Spa Junkie at… Hiitgirl, London

Our undercover reporter throws herself into a high-intensity interval-training session – for women only

Hiding in north London’s Crouch End lies Hiitgirl, a micro-gym with classes based on the principles of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which switches between short intense anaerobic exercise and rest periods. While aerobic workouts have long been heralded as the best method for burning fat, HIIT is said to work even more effectively by increasing resting metabolic rate.

Founded in 2011 by fitness entrepreneurs Susan and Stuart Dyson, the women-only Hiitgirl aims to provide an answer for busy women who are bored with repetitive cardio routines or expensive personal trainers. The studio claims that the HIIT sessions could bring fitness benefits comparable to more than double the amount of traditional exercise, as these classes force you to work harder in a shorter time frame at a much higher intensity.

My first hurdle is the location; what extra spare time I might gain from the power-training session is lost on travelling, thanks to sketchy directions. The landmark clock tower from the instructions is easy enough to spot – Frederick Place, however, less so. My search for the address turns into a sweat-inducing warm-up. Befuddled, I end up at the bakery counter in Waitrose asking for directions. Having missed the 9.15am class, I sheepishly make my way upstairs to join the 10am session.

The Neom candles, wood-panelled walls, pink mats and balls, ballet barre and mismatched picture frames with black-and-white photographs create a girly-boutique feel, while the exposed aluminium piping on the ceiling lends a certain warehouse edginess. There are also a couple of Schwinn bikes and mini trampolines and in the centre of the room is a display screen with a timing device to monitor the session.

The classes on offer are Pure, Foundation, Signature, Balls or Blender – all versions of the 30-minute HIIT workout, each using different equipment. I try out the Pure class, which is stripped back to bare essentials using just body weight as resistance. Classes usually consist of a set ratio of intense workout to rest period – ours involves a 30-second workout to 30-second rest for a set of exercises that we repeat in three cycles, increasing the intensity each round, with the trainer guiding us throughout.

I am joined by two local yummy mummies (who have both been to the class a couple of times before). I take my place on a mat and face Reka – a super-toned certified personal trainer from Hungary.


We work through basic exercises: squats, side-planks, deep squats resting against a wall, quick-steps using a ball (we place each foot on top of the ball, one at a time, quickly switching between the two), downward dogs, press-ups, jumping jacks and mountain climbers (where we start in a downward-dog position and shuffle our legs forwards and back – great for targeting the glutes). The toughest of the lot is a leg-twist exercise that targets the obliques. While most of the moves are pretty straightforward, I soon build up a sweat and my heart is racing.

Although the group is mixed level, it’s easy for me to push myself as hard as I want. After 10 minutes, we repeat the exercises again, but Reka advises us to dip lower or speed up certain exercises for a higher intensity so we feel we are at 80-90 per cent effort level. By the end of the second cycle I am pouring with sweat. For the final 10 minutes I go hell for leather and push myself 100 per cent. My obliques are burning from the side-planks and mountain climbers, and I feel thoroughly worked. I’m sweating profusely, my heart is pounding – and it’s only been 30 minutes.

I leave the class feeling deeply satisfied.

The bottom line:

I can see the appeal of cramming a longer workout into a 30-minute blast, and I particularly like the fact that as you do as many repetitions in the set time frame as you can muster – you are your own motivator. As such, it’s good for people of all levels of fitness, plus Reka is on standby to correct postures and offer encouragement, so it’s like a personal-training session in a class environment.

This is a good everyday workout but it’s not as punishing as, say, Barry’s Bootcamp. If I could (location permitting), I would go to Hiitgirl in my lunch hour every other day. Apparently, there are plans to open up in Hampstead, Fulham and the City. Watch this space.


Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, therapies and accommodation.

See also