“I Tried The New HEAT Class At The Gym — This Is What It Was Like”


Susan Barrett |

Image courtesy of Virgin Active

It’s all over in 30 minutes…

We’re always on the lookout for new, interesting and challenging workouts. So when we heard about one that can help you up your game in a super-short amount of time (classes are half an hour), it was obvious we’d be hauling our slightly larger holiday asses over there to give one a try.

To our relief, HEAT stands for high energy athletic training – and has nothing to do with a ridiculously hot room. It does, however, involve a small red space that pulses with sound… and makes you sweat. So, what exactly is it?

HEAT, in a nutshell

According to the website, it’s a sports-focused form of training that teaches your body to efficiently use its energy sources for maximum athletic output, so you get fit – fast, while incinerating maximum kilojoules.

Each group exercise class is made up of four drills – agility, speed, power and stamina – combined with structured periods of rest. Self-powered skill mills, which mimic dynamic movements like sled pushing, footwork and sprinting, are used in conjunction with functional training tools to work your entire body.

Watch: This Push-Up Variation Will Give You Better Results – And A Bigger Kilojoule Burn

The promise: you’ll increase your speed and overall fitness, build lean muscle and improve mobility through skill mill drills, resistance training and movement exercises. Class level: intermediate to advanced. Time: 30 mins, but 50-min sessions are also available for the hardcore.

Here’s how it went…

Wanita Nicol, strength junkie

“The small class is great because it means the instructor can pay you more attention. I loved the way the music guides you through the class and pumps you up – it definitely helps you work harder. The screen makes it easy to follow along – sometimes with fitness classes, I struggle to hear the instructor over the music and the sound of my own laboured breathing! The short bursts of work are up my alley – I much prefer interval training to endurance – and having the time broken up in that way makes the workout feel shorter than it actually is.

Watch: “I Tried HIIT Training For 3 Months – Here’s What I Learnt”

“I also really enjoyed the equipment. Because it’s different to what I’m used to using in the gym, it felt like I was playing with new toys. I especially loved using the skill mills – they’re so different from running on a regular treadmill. For starters, it’s much harder to run on them. You also can’t zone out like on a regular treadmill because the machine isn’t doing the work for you. That makes you a lot more aware of how you’re running, your speed, your gait and where you’re placing your feet.

“Personally, as someone who enjoys strength training, I would have preferred more hardcore strength moves on the floor. But the class is excellent for cardio. My heart rate was sitting at around 80 percent max for most of the class.”

Michelle October, cardio queen

“So walking into HEAT, I expected a really intense workout, with a focus on athletic-type drills (agility work, mobility, etc). HEAT delivered that. Tons of mobility and agility work, which is amazing conditioning if you’re an athlete or someone who spends loads of time working out: you need that conditioning to prevent injuries.

Watch: Exactly How To Burn More Kilojoules On The Treadmill

“The other thing that really worked for me is the ability to go as hard as you can: you pick your weight (or weapon), and the skill mill lets you choose how fast you want to go, with nothing but your body driving you forward (no adjusting speed/incline on the treadmill and hoping you won’t faceplant). Overall, a great workout.

“The only thing that I was missing as a cardio junkie is that feeling of being pushed to my limits – but that’s not always healthy anyway, so I’m more than happy to call this a balanced workout that’s just challenging enough to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

Susan Barrett, cardio scaredy cat

“I love trying new fitness forms, but honestly, cardio scares the living daylights out of me. I know I really should include it in my exercise regime (you know: #balance), but if you’ve ever seen me try to run, you’ll understand the problem. Which is why the HEAT class actually makes sense. Instead of 30 minutes of my heart beating menacingly loudly in my ears, this workout broke it up nicely. Every time I thought I can’t do one more second, we switched to strength and I could build up the courage for the next burst in my safe space.

Watch: This 5-Minute Workout Is Perfect For When You Don’t Want To Exercise

“Surprisingly, I also really liked the skill mill. Unlike the treadmill, which feels artificial, this machine allows a more natural movement of the body – but without the mega strain the road puts on your joints (I’m 39 – it happens). It’s cardio that I can cope with, and I’d go back just for that!

“I agree with Wanita and would have liked a bit more strength training intensity on the floor, but I also realise that I might not have handled the cardio bits as well as I did if I’d been going all-out on strength. So, yeah, as far as achieving balance goes, this workout really worked for me.”

Want to try it?

HEAT classes are being rolled out at Virgin Active gyms right now. In Gauteng, you’ll find them at Menlyn Maine and Rosebank; in KZN, Hillcrest; and in the Western Cape, Kyalami Corner, Silo District and Claremont. Pretoria Loftus is on the cards, with more to follow.

This quickie workout is perfect for when you can’t get to the gym. Plus: 5 workouts that burn more kilojoules than a spin class.

Watch ON: Fitness Fitness Advice