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9 Degrees Indoor Bouldering Climbing Gym
Photograph: Supplied

Unusual fitness classes in Sydney

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

Written by
Olivia Gee
,
Divya Venkataraman
&
Alannah Maher
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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

  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops

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?

  • Sport and fitness
  • Surry Hills

This Surry Hills cycling studio is all about the atmosphere and techo beats. If you've missed dancing all year, here's where you can let loose to the most popular songs of the moment, in a suitably socially distanced format. 

Under the guidance of your fitness instructor (otheriwse known as a 'cyclogist', natch), you'll be led through a high-powered choreographed spin workout set to techno, pop and RnB tunes – basically anything made to groove to. As the class progresses, the music moves you through the build-up, climax and wind-down – just like a real party.

You can start with a trial class and then, if you're looking to start every morning to the tunes of Diplo and Nicki Minaj while strobe lights dance in front of your eyes, you can move on to monthly passes. 
It's kind of like a rave, except you'll feel excellent the morning after – albeit with some sore thighs. 

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  • Things to do
  • Sports
  • 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
  • Castle Hill

Have you ever been daydreaming while in shivasana 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.

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The ultra feminine, vintage inspired surrounds of Sky Sirens Academy of Burlesque, Pole Dance and Aerial Artistry in Surry Hills is a place where people converge to learn new skills and reclaim their own sensuality: whether that's by hoisting yourself up a pole to a backdrop of leopard print wallpaper, or peeling off a satin glove surrounded by flamingos, feathers and encouragement. All classes are taught by experienced performers and professionals, with courses for complete beginners and opportunities to level up as you hone your skills. Classes in burlesque and pole start at $230 or a seven-week term, and aerial classes start at $280. Don’t be afraid to double-up, for every additional class you purchase, you will receive $100 off. Head to the website to check term dates and availability.

  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • 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 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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Trampo-Line Jumping Fitness
  • Sport and fitness
  • Gyms
  • 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. Right now, all classes are online – but IRL classes will be back in 2021. 

Either way, there's no minimising the vibes of a workout like this. Climb aboard your mini-tramp, feel the music, and let the workout begin.  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.

There’s a lot going on at this fitness studio set in the heart of Darlinghurst. Think of Beat Body as interval training studio, but for the easily distracted. The signature class here is the Beat Signature, which (like all the other classes here) is run under laser lights and to the sound of thumping, heart-pumping beats. 

The 45 minutes (set to exactly 10 songs – no more, no less) goes quickly because you’re switching up exercises and machines in rapid fire: get your heart racing on a treadmill, flex your muscles on a rowing machine, slice through a Nordic ski trainer, and spin some wheels on an “assault bike” (it’s not as fearsome as it sounds, don’t worry). Think that’s enough? In between all that, you'll be running through bodyweight exercises, plyometrics and a quick pump of the weights, too. If you’re looking for less cardio and more of a holistic session, check out the Beat, Box, Breathe class: you’ll still sweat and punch, but the wind-down breathing portion is great for a little post-workout grounding. 

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SRG Thai Boxing Gym
  • Sport and fitness
  • Boxing
  • 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.

  • Sport and fitness
  • Yoga, pilates and meditation

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.

Currently, there's no definitive date as to when it'll be back and running at pools in Sydney – but keep an eye on the Andrew Boy Charlton Pool's Facebook page for the latest. 

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