Rachel Grunwell

Fitness writer.

Fitness challenge: Group power fitness

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Reporter Rachel Grunwell pushes weights - and enjoys it - at City Fitness, Newmarket, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
Reporter Rachel Grunwell pushes weights - and enjoys it - at City Fitness, Newmarket, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

What is it? It's an hour of lifting weights to music at the instruction of a trainer.

What's needed? Gym gear, gym shoes, a towel, water bottle, the gym supplies the weights, mat and the use of a bench.

The experience: This place is about location, location, location, as the saying goes.

I'm at City Fitness gym in Newmarket, Auckland. It's in the hub of one of the coolest shopping spots off Broadway, just down from Westfield 277 mall and just across the road from the Karen Walker store.

I'd spied the gym before while shopping, but never thought to check it out because I presumed parking would be tricky. But I'm soon told parking is on-site and is included in the membership, which is a biggie in this part of town. A gym-goer also tells me the location is not the only fabulous thing. The indoor- cycle classes, plus Zumba, are also included in the membership - and you don't get that at all big city gyms. I also note a women's-only workout area and a fitness class timetable with interesting names like group step, centergy, group kick, group ride, group active and more.

I give the group power class a whirl; that's billed on the website as "your hour of power". It's basically lifting weights for an hour to rock songs.

Instructor Carey Farmer tells the full class (all women, but one bloke this day) that during this hour of power we'll each work off an impressive 600 calories. So that's decent. And it makes me think about how much chocolate cake that might possibly equate to? Naughty moi, I know.

The class starts with a warm-up with a bar of weights, just briefly getting different parts of the body in the mood.

Soon we're on to squats, five-and-a-half-minutes'-worth with a bar stacked with weights across my shoulderblades. Carey jokes that even this length of time doing squats with weights "really sorts some guys out". Carey reminds us all to keep smiling, which makes me swap my grimace for a grin.

She tells us our legs and butts are big and can handle the weight, even though they will be "begging for mercy". What she means is butts and legs have big muscles capable of lifting more than some other parts of the body. However, she could just be reading my "chocolate cake thoughts" and be reminding me what cake can do to one's butt!

She then gives our legs a rest, but not our chests, and then other muscle groups are hit, like our biceps (which Carey calls "shaping the guns"), triceps, backs, legs and near the end it's on to an abdominals workout, then stretching.

With each new muscle group we target, Carey recommends how much weight roughly to load the bars with - depending on if you are new or a regular. The class is full, but Carey has an eye on everyone to make sure they can lift their loads comfortably.

After the workout Carey tells me that the power class creates long, lean muscles, not muscle women. She says people should generally aim to lift lighter weights for longer for muscle endurance, too. She reckons this class can be done two to three times weekly and, ideally, mixed up with some spin, cardio or yoga.

I leave the gym feeling exhilarated and bounce into the day. Maybe it's because I feel lighter without the weights.

The next day, I've got less bounce, more of an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like stagger. That means it was a good workout.

Lifting weights for an hour is actually not that daunting because you work out different parts of the body, with different weight options, and the time flies by.

You've got to be happy about working off 600 calories in this class and giving the muscles a great workout. With that kind of effort, it surely must be okay to ask, like the Crowded House lyrics suggest, "Can I have another piece of chocolate cake?"

How much? A casual class at Newmarket City Fitness is $20, a 10-concession class pass is $150, while membership costs vary depending on what's included.

Worth it? Cool class, cool gym, cool location, friendly vibe. I'd happily be a member here.

Try it: The Newmarket branch of City Fitness is at 44 Nuffield St, ph (09) 920 2120 or see cityfitness.co.nz to find a City Fitness Club nearby.

Rating: 8.5/10

- Herald on Sunday

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