Spa Junkie on… Piloxing

Our reporter heads to west London’s Grove Park Studios for a high-powered fusion of boxing and Pilates

Image: Jay Yeo

Piloxing – a high-powered fusion of boxing and Pilates that’s said to burn up to a whopping 900 calories an hour if you really give it your all – was created around five years ago by Swedish dancer-turned-Pilates instructor Viveca Jensen. Jensen, who is also a body builder, had moved to LA and was boxing to build her strength, but decided to mix in some Pilates as she liked the idea of combining it with something more feminine. The message Jensen wants to convey through Piloxing is that “women should feel feminine when they work out, yet powerful”. I’m in.

Excited shouts of  “jab, jab, shuffle” ring out above booming pop songs as I turn into the neat little cul de sac of office units that houses Grove Park Studios in Chiswick, where Anny Hooker of Anny Pilates runs a Piloxing class. What must the staid businesses next door think of the lively (and fairly loud) classes? “They love it!”, enthuses the ultra-feminine yet tough Anny, when I ask if they get put off their work. “One of the women next door said it’s only the sound of my classes that keeps her from falling asleep at her desk.”

Before the class starts I’m given some black and pink weighted gloves. I put them on and immediately feel more boxer-like. Then we’re off… Round 1 (officially called block 1, but I’m going with the boxing theme) is a warm-up set of fairly fast-paced stretches during which, for the benefit of any newbies, instructor Anny shows us the basic techniques of jab, hook and upper cut – moves that will feature in the boxing block of the workout.

The tempo of the music moves up a gear and it’s on to Round 2. This involves very fast jabbing while doing “football feet”, which consists of running on the spot really quickly like you sometimes see footballers doing during warm-ups. Within seconds I’m feeling puffed and my arms are starting to ache, but I can sense that many of the women in the class, like me, remain buoyed by the constant motivating call-outs from Anny to keep going, reminding us to think about how great this is for firming up bingo wings. It works – as I remember that sleeveless dress I want to wear for a wedding, I feel peppier!

There then comes a slight reprieve from the intensity – we “slink it out”, as Anny puts it, with a graceful, quite balletic stretch. It’s a welcome change that mixes up the pace to energising effect.

We move on to a Pilates round, featuring precise and concentrated movements that focus on strengthening the core, back and buttocks. We keep our arms lifted throughout this whole “block” and are encouraged to turn out our feet in ballet style and engage our abs to achieve the full gamut of muscle toning and stretching. Although it’s done at a slower pace than the boxing, it is still challenging.

My favourite part of the workout is the dance block, which creeps in as the Pilates sequence finishes and is accompanied by tunes that almost dare me to keep my body still. This is a really clever tactic, as by now even the fittest among us are red faced and puffed out – but the club anthem lifts our flagging spirits and gets the class back in the groove. There’s a kind of showgirl element to this bit as we roll our shoulders and shimmy. I’m pleased to say that although this is called the dance block, the fact that I’m not a member of TV dance troupe Diversity doesn’t stop me from getting the gist of the moves, which are simple and fun.

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The final boxing block really brings out the Rocky in me, and as we hook, undercut and “punch bag” (fast jabs to an imaginary punch bag), the endorphins flow. I let out short, sharp puffs of breath, sounding like I’m really in the ring. Anny’s cries of “More energy!” are just the spur I need as soon it’s “ding, ding: final round” and away we go into the last Pilates block.

It’s been 45 minutes, and it’s time to fling off the weighted gloves (ecstasy), shuffle to my water bottle and grab a mat. Although the Piloxing session is over, the next 10 minutes of mat work is still pretty tough, combining crunches, leg lifts and plank before we finally get to stretch and cool down.

The bottom line:

I really enjoyed the combination of boxing, Pilates and dance – the mix of fierce power moves and graceful balletic ones was energising and exciting.

All fitness levels can have a go at Piloxing, as there are various alternatives for each of the moves to suit both beginners and pros. Although there aren’t many fitness centres that offer Piloxing at the moment, the UK teachers who have introduced it to their studios see it as the next big thing after Zumba – it’s already massive in the US.

So, one, two, three: jab your way to a sleeker, slimmer silhouette this summer.

Spa Junkie is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies.

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