KoBox is pretty new in town. Situated just off The Kings Road it’s not unreasonable to assume that they may have opened their doors to allow the beautiful people of Chelsea to sleekly move about, whilst not kicking up too much of a sweat, or creasing too many designer workout garments, whilst partaking in one of their boxing themed workouts.
In fact, in a part of town famed for high fashion KoBox have been the cleverest of designers by taking good old fashioned hard work and tarting it up to resemble something very new, sexy and on trend.
Gliding through the doors into KoBox…
…you would be forgiven for lulling yourself into a false sense of security at the façade of clean and crisp interiors backed up by highly attentive and friendly customer service. But gently lift the veil and instead of a sweetly smiling Sloaney pin-up you are met by a snarling beast ready to attack you head on! Be prepared for a fight!
As I walked into the training chamber…
…I bumped into my good friend Pete Pallai, director of myPilates London, as he was walking out. Now Pete is a fit guy, a former two-time Olympian and ex rugby player he has plenty of experience in pushing himself to the limit with his training. Nowadays he keeps himself in fabulous shape by combining his advanced knowledge in Pilates with high intensity cross training routines in the gym.
‘How was it?’ I asked noticing that Pete had lost some colour and was drenched in sweat.
‘Tough. Very tough.’ He replied.
Seeing Pete in this state focussed my mind to the task at hand. Clearly this wasn’t going to be a quiet stroll down The Kings Road, a walk in the park…you know what I mean!
I shuffled nervously over to my allocated station number on the wall and looked around to get my bearings. The room was packed with other gym goers looking to get their end of week Friday fit-kicks at one of the hottest new tickets in town. Each person has his or her own station number. This guides them to their starting point either on one of the suspended boxing bags in the middle of the room or on the perimeter wall which is where I was initially stationed. My station was brimming with all the kit you would ever need for a full body conditioning workout – multiple bungees hanging on the wall, med balls, weighted plates, dumbbells, etc.
The session kicked off with trainer, actor and all round pocket rocket Jay Brown bursting into character. He didn’t relent for the entire next hour which is a bit of a blur but I will do my best to recount it…
The session closely resembled a sports conditioning session…
…the type I remember well from my rugby days when your coach is having marital issues and wants to take it out on the team. Timed periods of around 2-3 minutes (it felt like 2-3 hours) when you have to repeat as many reps of the same action as possible before moving on to the next exercise and finally looping it all back together via upper and lower body circuits. Ouch.
For competitive ex sports people such as myself and Pete this is a recipe for ‘can’t walk for 3 days syndrome’ as we push ourselves to complete failure for many of the rounds. For others with more of a preference for the ‘self preservation’ approach, your luck runs out at KoBox. Trainer Jay makes a point to name and shame anyone who drops to their knees or elbows in surrender before the clock has counted down. Rest mid set at your peril!
If you’re expecting an easy ride of dip in, dip out under Jay Brown’s watch then think again.
Ok this approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea but…
…it sure as heck motivates you to keep pushing through the pain barrier – something that is very hard to do training by yourself. With late arrivals being commanded to do punishment burpees in front of the ‘class’ I found it immensely refreshing in a commercial environment – again more nostalgia from my rugby days. Beyond all that, this approach was a great icebreaker. Firstly it meant no one was under any illusions that we were all there to work hard and secondly it meant that we could all nervously giggle together as a bunch of strangers all about to get hot and sweaty together.
The content of the session itself utilised solid and familiar exercises such as…
…burpees, squat jumps, plank variations, boxing combos, etc all using the kit at our disposal. Each exercise has to be repeated as many times as possible during the allotted time period. This means that even very simple exercises become hellish – if you’ve ever tried squat jumping non stop for 3 minutes then you’ll understand the pain. If you haven’t then I suggest you get some practice in before your first session at KoBox!
At the end of the first section on ‘the wall’ it was time to move onto one of the stylised boxing bags hanging from the ceiling. The initial relief of a change from the circuits by my wall station was to be short lived.
With Jay prowling around, eyes like a hawk, barking out his orders and pursuing anyone who was taking the easy option, the bag soon became a focal point for my quickly dwindling energy levels. The fantastic thing about boxing is how raw it is. It appeals to a deep primal urge to hit things (or is that just me?!). Within the KoBox environment boxing combos start to flow as part of a trance like state – music, lighting and the energy of the room contributing towards a final fitness climax explosion. Then a pause, some rest and the satisfaction washes over you.
*To keep some consistency within my series of reviews on London’s top group fitness venues I have devised a rating system that I will apply to every experience I have – hopefully this will help you to decide what venues would best suit you. I love being a ‘fitness tourist’ myself and would encourage you to have a little exercise roaming in your life too…
1: Training Environment/Atmosphere: High energy and unforgiving…no easy ride here! Swapping back and forth from the wall to the bags adds some good variety and means the training environment is ever changing. A good ploy to make you work harder!
2: Coaching Style: A spade is a spade just as a dumbbell is a dumbbell…if you catch my drift? If you’re not working hard enough you will be told straight!
3: Equipment: You get some lovely free wraps when you join…perfect to practice your sparring between KoBox sessions! All the other equipment is state of the art from the hanging boxing bags to the hygienic open-palmed boxing gloves. It’s great to see bungees and med balls making an appearance too!
4: Bedside Manner/Customer Service: Everyone at KoBox is extremely welcoming and couldn’t be more helpful. From getting the run through pep talk from reception before your first session through to the post training chat with your trainer – everyone there is on your side! So go smash it!
5: My ‘Knack Factor’ – how knackering was it? Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. If you try to match all the training instructions you will hit a knack factor of 10/10 regardless of fitness level…it’s all relative isn’t it! Even if you’re superwoman you’ll hit your max rep ranges at each time, which will take its toll. Yes, 10…its 10!
In summary – Never mind the b*llocks…here’s KoBox. Good old-fashioned hard work reinvented with a shiny new sheen to it. It’s deceiving but it’s also oh so satisfying.