quickly transitioned to series of different yoga positions, including mountain pose, triangle pose, and, of course, the lovely downward facing dog.

We did three or four different poses connected with a set of breathing and stretching exercises until each pose became one fluid combination of movement. Anne kept a steady pace throughout the entire class but successfully had us sweating and feeling refreshed, elongated, and calm with every stretch. The class concluded with a “constructive rest,” an exercise in which we all laid down and imagined the tension releasing from each individual portion of our body. Instrumental music played throughout, accompanying us through each section of the class and reinforcing the calm ambience.

Spin, Friday 7.10-8am with Kelly

The AU offers spin classes six times a week, but all are in high demand no matter which time you decide try to book. As I was unable to successfully book a spot at a spin class this semester, I will reference my experiences from taking the class last year with instructors Ally and then Ross. It is a good idea to try out different spin classes, because from my experience each class strictly depends on the instructor.

Overall, participants spend much of the 50-minute long class cycling, with a couple of minutes dedicated to arm workouts utilising the machine’s handles and a cool down plus stretch at the end.

While spin classes are always a fantastic workout (especially for your legs, back, and overall posture), my biggest complaint about the AU’s spin class is the relationship the instructor has with their music.

Instructors guide the class through a series of timed intervals with the resistance on the machine at different rates. Yet often the cheesy EDM blaring from the speaker builds up and breaks into the chorus just as the instructor tells you to slow down and loosen your resistance. This becomes very anti-climactic, and you feel cheated, almost like you’re not quite cycling to your full potential and using all your strength.

In the class I took with Ross, however, attendees cycle to the beat of the current song, much like the style of several popular spinning places such as Soulcycle.

Like zumba, this class is heavily dependent on the music and beats provided, as they usually direct and guide the class through each series of exercise. Songs are strategically selected to provide a warm-up, steady pace, point of challenge, and finally cool down. This class is great for your legs, and, if spinning correctly, your posture, neck, shoulders, back, and arms.

Next time you find yourself restless and in search of a place to release some energy and tension, head to the Athletic Union for a fitness class. Overall, the instructors were great at making themselves available for questions and concerns, and each made a conscious effort to ensure that their students were effectively utilising the class contents.

While zumba, spin, and Workshop Workout 1 continued at a regular pace, kettlebells and beginner’s pilates were slower and could serve as effective workouts for those looking to personalise the exercises provided in a class. With only a month or so left of the term, be sure to catch a taste of what Saints Sport has to offer.

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