My love affair with LA-to-London transplant Barry’s Bootcamp knows no bounds. With cool instructors who breathe new life into “no pain, no gain” workouts, classes are hard, enjoyable and get results. But Barry, my love, there’s a new fit kid – 1Rebel (from the team that founded FitnessFirst), on the block – and there’s a new crush brewing.
I’m about to leave the office to meet my dancer friend (DF) for drinks, and she texts to ask if I want to join her at 1Rebel beforehand for a Rebel Reshape class – high-intensity body conditioning – to counteract the cocktail calories. I’m in.
A few minutes walk from Liverpool Street station, and I arrive at the ultra-cool 1Rebel studio in St Mary Axe. DF greets me at the cold pressed-juice bar, Roots & Bulbs – a little different from the usual bars we frequent. As DF has been here before, she leads the way – to what might be the trendiest gym changing room I’ve ever seen: copper lockers, movie-star dressing tables and mod-cons galore, including GHD hair-straighteners.
As we walk past the studios, old-school cinema screening letters announce the names of the classes. It’s seriously cool. As we enter our studio, the shiny, glass doors and slick industrial-style interior make me feel as if I’m walking into a Hunger Games training session – I hope it’ll help me channel my inner Katniss Everdeen.
There are around 15 men and women in the class, and at the command of our instructor, professional dancer Ida May, we take up position at our assigned stations – around half on high-tech Woodway 4Front treadmills (the runners) and half on the black Rebel Box benches (the shapers). She says that every five minutes, we’ll switch between the two, with a 20-second break between.
The lights are dimmed, the playlist kicks off and soon I’m pounding the treadmill. Ida May shouts out the varying speed and incline numbers while she demonstrates exercises for the shapers. Up down, faster, slower – it’s intense, and after five minutes, I’m relieved to be able to hop off and pant towards the black bench. But here I find a selection of weights hiding underneath. Hearing the 20-second break tick on, I reach for the smallest set. Ida shows us some arm lifts and squat exercises and, while barking motivational one-liners, off we go, lifting the weights to work various muscle groups. The moves are punchy and upbeat.
Ida keeps her eye on those of us that find it difficult and pushes others that she feels want to go further – the mixed ability class isn’t a problem for her as she has alternative exercises to help everybody achieve an all-over-body workout.
Before I collapse with a final squat, Ida yells “Aaanddd… change!” and I run back to my trusty treadmill. I could do with a rest, but Ida shouts “Incline five, six or seven! We are going uphill, you know how far you can go!” I look over to DF and give her a “help me” stare but she’s already off…
The adrenaline is pumping and my legs feel heavy, but before I know it, we’ve swapped between treadmill and bench three times and I’m back on the bench. I perk up as Ida May teaches us the Victoria’s Secret special abs exercise, which involves lying on the floor, placing our hands under our lower back and lifting both our upper body and legs towards one another in a V. Excruciating. My body is beginning to shake and my abs are screaming for a rest, but just before I’m about to give in, Ida urges us through the pain barrier and gets down on the floor to join us for the last few exercises.
As we hold the plank, she encourages us with a chirpy “Come on, guys, final minute!” Then it happens: I cross over into endorphin heaven and start smiling. I’ve caught the 1Rebel bug.
After cool down, DF glides (while I shuffle) towards the changing room and opens a large black Smeg fridge, pulling out chilled après-workout towels. What a genius idea! Super-cold towels to soothe and tend to our sweaty bodies.
After a blissful shower, we zip away our Nikes and slip into something a little more uncomfortable. Heading back upstairs we eye up the Roots & Bulbs juice bar, but maybe another time. Mojitos call.
The Bottom Line
After the series of cool-down stretches, I felt genuinely euphoric. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that the playlist was so well-chosen that it seemed to spur me on just when I was finding it hard to keep going, or the unique atmosphere of the studio, but when the music stopped, I was actually sad it was over.
There’s a flurry of high-intensity workouts in London, and 1Rebel is up there with the best, offering a great, total-body workout in style. Beginners and the unfit may find it a bit hard going, but if you’ve got moderate-to-high levels of fitness and are looking for something to shake up your routine, this is just the ticket.