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Health Club Management

Health Club Management


Interview: Setting fitness on fire

David Lloyd Leisure has announced the rollout of its boutique-style HIIT concept, Blaze. Michelle Dand, DLL’s head of fitness products and programming and the visionary behind Blaze, and DLL Blaze trainer Jack Claxton talk to Kate Cracknell

By Kate Cracknell, Health Club Management | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 11
David Lloyd is investing an additional £15m to add Blaze to 49 more clubs
David Lloyd is investing an additional £15m to add Blaze to 49 more clubs
Every Blaze participant wears their own Myzone heart rate belt, which monitors their pulse and shows work rate in easy to understand colour zones

What’s Blaze all about?
JC: Blaze is a team-based HIIT class where you train across three distinct areas – combat, cardio and strength – in a specially designed studio.

It has an amazing music playlist and lighting and a great sense of community. All Blaze trainers have to audition to make sure they’re the right people to get participants fired up. It’s a really addictive, high-quality class.

It’s also a full-body workout that’s designed to get results for every participant. The class is based on heart rate training, which ensures everyone works at the right intensity. You work to your own heart rate, challenging yourself, but within your own limits.

This ensures the workout is suitable for everyone, whatever their fitness level. We also make sure everyone gets results, by making sure they spend enough time in their ‘red’ heart rate zone.

There are two lengths of class – Blaze 45 at 45 minutes and Blaze 55 at 55 – and you’ll train in each of the three studio zones three times.

In Blaze 45, training phases last for three minutes; in Blaze 55 it’s four – other than that, the class structure is the same. Blaze is only available at David Lloyd clubs.

What’s the science?
MD: Every Blaze participant wears their own Myzone belt, which monitors their heart rate and shows it in easy to understand colour zones. Grey is the lowest, then blue, green, yellow and finally red. You collect points based on your effort levels when you train.

The signal from the belt is automatically picked up the moment you check in to the studio, with screens in each corner of the room showing your name, the heart rate zone you’re in, calories burned so far and average heart rate.

You’re challenged to hit different heart rate zones at different points in a workout, and in the three different areas of the studio, but the overall goal is to work in the red zone (90–100 per cent of maximum heart rate) for between nine and 18 minutes of a 55-minute class.

It’s at this rate of effort that you expand aerobic capacity, increase your lactate threshold and endurance, improve recovery and crush calories.

That might all sound a bit intimidating, but heart rate training is all about the effort you personally put in. If you’re less fit, you might find an exercise quickly gets you into the red zone where a fitter person in the class might still be in the yellow zone. You’ll therefore already be working hard enough, but they’ll need to push themselves a bit harder.

That’s why heart rate zones work well as the base for a workout – they’re a leveller and allow everyone to participate equally.

As you get fitter, the system recognises this and adapts your maximum heart rate, so you’ll keep progressing.

You don’t need to be fit before you start. The class is designed to get you fit.

What’s a typical class like?
JC: There are so many different session templates, you’re likely to experience a different workout every day.

Sessions are based around three zones for a full-body workout.

The Combat Zone is influenced by MMA. You wear MMA gloves and train using things like core bags, Thai bags, GRIPRs and TRX suspension trainers, super-setting these pieces of equipment in three or four minutes of non-stop work.

All trainers receive specialist MMA training to ensure members work out safely and effectively.

The Cardio Zone features Woodway treadmills. These are designed to be low-impact, with an 80 per cent absorption rate, and quick acceleration of 0–24kph in just 7.5 seconds.

In the Cardio Zone, you generally do interval training, increasing in intensity each time. The instructor sets the incline and you set the speed; if you can’t run for any reason, there’s an option to walk.

Finally, the Strength Zone features customised benches – known as Blaze boxes – with integrated storage for pairs of dumbbells ranging from 2.5kg to 20kg.

What results can you expect?
MD: The combination of training modalities in Blaze can have impressive results: increased cardiovascular fitness, a sculpted physique and a boost to your metabolic rate.

In a 45- to 55-minute Blaze session, you can potentially burn anything from 500 to 1,000 calories, depending on your body composition, by boosting your metabolism. You’ll also continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours after a class.

You’ll improve your aerobic capacity too, meaning you can run further and faster for longer. And over time, HIIT can also improve the flexibility and elasticity of your arteries and veins.

JC: Last but not least, the classes boost your overall feelgood factor and will hopefully inspire you to train more throughout the week, motivated by the results you’re seeing.

Myzone has an app, so you can continue to use your belt and collect points when you train on your own in the gym – a great reason to push yourself that little bit harder!

Why does Blaze need its own studio?
JC: It’s important to create the right environment for Blaze, so the studio features a special AV system.

