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Unusual fitness classes in Sydney

Scrap the gym and enjoy a good sweat at these wacky workouts around the city

Woman jumping on trampoline on the beach.
Photograph: Klaudia Polanska
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While manic repetition of squats, lunges, sprints and push-ups is one way to stay healthy and rev your engine with endorphins, some fitness fans prefer a more pleasant sweat sesh than what a gym or an aggressive bootcamp can provide. These unusual workouts let you dance, bounce, swing and climb your way to a healthier you, and you'll have a ball getting there.

If you can’t make it to a class (or are yet to stock up on the requisite glow sticks) you can make jogging fun along these scenic running routes in Sydney. Then, cool off in the salty embrace of our favourite ocean pools.

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The best weird workouts

Sport and fitness, Gyms

Trampo-Line Jumping Fitness

icon-location-pin Darlinghurst

A fitness studio in Surry Hills is combining the sweet nostalgia of backyard trampolines with beats from Beyoncé and Rihanna to create a high-intensity, low-impact workout. At Trampo-Line Jumping Fitness, you’ll start your 50 minute bounce routine like a newborn baby giraffe, and finish feeling like the elegant, booty-popping gazelle you were born to be.

As the fitness cohort clambers onto the sea of mini-tramps, the music starts pumping and the workout begins. You get straight into a cardio-heavy routine, which combines basic aerobic movements, dance and bouncing. It’s a little difficult to master right away – the springy surface reduces the impact on your joints, but the dreadful double-bounce can throw you off centre. After you’ve covered a few separate, easy-to-copy bounce-dances, you throw them all together and see your hard-won technique crack at the edges as you fumble between moves. You’ll finish on more focused movements and stretches, isolating core, leg and glute muscles. In all the mad movement, you barely notice the high calorie burning minutes fly by.

People in a Retrosweat dance class
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do, Classes and workshops

Retrosweat

Kitted out in hot-pink Reebok Classics, white legwarmers and a striking bodysuit and crop top combo, our instructor Shannon Dooley looks like the picture-perfect ’80s icon. Modelling herself on the queens of home video fitness – from Jane Fonda to Olivia Newton-John – she adopts a Workout Barbie pose at the head of the Retrosweat class, in front of a mirrored dance hall. We jump around to Don Henley’s ‘The Boys of Summer’, bust a lung to Boy Meets Girl’s ‘Waiting for a Star to Fall’ and thrust in earnest to the Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’.

Aside from a few coordination issues, one never forgets how to shimmy sideways while flailing arms and legs in the right direction. Retrosweat really did what it said on the tin: we danced to 12 original ’80s tracks and we sure as heck worked up a sweat. But fitness alone isn’t the reason fans flock to the party every week. This class is serious fun –  and where else can you plunge into a squat while holding a pineapple?

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People doing a yoga class
Photograph: Supplied
Sport and fitness, Yoga, pilates and meditation

Bikram Yoga Darlinghurst

icon-location-pin Darlinghurst

Bikram Yoga Darlinghurst is one of thousands of studios across the world dedicated to the practice and teaching of Bikram Yoga, a specific form of Hatha Yoga involving 26 postures that are performed over 90 minutes in a heated room of 40 degrees. With its intense heat and long duration, Bikram Yoga is not for the faint of heart.

Even the initial breathing exercises are physically testing in the sweltering conditions, and you still have 89 minutes to go. As you sweat through the postures, the instructor is upbeat and encouraging, and you keep powering through to attain those shiny Bikram Yoga benefits. It is said to promote detoxification, burn fat more effectively, speed up the breakdown of fatty acids and glucose, and contribute to the strengthening of willpower and self control. 

People dancing with glow sticks in the dark
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do, Classes and workshops

Clubbercise

icon-location-pin Sydney

If we were to tell you that you’d just done a shot in a darkened room surrounded by neon-clad strangers, you’d assume you were in a nightclub, not at a dance studio at 6pm. But this is Clubbercise – a new dance fitness class that’s come to Australia from the UK, and now hosts sessions for over 100,000 people worldwide every week.

