“You should leave struggling to walk up the stairs”
That’s what I was told by instructor and co-founder, Ben Staines, when asked ‘in what state should I expect to be in, when I leave’? In fairness, I got the lift.
Project Fit is an eight-month-old company, which was set up by Ben himself, and co-owner Joel Hilton. The concept is, as they put it on their website: “A fitness challenge like no other. It is a new, revolutionary and innovative interval training workout.”
Walking towards 36-38 Cornhill, Bank, it’s the last place you would expect to see a gym of any kind, and you don’t. Entering the tall, brick structure matching its impressive architectural surroundings, I am still baffled as to why I am in a corporate office building. The security guard instructs that I take the lift down to the basement.
In what is a relatively cramped space, a lot has been squeezed in. The gym is spread over two small floors; on the upper level are top of the range, high tech treadmills with in-built fans. On the lower are mats, weights and Bosus (half a gym ball, Google it).
This is where I met Ben for a chat.
He explained that the original concept, Project Fit, is an hour session – half the time running, half the time on the floor. There is also a half-an-hour express class, for those wanting to do it during their lunch hour.
What I was to be doing was a new concept, Project Fit Run. “It’s all about interval training, it’s about taking the heart rate right up and bringing it back down again,” he says.
“The run bit takes the same premise, it’s just all cardio based, it’s to do with strengthening your heart and getting your aerobic capacity up,” says Ben.
This is obviously perfect for endurance running. Of course it can be applicable for 5K, but its specifically targeted at marathons. Ben believes that when you train in a park you simply don’t get your heart rate up enough, whereas in this environment it really stretches your potential.
Ben said: “You need to take your body out of its comfort zone in shorter periods, to allow that strength to build.”
While it’s clear you still need to do your long runs, supplementing it with this type of training is clearly beneficial.
Ben says: “You’re paying for the motivation, the fact that you don’t have to think about what you’re doing. We’re doing it for you
“Each little bit is done better, so you get the best every time”.
When thinking about that, it’s true: show me a man that will work as hard as that in the gym and I’ll show you a liar. Most people feel silly, give up or just don’t even think about reaching that 100%, or at the very least, know what it feels like.
This environment is born for 100% running.
From what Ben told me, the level of attendees is mixed: “Many people that come don’t come out of a walk the entire session, but they then build up as they get fitter and fitter.
“The whole idea is that they can run next to someone that is an elite athlete, and they’re both getting equally the same out of it.
“The whole premise is that it’s you against your body.”
So what are the packages? They range from Bronze (£150) to Platinum (£750), each offering varying amounts of sessions (or unlimited in the case of the platinum) and over different lengths of time. The first session is free, so at the very least check it out. Of course you can pay a one-off fee of either £15 or £20 depending on whether it’s peak or off-peak times.
Well, enough of the preamble, crunch time was upon us.
You choose a treadmill of your liking and start walking at a pace of six (this is an easy pace). The idea is that throughout the workout Ben will shout out three numbers, 12, 14 and 16 for example. You choose anywhere in that range that is going to push you. Of course if you’re absolutely dying you can lower it and likewise if you feel you can push yourself harder, you can.
Then came the thumping club music that on any other day would be intensely annoying, yet somehow suited the mood and pushed you to do better. The lights dimmed also and fluorescent red light decorated the gym, giving it quite an eerie feel. It made you feel alone, yet you only need look left for a fellow runner, which gives off almost a group personal training feel.
I did not step of the treadmill for 55 minutes, racking up 10K. In between hard running you had your rest periods, which was fast walking. Oh and squats, by jumping onto the sides of the treadmill with your legs split.
The intervals were actually quite exhilarating, you push yourself until that rest break, and with Ben shouting encouragement and motivational messages throughout, you know you can get there.
Like any interval training, the timings are reduced and so are the rest breaks; I started off at 16 but couldn’t keep that pace throughout. I was worried I would stumble and end up flying off both the treadmill and the upper floor.
I settled for a reasonably ok 14.5 for the rest and made it to the end.
During my youth and relatively young adult years I have played a lot of sport, but it’s hard to think of a time where I have felt as pushed and as exhausted as I did when I stepped off that treadmill.
I am however a bit of a fitness freak; I enjoy the feeling of my body having just given everything. For me, it’s cathartic.
Stretching out my tired legs, they were shaking. I retired to the relatively posh changing rooms to cool myself down.
What a work out though, whether you’re planning to run a marathon, get into shape or race on any level, at the very least try out the free session.
It was intense.