Waking up before 7am might be the norm for some, but this was new for me. In an attempt to keep my training interesting and engaging, I decided to attend a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) style workout class. My aim: to survive.
Having become more popular over the past few years, MMA incorporates a plethora of different fighting disciplines, including boxing, judo and Muay Thai. The sport has rocketed into the mainstream and provides a great full body workout.
The days leading up to the class had me feeling anxious. The reputation of the classes was clear: it wasn’t going to be easy. Word was even going around that a few have thrown up in attendance, something I was keen to avoid. I put my workout gear on and headed down to the gym for the 8am start, nervous about what was ahead of me.
Greeted by Max Cotton, founder and owner of London-based 100% MMA, I was taken aback by a smiling face. Max has been training MMA since he was just 15 and set up his company when he couldn’t find a place to train.
“I was working in sales jobs in London, not finding much time to train and with the hours I was working,” he explains.
“I wanted somewhere I could get fight-specific strength and conditioning around my work hours, to complement my technical training in the evenings. When I couldn’t find anything like it, I decided to create it.”
His bright smile hid the brains behind the intense and grueling workout that had my stomach turning in anticipation. I’m quickly introduced to the people I will be sharing the next 40 HIIT minutes with and after a small warm up we are walked through the circuit we will complete.
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Max tells me after, MMA represents complete athletes and the aim of his classes try to mirror that: “Lean, tough, strong, fit, fast. This type of training isn’t always easily accessible and can be intimidating. I wanted to create a platform that could deliver this functionality and aesthetic to everyone, while also being a place that fighters and recreational martial artists could improve their fitness in a way that’s fit for purpose.”
Back at the class and I see two lots of burpees, planks on wobble boards, punching bags and battle ropes laid out in front of me. This is among other intense workouts which come with the promise of just ‘eight minutes of exercise.’ Now, eight minutes may fly by when you press snooze on your morning alarm but not when you’re doing weighted jumping squats.
I run to the first station with the enthusiasm of a small child at recess and Max quickly reminds me that we’re doing this three more times. The intention of the class is to engage in 30 seconds of HIIT and 30 seconds of active rest, where you give about 20-30% of your energy to whatever you’re doing. These ‘easy’ options include 30 seconds of punching, jumping lunges and crunches.
After the first round, I chugged my bottle of water, stared in the mirror and saw a redder, sweatier version of the person who walked in. I questioned whether I should really be here and if this level of fitness was something I could keep up with. Max reassures me that this class is for everyone, regardless of your background: “If you want to get into shape and feel better, or you need to improve your fitness for competition, we’re your guys. Everyone should get to hit stuff a few times a week.”
Two more circuits and I was officially done for the day; maybe even the month. During our last round, Max shouted at us to all push ourselves until we collapsed. Knowing I had to walk back to the office I couldn’t quite commit, but persevered and eventually gave up at the wobble board. Apparently, my core strength isn’t as up to scratch as I had previously thought.
Overall the experience really opened my eyes to the world of contact sport and my preconceptions of such a violent sport were overtaken by my respect for the vigorous training program that fighters go through. Oh, and I will definitely be back next week.
If you’re based in London and want to give Max’s class ago, head to 100percentmma.com for more details.
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