Up the stairs at Dancekool Studios, we’re greeted with foreboding ‘caution’ tape across the door. We’re told to suit up with flashing LED glow sticks and neon body paint, then wait in a darkened room. That’s when we’re given a shot – of orange juice, this is a fitness class after all – and everyone gets pumped up and ready to dance. If you’ve had any experience in dance it’ll be easier for you to pick up the combinations of aerobics, stretches and freestyle dance, but experience is not necessary in order to have fun and burn some calories. The whole session is done completely in the dark to elevate your glow levels and mask any goofs. 

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Bouldering, Rock Climbing, Woman climbing
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do, Sports

9 Degrees

icon-location-pin Alexandria

9 Degrees is a bouldering gym located in Alexandria, where climbers don’t use ropes or harnesses but instead scale shorter walls beside thick, padded flooring. The benefit here is that you won’t need a climbing partner, equipment or much training – you can just strap on a pair of shoes and explore the centre’s 140 different climbs in nine degrees of difficulty, from entry level to competition levels.

It’s very close to SkyZone and the Rocks Brewery, so you can easily make a day of beer-fuelled sporty indoor activities. These bouldering specialists now also have sister gyms in Parramatta and Lane Cove, if you want to explore more climbing routes around the city.

Sport and fitness, Yoga, pilates and meditation

FloatFit at Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool

While some of us are yet to master a downward dog or tree pose in a standard yoga class, more balanced yogis and fitness fans will enjoy the challenge of this high-intensity, yoga-inspired routine performed while floating on water. 

When you first attempt the 30-minute FloatFit class, you may not be walking on water straight away. It’s a pretty tough core workout and the fast-paced moves mean you work up a sweat. But don’t worry about wobbling and tumbling off at an inopportune moment: your floating devices are more like solid, mini-barges than inflatable swans, which means they’re much harder to flip. But, if you’re wildly uncoordinated you can still give it a go, as a failed maneuver only means you get a refreshing splash in the pool before clambering back up again. There's more intense sessions with mountain-climbers, jump-squats and sit-ups, or the new balance class, which is a slower, more focused practice with breathing and mindfulness at its core. 

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Sport and fitness, Boxing

SRG Thai Boxing Gym

icon-location-pin Alexandria

The air is hot with the smell of anticipation, sweat and Deep Heat muscle rub in this busy Muay Thai gym, where everyone from complete beginners to near-famous grapplers can work out on the mats and learn new skills. Known as the ‘art of eight limbs’, Muay Thai is an intense full-body fighting style. To remember all the weapons in your self-defence arsenal, sing the remixed heads-and-shoulders song: "fists, elbows, knees and shins, (knees and shins)".

You’ll be using them all as you dance around the padded training area, learning and perfecting strikes, blocks and grappling techniques. There’s a lot of focus on kicks and knee attacks, so the training pads are much larger than other boxing gear, including a full body pad for push kicks – when you slam the base of your foot into your opponent’s belly and send them flying backwards. While the introductory class is more about mastering the absolute basics, you can move up in the ranks to face more advanced fighters in intricate grappling dances, throwing heavy blows and dodging swift elbow jerks.

AerialFit
Photograph: Supplied
Sport and fitness, Yoga, pilates and meditation

AerialFit

icon-location-pin Castle Hill

Have you ever been daydreaming while in shavasana and found yourself thinking, ‘hey, wouldn’t this be much better if I were hanging upside down?’ Well, someone at a boutique yoga studio in Castle Hill did. Outside of their standard yoga and Pilates classes, AerialFit offers brave yogis the chance to get creative in an unusual practice, hanging from hoops, silk fabrics and even a trapeze.

They run six different styles of suspended classes, each with a fresh twist of circus, dance and endurance. They all allow for a total body workout, building your core and stabilising your joints, as each muscle is required to constantly support your movements while in the air. Whether you're trying Aerial Yoga, the hoops class or the Static Trapeze program, all the experiences are open to beginners as well as old hands, and there’s modified steps if you’re not confident dangling upside down just yet. The classes rely heavily on developing and maintaining the skills you'll learn progressively, so most run as ten-week programs, with one 60-minute class each week.

For extra oomph

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