Zombie Fitness: The Downfall of the Commercial Gym


Two years in a commercial gym have driven me to a point of disillusion with everything it stands for; pushy sales people, rolling contracts, the promotion of sugary bars and ‘glow in the dark’ energy drinks, abdominal machines, abs classes, abundant cardio machines (with TV screens) and choreographed classes.  Don’t forget the satisfaction people have with their poor weight-training technique and their lack of willingness to learn anything different.

It is what I call ‘Zombie-Fitness’ where people sign up having seen the usual components they expect from a gym; cardio, weights, stretch area and studio.  Then they just come in and do what convention tells them to which is one or all of the following

  1. 3 sets of ten on a collection of weights exercises
  2. 30-40 minutes cardio followed by some pointless abdominal exercises
  3. A Les Mills class

Of course a protein shake afterwards and it’s off home.  The choreographed classes epitomise Zombie Fitness where you simply turn-up (and set up in the case of BodyPump) follow the leader then leave (often without even saying goodbye to the instructor).  Heck you could have had someone on a TV screen telling you what to do and showing you the routine.  At least with Spinning® we aim to be proper teachers giving a different style of workout every week and providing an element of autonomy over which riding technique you select, provided you are in the right cadence range and energy zone.  Going back to the original point the outcome of Zombie Fitness is as follows

  • There is no or little interaction so the social element is removed.
  • Circuit classes where there is more interaction, do not get a look-in because only Les Mills  instructors are getting paid.  Circuit-Training, or Metabolic Conditioning, provides the best mix of weights and cardio allowing us to achieve our results a lot quicker.

The end result is that people get bored, lose motivation and not before long, leave the gym.

There is however light at the end of the tunnel.  It seems that such gyms are now promoting new styles of training that break from the norm, using different names like functional-training, HIIT Training or MetCon.  Fitness First are calling it Freestyle Training and are now outlining dedicated freestyle areas like the one below.  This is why I have chosen to stay put but now it takes the general gym-goers to come out from the ‘dead’ and embrace this style of training more, not just because it is more effective but because the collective nature of these workouts create more social interaction, enjoyment and fun.


The style of Metabolic Conditioning that I shall be teaching soon is TACFIT, or Tactical Fitness where we aim to also address mobility and flexibility to help keep you injury free.  We keep the exercises limited so that you get better and better with time, sometimes in the same workout, as opposed to traditional bootcamp or ‘Insanity’ where there are just too many exercises, thus preventing the body and nervous system to adapt to a certain move.  Remember, sufficient variety may be good to work different muscles and keep you interested but a degree of consistency is also required to facilitate neural drive and help the body adapt to a new stimulus.

Again, going off the topic a little but my hope is that you can understand the existence of Zombie Fitness and how we need to be aware of it.   I don’t want to discourage people from classes so keep enjoying them.  Just implement two things:

  1. Accept an instructor’s offer of engagement whether it is to cheer or clap, or simply take a feedback form and fill it out.
  2. Open your mind up to circuit-training and of course read up on TACFIT at RMAX International.

My trip to Tuscany

Now onto why I was really sunning it out in Tuscany.  I am priveleged to be part of something called RMAX International, a ‘Global Peak Performance community of teachers and students’.  Naturally, I am more student than teacher but our founder Scott Sonnon developed a system of training known as Circular Strength Training (CST) which reflects elements of a whole range of other more traditional fitness systems like Yoga, Thai Chi, Russian Sambo, Indian Club Swinging and many others.  As a fitness professional I was getting involved in Clubell training and my search led me to the great man, finding out that a whole set of bodyweight exercises also formed a large part of his training.  I came to realise that there were some UK-based RMAX coaches around so in the summer of 2011 I attended my first CST seminar in Marylebone at Diego Core’s Field and Training Clinic.

In this course I learned what was required of me to become CST certified.  Only 100 repetitions of three exercises known as the ‘TRIAL BY FIRE’

with 15lb clubs.  Check this demo out


After months of practise I attended the first UK certification in Slough UK, attended by people from all over Europe and beyond at Vik Hothi’s centre IMAS UK.  Thankfully I passed this gruelling fitness test and felt a great sense of honour and achievement.

It was also a great honour to meet Scott Sonnon as well as European head coach Alberto Galazzi

One year on and I have benefitted greatly from being a CST instructor.  I understand human movement so well now and have a good idea on understanding proper human biomechanics. This is particularly important when deciding what kinds of exercises to give to people.  The actual exercise programme resulting from CST is TACFIT where the aim is to condition ourselves physically and mentally for the challenges we face in life.  An integretive programme where there is a lot of emphasis on breathing, recovery and mobility and where the exercises do not comprmise any of the aforementioned, unlike with other systems where the actual exercises can involve a higher than normal level of good mobility which does not suit most 21st century desk-jockeys.

