This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 16/01/2018.
Review: Oxygen Freejumping Croydon
At the Colonnades, excited kids zoom up multiple flights of stairs (ahead of their less-agile parents) to the reception area. Together, they purchase their passes, chuck their belongings into a locker and wait in the holding room to watch the introductory instructional video. Some children visit so often, they mouth the dialogue in sync with the film, verbatim. Just outside, sounds of school playgrounds echo throughout the trampoline park, where jovial staff members adorned in Hawaiian-themed accessories supervise the jumpers. Parent chaperones observe from an upstairs seating area, sipping on wine purchased from the concession stand.
Although I would love to free my inner child in a flurry of bouncing, flips and handsprings, I stoically tread to the very back corner of Oxygen Freejumping Croydon. Here, the two-story black industrial portion of the facility houses a variety of net, rope and metal obstacles, highlighted by multi-coloured lights. This intimidating section, caged off from the rest of the park, is reserved the Bear Grylls’ Fitness Class. The intimidating ambiance makes me question why I wanted to review a strenuous fitness class created by a scrappy ex-military survivalist when I have slacked on my fitness routine for about a year now. Luckily, classes are meant to be adaptable for participants of differing abilities.
Instructor Max leads our class of newbies in an easy-to-follow dynamic stretching warm up. Two attendees begin the regime specifically to train for tough obstacle race events, but others try the classes to mix up their monotonous fitness regimes. We spend the first half of the class testing out different obstacle stations. I’m transported back to the school playground and gymnasium again as we climb up cargo nets, bounce over short pillars that act as stepping stones, traipse along seesaws and scoot across a tightrope. We gleefully test our agility and balance, not realising that this was only the easy introduction.
The rest of the obstacle course requires intense upper-body strength. Our legs dangle as we painstakingly walk our hands across a set of parallel bars. Shoulders already beginning to fatigue, we test our grip strength next. We laterally move to the right by grasping pegs, essentially doing the monkey bars sideways. And there’s more to come. Although the exercises quickly sapped my arm strength, I half-heartedly pull myself up a short length on the knotted rope climb. Attempting the monkey bars next seems laughable, but with a dose of genuine encouragement, I give it a go. Mercifully, we take a break from the upper-body work by strengthening our legs, but finish the class with free time to attempt inching along ropes and cargo nets as we hang upside down like sloths.
The most thrilling challenge is charging up the shortened half pipe, known as the ‘Warped Wall’ on Ninja Warrior UK. Exposed to the equally curious and scrutinising eyeballs of Oxygen Freejumping attendees outside of the enclosure, my pride fuels a mad dash to the concave wall. Limbs splaying wildly, I dart forward and magically propel myself 95% of the way up the wall. However, I comically flop about on my stomach like a fish out of water for a good minute before I manage to haul myself over the precipice. Once standing, I victoriously gaze over the gym, much like Simba surveying his kingdom from the glory of Pride Rock.
The rest of class, though less eventful, is spent completing exercise sets on the obstacles instead of charging across them. However, incorporating the unique fitness equipment does make the activities more interesting than completing the same exercises in a standard fitness centre. For example, squatting on a tightrope proves more challenging than completing squats on the ground, and lunges are intensified as we step on to tall rubber pillars. The parallel bars are used for tricep dips and a pull-up variation. Much like the obstacle-course challenges, the exercises are inclusive of all abilities, with modifications to suit both beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
Bear Grylls’ classes are recommended for everyone over the age of 12, and a single class ticket costs £8. These classes are ideal for people who do not enjoy working out in traditional leisure-centre environments. The adaptable course focuses on functional training, which can help practitioners achieve their varied goals of increased strength, agility, endurance, coordination, balance, speed and power. Session activities vary from week to week, and challenge seekers will especially enjoy the class. Instructor Max shares that he enjoys witnessing increases in participants’ fitness levels and seeing them complete physical feats beyond their expectations (just like my surprised triumph from flailing up the Warped Wall). So, gather your buddies and give the Bear Grylls’ obstacle course a try. You’ll have a bout of good fun, and your abilities may just surprise you.