Crunch time

If you are strapped for time to exercise but want big results, here is a class for you. Hard Core exercise, available at Fitness First, packs all the fitness benefits of aerobic exercise and resistance training into 30 minutes of intensity, challenging your body to another level of fitness.

The class is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Even a fit regular gym-goer (even the instructors themselves, actually) will be worked up by this intense, fast-paced exercise, breaking serious sweat after only about five minutes into the class.

Hard Core exercise combines the Tabata method and circuit training. The Tabata method is an intensive cardiovascular workout designed to improve endurance and stimulate fat loss, achieving the same caloric burning as an hour of other cardio exercises in a shorter time due to its high intensity. The basic outline of the Tabata method is to break the routine into intervals _ a few minutes intense training with 30 seconds of rest.

The circuit training element of this exercise means it involves short bursts of resistance exercise using high intensity and frequent repetitions. The session is divided into six steps _ core warm-up (7 minutes), core cardio (6 minutes), core integration (5 minutes), core strength (5 minutes), core balance (3 minutes) and core stretch (2 minutes). The activities are simple yet rigorous, with easier options for beginners.

Just how intense is it? It is not unusual to see a few people giving up and walking out of the class half-way through. However, it is worth sticking around for. According to Somruthai Kunprempoon, health and fitness manager at Fitness First, Terminal 21, you benefit more from this 30-minute class than you would from any other one-hour class.

"The body has to work very hard with very little rest, and such intensity increases the body temperature, helping your burn off more calories and strengthening your muscles. The body will continue to burn more calories hours after the exercise because of the higher temperature," said Somruthai.

Working the core muscles is more than just getting a flat tummy. Somruthai explains that strong core muscles (which she defines as all parts of the body except the limbs and head) can better help the spine, which in turn helps with balance and posture. This is very crucial, since the spine has to shoulder a heavy burden in every activity except when sleeping.

Those with knee injuries, back pain or other health problems should speak to the instructor before the class to see what to avoid and whether options can be given to ensure safety. Although the class is characterised by its intensity and being exhaustingly fun, if you feel you've reached your limit, take a rest. Don't push yourself too hard, especially if you are new to exercise, but by all means don't give up mid-way. It is only 30 minutes, and the last few bits are not as intense, so do hang around until the end to at least do some stretches.

True to what Somruthai said, hours after the workout, the body feels warm and highly energised. It also promotes better and deeper sleep. The next morning, soreness is expected, but not to the point of stopping you from going back.

HARD CORE EXERCISE

Duration: 30 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Main muscles worked: Stomach, back and buttocks
Estimated calories burned: 500 calories per class

About the author

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Writer: Napamon Roongwitoo
Position: Life Writer