So my journey took me to Florence where there was a convention for all European based instructors.  I was thoroughly impresses by the Italian boys and girls who look very committed and enthusiastic about what we are involved in.  My aim is to now prepare for my Tacfit certification and my CST retesting, hopefully ending with attending the TACFIT bootcamp in Capri this time next year.  I am excited about this journey and know that in following it I can find the fittest version of myself so I invite all readers to do the same.

Tacfit classes are held every week at Diego Core’s Centre the link for which is above (like on his name).  So come along and try something different and do things you never thought you could do.

Clubbells? What do they do?

So as if the picture above isn’t enough to answer the question.  Since taking up and teaching clubbell training I am often asked what these tools do.  I suppose it’s a valid question.  After all, we all know side bends get rid of love handles right? (As if).  More on that in another post.

So I have criticised ‘Arnie-style’ training as being time-consuming, boring, with the potential to ruin posture, knees, lower back and shoulders, defo in the long-run.  Clubs however are obviously more fun because of the variety they provide.  Club training allows greater and more liberated movement at the joints to keep them healthier especially when a certified trainer like myself can make sure you have the right mechanics suited to the relevant exercise.  For a more detailed look at clubbell training check out the following link


For girls, working with lighter clubs will tone your arms a lot quicker because the basic pressing and casting movements load the arms muscles eccentrically, meaning that they strengthen whilst lengthening.  They will even help you perform some of the advanced yoga moves involving hand-balances as you work more on stabilising the clubs using your core and shoulder girdle.  Bodypump on the other hand is just another Arnie workout separating the body into individual building blocks, when we are actually an integrated system.  Scott Sonnon teaches us that we are in fact one muscle and one bag of connective tissue with different attachments.

Clubbells in a gym may look strange but look who else is training with them:

The US






So you’re not alone.  This is the clubbell revolution and allow Cesar Clavijo to explain a bit more


This video makes me proud to be part of the CST family.  Tomorrow is when I start getting back into my club training, aiming to get as proficient as Cesar in the video.  You will also see the aesthetic benefits I will have aquired through training like this.

Bodyweight training, the next big thing

So this is definitely no gimmick.   Due to a number of factors like binding gym contracts and the growing popularity of bootcamp exercises bodyweight training is now becoming more and more popular, especially when you have people like Zuzannah demonstrating them on Bodyrock TV

Working with our own bodyweight means that we become relatively strong managing our own bodyweight, we enhance core strength and encourage greater mobility as we are no longer so restricted to specific angles and directions.  On that note, I do believe that circular strength straining has the best array of bodyweight exercises.  Others seem to be so last year with nothing much more than burpees and press-ups.  Look at how our Singapore friend demonstrates some of the exercises from Circular Strength Training:


These are the best moves because they are circular movements.  Look at all your joints and you’ll find that they articulate some sort of circular movement.  Scott Sonnon’s aim behind our training system is to restore the movement we had as kids.  The foundation to our system is the FLOWFIT the progressions for which are demoed again by our singapore colleague


Another version demoed by Aussie coach Donna Eddy


The more advanced bodyweight exericses involve holds, hand-balances, pull-ups, muscle-ups etc.  A great rundown of this, known as ‘bodyweight isometrics’ is provided in the following article which for some reason is only opening on mobiles:


Or you might be partial to something like this from the calisthenic kingz


Bodyweight training enhances one’s athletic fitness, the type of fitness which doesn’t get lost very easily.  The type of fitness that keeps a person lean.  It’s almost like your body now knows it has to stay lean because of what you have conditioned it for, dynamic movement and agility.

Purposeful Training: Part 1, Abandoning the ‘Arnie culture’

So just got my new hoodie and no doubt people will be asking me what I mean by Purposeful Training. Those cynics amongst you will be saying, ‘So you think everyone else’s training is unpurposeful, or even useless’. So I guess I better be prepared to explain what I mean by purposeful training:

1. Station Hopping

So I see a lot of people carry out a ritual of station hopping every time they are in the gym. Invariably a guy just puts a weight on, bang out a few sets, rest a bit, do a few more and so on. That’s how your supposed to do it right. As for girls, a lightweight and repeat about fifty because obviously ‘loads of light reps makes you tone up right?’ Don’t you just find that boring? No wonder so many people just drop out the gym. This article is just from this morning stating that the rate is as high as 70%!!!!


So what’s the alternative. Well I’ll give you an alternative, Circuit cardio. Find a place in the gym, get a mat and a couple of dumbells, and just do a set of four exercises back to back, 10 repetitions on each. You can even make it all bodyweight. Here’s a good one:

1. Lunges

2. Press-ups

3. Crunches

4. Squat thrusts

My client Zainab demonstrates this workout in the following video


This kind of workout is more purposeful, you get fitter, stonger, leaner, it is less time-consuming, more fun, you can even challenge your friends.

On the other hand if you want something more hardcore look no further than TACFIT. Quick twenty minute workouts equivalent to 4 hours of cardio.


TACFIT classes are to be held regulalry at The Field and Training Clinic Marylebone

So part one of making our training more purposeful is to make it less Arnie and more fun.

Look out for part 2 of purposeful training: Good planning

Until then stay active