Rosie went to check out Biofit, a new style of fitness studio in West Notting Hill where there was a distinct lack of bicep curls and spinning machines and an abundance of natural light and organic materials. Here, you can try out a range of ‘biophilic’ classes to get your dose of ‘Green Exercise’ but hurry, this fitness pop-up is only on until the beginning of February.
Biofit in a nutshell
A variety of exercise classes focusing on ‘real world fitness’ held in a studio with biophilic* design in West Notting Hill until 3rd Feb 2017.
Biofit was founded by Matt Morely, a fitness instructor who has over 20 years of experience in various fields such as martial arts, yoga, gymnastics, swimming and surfing (just to name a few…). At a typical Biofit session, you can expect to undertake ‘real world fitness training’ meaning you’ll develop a wide range of movements in your arsenal and will be ready for anything that life throws at you (literally).
They have 5 classes: Movement, Strength, Stamina, Mobility and Play-Flight.
The spacious studio is filled with natural light and there’s no heating or air conditioning, no LED screens, no neon lights and… none of your usual gym equipment; 90% of the equipment is made from natural materials, with natural colours, and it sort of resembles a simple children’s playground.
There are plants hanging from the walls, a backdrop of a forest, some ropes and wooden frames. The flooring looks like grass and feels like carpet. It’s soft and pleasant to feel under bare feet. The textures of the different surface are all set to stimulate the sensors. Ultimately, you feel more connected to nature, which is somewhat unusual in London where we encounter bricks and mortar more often than grass and trees.
Who’s it for?
Anyone who wants to try something different to their usual gym class!
Why should I go?
Exercising and training outdoors is best, but not always viable – especially in London. Biofit brings the outdoors inside in a safe and rain-proof environment. Exercising with the simulation of nature around you promotes stress recovery, reduces mental fatigue and improves your mood. In the classes you’ll learn new movements (a new skill development), you’ll feel a sense of belonging (tribal) and you’ll be thoroughly engaged throughout (increasing your attention span).
These classes immediately highlight your weak areas, whether it’s your wrists, lower back or general flexibility. The movements you’ll be doing are how humans used to move once upon a time before office life, TV and internet existed. It’s how we moved to hunt and defend ourselves before consumerism existed.
I tried out 2 of their classes:
The Stamina class is: Constantly varied, high reps, interval training format.Expect get-ups, sprawls, crawls, twists, lunges, sprints and much more.
- Resistance – Light
- Pace – Fast
- Intensity – High
The music was fast paced, Afro-beat style – no dubstep or banging drum n’bass here! We started by passing a weighted ball around and gradually started moving around more. With 2 balls going amongst 4 of us, things got a bit hairy. The idea is that you need to be engaged, pay attention to where the ball is and have good spatial awareness, lest you want to be subjected to being smacked in the face or running into someone!
This need for alertness is an underlying theme throughout all the exercises. You’re moving and you’re having to think. There’s no standing at the back of the class and daydreaming about what’s for dinner. From hopping around in different patterns to getting down on the ground and essentially crawling around, each group of exercises weren’t really referred to as ‘exercises’. Learning a new movement was described as learning a new word, a new language even. The more of these movements you learn, the more you can piece them together and eventually get phrases, sentences, essays, etc. A very poetic and fun way of looking at a workout.
It immediately reminded me of being back at school in the playground playing netball, learning something new and really…having a lot of fun.
We learnt 3 different ways to get up off the ground. One of them resembled a sit-up and another was close to a burpee. With no reference to ab crunches etc, the exercises, whilst tough, made you think more about your movement in a different way. You’re almost going through the motions of how you get out of bed, or up off the floor after you’ve been on the ground, belly-down, looking for a dog toy under the sofa. Everyday movements done with repetition, speed and awareness in an environment that makes you feel more wild cat and less frantic city type.
In a regular gym class there’s that exercise you do whilst sitting down with your legs stretched in front of you slightly raised and you can either move them up and down or make a pedalling/cycling motion. In a Biofit class, this motion is mentioned as one of defense. It’s what you’d do if someone tried to attack you or what children do to deter parents from putting them into bed. This mindset that I fell into of not seeing this as a usual Body Punch or HIIT class was important to me, because it’s what gave the workout it’s unique selling point.
The mobility class is: Full body joint mobility work to increase range of motion and release muscle soreness. Each session concludes with brain training/meditation.
- Resistance: None
- Pace: Slow
- Intensity: Low
I deliberately wanted to try something different to the first class to experience the variety that Biofit has to offer. I’ve never been to a class that is devoted to looking at micro movements – the way each of our joints move – head, shoulder, chest, hips, wrists, feet. This is perfect for anyone who may have overdone their training and is feeling a bit stiff and sore. It will reveal what’s causing you pain and gives those areas a great stretch. The more work you do on the micro areas, the easier it will be to do the bigger movements, e.g martial arts movements where you’re crouching down, lifting at the gym and holding heavy weights, yoga movements where you might be using your wrists and even for things like hanging – your fingers are the first part of your body to give up!
These movements can be taken away with you and worked on at home and I’m already trying to give my weak areas more attention in the hope it will help me with my fitness goals. I feel like this class gave valuable information which gets overlooked in regular gym classes and was definitely something I needed!
There is most certainly a gap in the market for environments such as this one. Matt’s goal is to bring these places into offices, giving busy city workers an alternative to their usual gyms to disconnect properly from the city and connect with nature again. Going to the regular gym classes around will get you the body, make you sweat and ultimately feel good – because all exercise does (or should). But Biofit goes a step further into giving you an all-round general workout with real world movement, trains your brain and gives you a chance to feel a bit more human (or animal, if you prefer).
You can find more about Biofit here
*Biophilia means love of nature and suggests humans possess a tendency to seek connections with nature.