Escalate is described as a class combining functional fitness and HIIT training which (shocker) escalates in difficulty throughout the class’ duration. As an avid lover of boxing and other high-intensity work-outs, I booked my first class with the view that though it sounded potentially challenging, what better way to bring out my inner Wonder Woman than to give it a shot?
I am not a morning person, so I booked myself into the 1pm class run by James Dawkins. As the time came for the class to start, I joined the group filing into the studio, the floor of which was split up into a grid. I situated myself at the back as James led us through a quick warm up, in which he told us that throughout the class we could shout and swear as much as we liked, we were just never allowed to give up. Though it was a relief to know I could shout obscenities and not get thrown out, this warning did seem fairly ominous.
After the warm-up, James split us into groups and explained the structure of the class. Each group would be doing 45 seconds of one exercise followed by a 15 second rest, then we would move along the grid to the next place in the circuit. We would also be using the (epic) indoor running track.
One of the reasons I love attending classes so much is that being surrounded by others makes me incredibly competitive; I never want to be the weakest. So when James threatened us all with a mandatory 15 burpee punishment if anyone failed to sustain an exercise for the full 45 seconds, I committed to not giving up.
And so, the first circuit began. My group started with the commando plank; unfortunately, my least favourite exercise. But the 45 seconds quickly came to an end, and before I knew it we had made our way through kettlebell deadlifts and were sprinting out onto the running track. As we powered through the last exercise, side planks into hip dips, I had the realisation that sweat was actually dripping into my ears. Whilst not a sensation I would rate highly on yelp, it did prove that I was working infinitely harder then I ever would at home.
After we had completed the first circuit, James turned the lights off and allowed us to collapse in the relative privacy of complete darkness. It was a blessing to be able to hide my beetroot red face, if only for a moment. This heavenly period of rest ended far too quickly - we were soon going back for another round.
As expected, the second circuit hurt a lot more than the first, but I was getting into the rhythm of it now. Plus, the circuit was designed so that each exercise worked your muscles in a different way, so other parts of your body were given a (slight) chance to rest as you moved across the grid.
After collapsing in darkness for a second time, James delightfully announced he was going to make the exercises ‘slightly’ harder for the final circuit. What was once jump squats became wall sits; plank dips became a held plank; squats were added to weighted upward rows; and worst of all, press-ups were added on to burpees.
BUT, by this time, I was pumped. I was ready for this. I’d pushed through my wall 20 minutes ago. Nothing could stop me now. Downing some water, I decided to embrace the pain; if Gal Gadot can train to become Wonder Woman whilst pregnant, I, a (reasonably) healthy woman in my 20’s, could do the last 10 minutes of this class.
So I powered my way through the last circuit, the motivational shouts of James and the constant blast of epic R&B helping me source energy from places I never knew existed.
Granted, the two black coffees I chugged before class probably helped, but it was ultimately the atmosphere of the class and James’ infectious positive attitude that kept me from giving up before the classes end.
As we finished the final circuit and James led us through a cool down stretch, I felt immensely proud. There have not been many times in my life when I’ve come out of a class knowing I could not have worked any harder, but this was one of them. I left the room with a high five from James, and a big smile on my face.
If you’re someone wishing to push yourself to your limits in a positive, energising atmosphere, then this class is for you. And though it did in fact leave me with a face the colour of Ronald McDonald’s hair, I’ll definitely be back.