When it comes to working out, I’ll admit that I’m a total running junkie. Give me a treadmill or a sidewalk and a playlist full of Rihanna jams, and I’ll go for miles. While I’ve dabbled with yoga, Zumba, and other group exercise classes, I’ve never found an activity that makes me break a sweat like a good old-fashioned jog.
This all changed when I was invited by Reebok to be a part of actress Nina Dobrev’s “squad” for the ultimate staycation, which included two insanely intense workout sessions, brunch, and an overnight stay at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Reebok also gifted me with new workout gear from the Reebok x Les Mills collection.
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The day started on the hotel roof (in 90-degree heat!) with Bodyflow, a Les Mills class that incorporates yoga, Pilates, and tai chi. Our group of reporters, fitness influencers, and all-around badass women bent our bodies into downward dog, pigeon pose, and more as the instructors encouraged us to feel calm and centered. Not only was the view of the Manhattan skyline spectacular, but I left the session feeling super relaxed.
The real fun, though, kicked off after brunch. Since Dobrev is a strong believer in switching up her workout routines, she made sure our afternoon would be exciting. “I’m one of those people who gets bored so easily,” she said to our group. “I like yoga, I like to do high-intensity workouts, I like to do all kinds of crazy things, and that’s exactly what Les Mills is.”
Dobrev promised that the next workout would kick our butts, and she kept her word. We took a boat across the East River and boarded a moving barge in the Hudson to do a Les Mills Grit session with Lissa Bankston, her trainer. Bankston explained that Grit is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout designed to define and build lean muscle. The moves are perfectly timed to whatever upbeat song is playing, and even the recovery periods are all about action.
Although the workout only lasts 30 minutes, Bankston says you have to be at your max capacity (read: give it your all) 85 percent of the time. You’ll really get your heart rate up, and you’ll sweat, a lot.
As we lifted our barbells, lunged, and jumped, Bankston rallied us to keep pushing for one more rep. “That’s the most important aspect of Grit,” she told me after the workout. “When you’re tired and feel like stopping, you have to find the will inside yourself to do just one more rep.”
The half-hour flew by, and even though every muscle in my body burned, I kept going while Bankston encouraged us to focus on self-love. I was surprised that my body could keep up with such a fast-paced workout, and I had never felt more powerful. Sure, my quads were on fire the next day, but Bankston reminded me to appreciate my body for all that it can do.
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After the workout, Bankston admitted that the HIIT class was a challenge for her at first too, but since then, it’s gave her more definition and tone than ever before. “We switch up the moves in the classes every three months,” she said. “This way, your body never gets used to the moves and is constantly challenged.”
Les Mills offers Grit online, so you can test the classes from the comfort of your home. For now, I’ll stick to my treadmill workouts, but if the opportunity arises, or I need a reminder of how strong my body is if I push my boundaries, I'll be back at another HIIT session.