Feel the burn! CrossFit, power yoga, MMA and more: 5 high impact fitness classes to try before summer

Whether you’re a workout junkie or finally making good on a New Year’s resolution to get fit, there’s nothing quite like spring’s landslide into summer to motivate an increase in all things fitness. In order to help you maximize this new dedication, we took to the gym (well, gyms) in search of some of the best new workout classes available. All week long we’ll report on our findings, ranging from the most intense CrossFit classes to your best bet for an at-home workout to the most fun ways we could think of for getting fit. First up: High impact. These classes are best suited for those who are well-seasoned at working out, and looking for something to take it to the next level.

Read on, lace up, and feel the burn! »

Certainly not for the faint of heart (or those who have the propensity to faint, for that matter), CrossFit is the latest superhuman workout challenge to enter the market. An intense combination of weightlifting, gymnastics and strength, the workout is a constantly varied yet consistently intense combination of exercising routines that promise to increase your endurance and transform you into a raw egg-chugging superhero type.

Though the actual workouts vary from club to club, the one we tried at Toronto’s Adelaide Club must range pretty high on the intensity scale, at least for first-timers. The club’s general manager, Blair Lyon, is a self-professed CrossFit diehard and while he boasts 135-pounds of lifting while doing the reps, he’s far from the boot camp type when he runs the class. He prefers playing tough-guy tunes by Rage Against the Machine to pump up his trainees, rather than face-spitting. If you can get over your first session—ours was a back-breaking 84 reps of squat thrusts, sit-ups and burpees, interspersed with 600 feet of walking lunges—you’ll become addicted to the high octane workout. Aside from becoming a superhuman, of course, performance is measured by how fast you can manage the workout, and since you’ve only got yourself to beat, you’ll constantly be pushing yourself for more.

CrossFit at the Adelaide Club (Available to club members for a $50/month unlimited section fee, adelaideclub.com/training_crossfit.htm)

Punch, kick and sprawl the day’s frustrations away at this new women-only MMA boot camp, founded by Sammie Kennedy of Booty Camp Fitness success and run by legit fighter instructors. (For instance, one is a former amateur kickboxer and current amateur boxer who’s about to go pro.) You meet twice a week in an outdoor spot and spend an hour on conditioning exercises like skipping and abs, and working on punching and kicking technique in pairs. Watch for your core and shoulders to firm up within a few weeks. Bright pink handwraps are included (gloves and pads are on loan), as is a booklet of nutritional advice and charts for tracking your measurements—plus a workout DVD for off days. There are 15 locations in Ontario so far, four in Toronto.

Femme Fitale training ($299 for an 8-week training package, femmefitale.com)

Photography by andrewmalone/Flickr

If you haven’t heard of kettlebell training yet, then you’re living under a proverbial fitness rock. The weight lifting-esque workout uses kettlebells (which are essentially cannon balls with flat bottoms and a top handle) in place of dumbbells, and it’s quickly garnered a rep as the best way to isolate muscles and tone up, especially in the legs and glutes. While intense weightlifting may not seem female-friendly (especially considering the kettlebell’s origins in the military) women are forging their own path when it comes to training. By swinging a kettlebell, you can isolate large groups of muscles with single movements—which means it’s a pretty good way to tone up your legs and bum at the same time. Vancouver’s Body Function is a great place to start, as trainer Ber Shalloo states that even the non-hardcore will be able to try a kettlebell workout with success—and she also promises that “you won’t end up looking like a body builder.”

Body Function kettlebell class ($20 for a single class, body-function.ca)

If you’ve spent the winter perfecting your yoga poses and breathing, now’s the time to take it up a notch! (Alternately, If you think yoga is for sissies, once you try one of these two classes you’ll change that opinion faster than you can say “downward dog.”) Iron Power Yoga is a slow but steady flow of standing postures that incorporates hand weights—warrior two becomes an extremely athletic exercise when you’re holding five-pound dumbbells. Bonus points for the darkly intense pop soundtrack; Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” really spurs a yogi on. The Wild Lotus class requires no weights to make you break a sweat: Unusual and challenging combinations of postures as well as forays into some of the more adventurous poses (try Googling “yoga” + “bird of paradise” for a preview) mean you’ll notice yourself getting stronger and more bendy every week. Bonus: Ward off sore muscles in the Adelaide Club’s luxe steam room afterwards.

Adelaide Club’s Iron Power Yoga and Wild Lotus yoga classes (Available to club members, adelaideclub.com)

Once you’ve tried spinning, you’ll never look at a bicycle the same way again. While leisurely bike rides will help keep you trim, high-intensity cardio seekers should give spin class a… er… spin—especially considering that you can burn up to 600 calories per session. It’s not uncommon to see sweat pool under stationary bikes as people push themselves hard to blaring music, and instructors are known to warn newbies that they may feeling like throwing up during particularly gruelling moments. (Don’t worry, you won’t!) While the go-go-go! workout is certainly intense, participants can spin to their own speed and change resistance as necessary—making it ideal for those who like to set limits and push past them.

Toronto: Get Spun ($20 for a single class, getspun.ca)
Vancouver: Cadence Cycling Studio ($22 for a single class, cadencevancouver.com)
Montreal: Cadence Cycle ($25 for a single class, cadence-cycle.com)

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