It’s difficult to say exactly what it felt like except that things got hot and heavy

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos by Javier Lobregat

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have signed up for my first high-interval intensity training (HIIT) class if it weren’t for my super motivated colleagues and the plucky promise of rebuilding a new fitness routine.

So when our friends over at Fitness First graciously invited us to try one of their lifestyle classes, I couldn’t pass the chance up. The universe was making it too easy. Besides, I had a personal vendetta against anyone who thinks I can’t be an official mascot for health and fitness just because of my skinny frame. What wasn’t easy however was choosing what class to take. There were nine in total, with each one offering a unique benefit.

After shortlisting it down to Burn (“day-long metabolism boost”), X Blast (“increase strength and improve cardio fitness”), and Freestyle Group Training HIIT (“high intensity, dynamic movement training, elevate the heart rate”), we decided on HIIT because, well, if this is the last time we’ll do this class, it better be the the most exciting and intense class; one that I happily dubbed the “statement fitness class.”

After rounding up my troop—from Preen, Nolisoli, and Scout—and dressing to the nines in all black, we were ready to tackle something new. We met our coach that day, Michael Angelo “Noni” Robosa, a real muscular professional in his slick training uniform. I learned that he’s been in the fitness industry for 10 years with a number of specialties and certifications that made him our perfect introduction to the struggle to come.

“The freestyle group training is a 30-minute class that gives maximum results in minimum time,” he says. “It’s a dynamic movement training that makes use of functional equipment such as suspension trainers, plyo boxes, kettlebells, and dumbbells. Today, we’ll be doing FGT HIIT, a stream that elevates the heart rate and maximizes calorific output.”

What I appreciated about Noni’s approach is that he always stresses on safety and the importance of listening to our body. And upon hearing that we were mostly “beginners” he reassured us that he’ll be adjusting the workouts based on things like pain or injuries.

Then came the moment… and it wasn’t that bad. We started with warm-ups to stretch and loosen up our obviously tight and stiff muscles. Right smack in the open floor of RCBC Platinum, we lunged and squatted and reached upwards for metaphorical stars until we hit the sweet spots. And that includes seeing each other in a different, more Sporty Spice light.

“For some who enjoy exercising in a group, they take advantage of the contagious energy in the environment that enables them to keep going. They start and end the class strong and together,” says Noni. Good, I thought.

But despite all the positive talks and reinforcement promised, the HIIT class delivered. Hard. Fast and furious. The class was a grab bag of four different exercises rolled into three progressive stages of difficulty. Each station pushed us into 40 seconds of maximum effort with a 20-second rest interval.

I survived the skittering demands of the plyo box planks and jumps; the kettlebell plank rows that made my arms feel like jelly and my face drip with non-stop sweat; the dumbbell swings, which felt like a relief despite the extended twists and follow-throughs Noni wanted us to do; and the unassuming weight plate workouts that got harder and harder each time. Squats, lifts, lunges, and jumping jacks with a heavy steel plate in my hand? I better get high marks for this.

But despite the aching muscles and sweaty bodies, as well as my close-to-passing-out-but-I-didn’t moment, the whole experience served to reinforce the benefits of having a partner to motivate you. Someone to share the pain with or laugh at your poor form and mistakes. Luckily, I was paired with Scout editor in chief Lex Celera who proved to me that at 32, I can still run with the younger wolves. He’s a decade younger than me and I was able to keep up. Not bad.

What’s strange though is that I actually enjoyed working out with my friends and colleagues—regardless of the class’ degree of difficulty. Noni later expressed his admiration that for beginners, we performed around the level of an “intermediate.” Though to be honest some of us were actually better than beginners, including our creative director Nimu Muallam who’s racing her first marathon in January and our photographer Javier Lobregat who’s virtually a cheerleading professional. 

As Noni pointed out earlier, the HIIT class, which is part of the freestyle group training program, is “perfect for people who want a quick and effective workout whether your goal is to build a stronger core or improve strength, endurance, power, and agility.” And I wholeheartedly agree.

For a first-timer like me, the HIIT class (and there’s no better way of saying this) was an orgy of bodyweight exercises, incredible intensity, active recovery periods, oxygen shortages, dizziness, and hot and heavy moments. Even the cool down felt hot to me.

So what did I get out of this rare burn? Much of my self-consciousness and preconceptions about going to a fitness class in an open gym has dissipated; and its place, a willingness to explore and challenge myself more.