The music and lighting are timed to sync with the workout, with bespoke soundtracks that are high tempo when you’re in the red zone and slower when you’re being given instructions, during transitions and for cool-down.

There are also large screens in the studio that display the overall class time, as well as a ticker clock for each interval and set. Each timer is linked to lighting, music and audio countdown prompts, which means exercisers and trainers are given complete freedom to lose themselves in the workout.

All the equipment needed is in the studio, including the specialist kit already mentioned, and all stations are pre-set.

It’s a self-contained unit that’s ready to go at all times, and that’s important because the timetable is busy. Once the studio is up-and-running, members can expect to be offered up to five Blaze classes a day.

The studio has been designed for safety and instructor interaction. The instructor can see all participants all the time, so they can check technique and offer encouragement, as well as making sure everyone’s working hard or even telling people to pull back if they’re working too hard.

Why did DLL create these classes?
MD: The group exercise landscape has changed significantly over the last few years. Independent boutique studio concepts have emerged; budget clubs removed group exercise from the model, then added it back – sometimes for an additional fee; and investment by some of the larger chains has seen studio refurbs and the creation of multi-functional group training spaces on the gym floor.

Consumer research shows fitness studios serve more consumers than any other fitness industry segment and group exercise remains a strong selling point.

DLL saw these trends and evolved group exercise across its cycling and yoga studios, as well as outdoors, before creating Blaze as a new concept.

The concept is based on an understanding that people now look for different experiences when they train. They want more variety, a stronger sense of community and faster results in a shorter time. That’s why boutique concepts such as Barry’s Bootcamp, 1Rebel, KOBOX and Psycle are proving popular.

Blaze is a boutique-style experience, but with the convenience of being located within DLL clubs. This means members can benefit from Blaze and also the gym, pool, racquets, spa and other group exercise classes, all in the same place, as part of their membership.

Jack, you saw Blaze in action at DLL Amsterdam. Tell us more.…

JC: I did three classes and shadowed three as an instructor. The classes were full and people were loving them.

There were many different types of people – a 16-year-old who’d brought his mum – she hadn’t done a class before – and one guy who hadn’t trained for a year, but came out pumped up.

MD: We’re seeing the same across all the clubs in the UK that have Blaze. It’s proven so popular we’re investing £15m to roll it out to a further 49 clubs across the DLL estate.

It sounds pretty hardcore. Is it intimidating for newcomers?
JC: There are 30-minute inductions available for anyone who hasn’t done a class before, offering a full explanation of what to expect, how to set things up and how to move around the circuit.

It’s also possible for new starters to do a short taster session in a small group.

The trainers also help people with set-up before their first class and are on-hand throughout the class, offering help and encouragement. The vibe is friendly and welcoming.

What difference does Blaze make?
JC: It boosts the social aspect of clubs, because it builds a sense of team. It also encourages more people to try group exercise: in Amsterdam, Blaze is as popular with men as women, and all different ages.

Key facts

  • Concept: Michelle Dand
  • Roll out budget: £15m+
  • Number of locations at the completion of the roll out: 60
  • First Blaze: DLL Kensington 2017

Blaze is born

Michelle Dand

Blaze is the brainchild of DLL’s Michelle Dand, who envisaged a group training experience for millennial, career-focused individuals that offered social interaction, an element of friendly competition where appropriate, and results – and would appeal to men and women.

Dand says: “The concept was developed from the ground up, in partnership with Escape Fitness and functional training specialist Tommy Matthews, who helped design the programme.”

Blaze made its debut in 2017 as part of the conversion of David Lloyd Kensington into a Harbour Club, and as at mid-September 2018 was available in 11 clubs in the UK and Europe.

The success of these initial sites has now prompted the business to invest in launching it into a further 49 David Lloyd Clubs.

Michelle Dand, DLL head of fitness product and programming / PHOTO: KATE CRACKNELL
Michelle Dand, DLL head of fitness product and programming / PHOTO: KATE CRACKNELL
DLL members get access to Blaze as part of their membership
DLL members get access to Blaze as part of their membership
Blaze has been designed to appeal to the millennial market, with a strong social element
Blaze has been designed to appeal to the millennial market, with a strong social element
Instructors are on hand to offer advice and coach during Blaze sessions
Instructors are on hand to offer advice and coach during Blaze sessions
Blaze workouts happen in three zones: combat, cardio and strength
Blaze workouts happen in three zones: combat, cardio and strength
Blaze workouts happen in three zones: combat, cardio and strength
Blaze workouts happen in three zones: combat, cardio and strength
David Lloyd Leisure has announced the rollout of its boutique-style HIIT concept, Blaze. We chat to DLL’s Michelle Dand and Jack Claxton about the new offering...
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