22 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Natalie Tries: ZUU

March 24, 2014
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‘So why is it called ZUU?’ I asked innocently as a group of nervous journalists and I prepared to undertake our first class at Virgin Active. ‘Because we’re going to be doing all our movements like zoo animals,’ replied our uber-keen Kiwi instructor. Of course. Exactly what I need at 8am on a Tuesday.

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The Australian-born fitness craze, developed by fitness enthusiast Nathan Helberg, is based on entirely ‘primal’ movements, tapping into our innate animalistic nature and making us use muscle groups that have long been forgotten in an age of office work, escalators and Netflix. You’ll be rolling around on the floor, leaping, jumping, squatting – and if you’re anything like me you’ll be absolutely loving it.

The Class

The 30-minute class is intense, invigorating and leaves a muscle-burn like nothing else. Prepare yourself for a complete inability to tackle hills or stairs the next day – large curbs might also be a struggle.

The best thing about this class is that there isn’t a scrap of gym equipment in sight. You are completely relying on your own body weight as resistance and you’ll be baffled at just how difficult it is to move on your hands and feet. But it comes to you quickly. We began life in a crawl and it’s fantastic for your body to get off your feet and really engage with muscles that you’d forgotten about.

To start with you’re taught a range of movements – all with appropriate animal names, obviously. Gorilla jumps (bounding across the floor on your hands and feet like a… gorilla), Joey squats (hopping across the room in a very low squat – prepare for an intense burn in your quads!) Bear crawls (A rapid crawl on your hands and feet with your bum in the air) – just to name a few. In reality there are over 100 unique moves that work both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, and the moves are put together in seamless sequences that compliment each other for 30 minutes to give you a fantastic full-body workout.

And when I say ‘full-body’ – I mean it. Whether you’re blasting your triceps with press-ups in an ‘A’ frame or making your core quiver with reverse bear crawls, there’s no muscle that will be left unworked. And the great thing is that it’s entirely low-impact – ideal if you’re injury prone. The intricate set of movements get your heart racing without pounding your joints, which is why ZUU is so popular with elite athletes.

But you don’t have to be elite. Nathan told us about how he has a 67 year old woman who regularly attends his classes and never fails to inspire him. No matter what level of fitness you’re at – Olympic athlete, or recovering from a stroke, ZUU has benefits for all and is entirely adaptable to challenge you no matter how hard you want to push yourself.

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The Culture

ZUU isn’t just a fitness class – it’s an entire culture. The attitude is entirely communal, positive and motivational. You go into the class as complete strangers and come out feeling close with everyone who took part. Huge amounts of high-fiving and vocal encouragement brings you all closer together and helps to spur people on.

Now I know we’re British, and we’re reserved and we shy away from social interaction with strangers, but don’t let this put you off. You’ll never work harder than when a stranger reaches out to you and tells you to ‘Keep going!’ when you’re just about to drop. It’s perfect for those of us who know what team sport culture is like – and it’s great to see that translated into a gym environment, which can so often become autonomous and lonely.

ZUU is available exclusively at selected Virgin Active Health Clubs from March. ZUU will be available at Virgin Active nationwide from mid-summer. To find out more visit www.virginactive.co.uk

My new Moving Comfort kit was perfect for this workout – breathable, soft, comfortable and in gorgeous spring colours. Head to www.movingcomfort.co.uk to get the look.

Natalie Morris, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine

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