A Virgin experience at high altitude
For someone like me who’s just ventured into the working world at the age of 25, the struggle to keep up with a fitness routine is real.
While I used to frequent the gym, attempts at keeping fit in the past few months have been half-hearted at best.
So when I heard about Virgin Active’s (VA) Altitude Training programme at their newest branch located conveniently at Tanjong Pagar Centre, I leapt at the chance to try it out.
VA’s Altitude Training simulates training conditions of up to 3,000 metres by reducing the oxygen level in the studio. Coupled with an interval training programme, it makes for a high-intensity workout that improves aerobic capacity and endurance.
The class takes a maximum of 12 students and consists of circuit training with six stations. Each pair is assigned to a station and after a minute (30 seconds of exercise and 30 seconds of rest), they will move on to the next one.
For the session I attended, the six stations were: planking, spinning bike, Jacob’s Ladder, squats with weights, rowing machine and the battle ropes.
Having survived many two-hour Bodycombat sessions before, a 30 minutes of circuit training should be easy right?
To my surprise, my first brush with VA’s Altitude training was a fitness experience like no other. Here are three things I learnt in the shortest, yet most fulfilling, 30 minutes I’ve ever spent in a gym.
It’s incredibly intense
Before each class, the instructor conducts a fitness check – a simple device clipped onto a finger – to ensure that the participants’ blood-oxygen saturation levels are at least 94 per cent. Walking into the studio, the air was considerably thinner.
The first set went smoothly but by the end of the second set, exhaustion hit and it caught me off guard.
#Legsday came early that week, as our instructor put us through a series of jumping squats that caused my thighs and glutes to burn with every downward movement. To add to the challenge, we were given weights to hold as we gritted our teeth and attempted to jump our way to toned and sculpted legs.
By the time we got to the Jacob’s Ladder station, my movements had become sluggish. As I attempted to maintain my speed on the ladder treadmill, my tired feet got caught between the rungs a couple of times because they couldn’t keep up.
After the third set, every breath began to feel like a luxury. By the end of the class, I was completely winded, sweating profusely and panting heavily.
Beginners need to pace themselves
Are you a believer of the mantra ‘no pain, no gain’?
You’ll want to temper this ambitious streak when you venture into the Altitude Training studio, though. Even for someone who’s familiar with rigorous gym work, I still found this workout to be incredibly demanding. The key is to understand your limits and listen to your body.
After the third set, I was feeling breathless and asked the instructor if I could sit out for a bit. She nodded and told me to take as much time as I needed.
Subsequently, I found that the trick was to pace myself by taking it easier on some of the stations. The spinning bike and rowing machines are two stations where I could slow down a little, while conserving energy for the tougher stations.
Instead of jumping, participants can opt to do normal squats if they feel tired.
Not just another form of exercise
Apart from kicking your workout into higher gear, the Altitude programme can also help to condition one’s body for skiing or mountain climbing.
According to Virgin Active’s Head of Programming (South-east Asia), Rue She: “Training in a hypoxic environment can help them to acclimatise to the environment that they will face. Simulated altitude training can effectively improve tolerance to altitude, minimizing the effects of altitude sickness.”
While the optimal number of training sessions depends on the intensity and duration of the trip, She recommends doing 20 to 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in the Altitude studio twice a week in preparation.
Compared to other cardio workouts, this programme promises additional benefits. It increases how long your body can compete at high intensity, while making your cardio regime more efficient by shortening the session to just 30 minutes in the Altitude studio. If that’s not enough, the high intensity session also encourages the body to consume more oxygen after the workout, so your muscles continue to burn energy even after you’ve stopped exercising.
Intense as it was, this was definitely one of the most fulfilling workouts I’ve ever had.
Feeling satisfied after a good workout with my instructor.
To reward yourself after a gruelling workout, catch your breath with some complimentary peach tea before heading into VA’s Himalayan Salt Inhalation Room for a pampering detox session. After 45 minutes in there, I left feeling rested and calm.
A rejuvenating shower later, I exited the gym with a spring in my step, feeling zen and ready to take on the day’s challenges.
Overall, the Altitude training definitely packed a punch and seemed like a great way to mix up your fitness regime. I felt its full effects the next day in the form of exhaustion, body aches and a voracious appetite — all signs of a well-spent workout session.
Beginners may want to look towards VA’s other fitness classes for an easier introduction to the gym. For anyone else looking for a quick and effective workout, matching attitude with some altitude will definitely help to kick it up a notch!
Virgin Active is located at
Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street, #06-01, Singapore 078884.
For enquiries, call +65 6908 8920.
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