It’s 6:40am and the sun is rising over Frankfurt. The sky is brushed with pink and orange clouds and shrill birdsong pierces the crisp morning air, the vocalists hidden amongst the leafy green trees. Urban Sport of the Week is on tour and we’re on a mission to get to know the workout culture of the city. Our first observation: Frankfurt likes to workout early.
Classy Fitness in Frankfurt’s East End does what it says on the tin. The studio is sleek and modern. Copper light fixtures hang from the ceiling and light up the clean black reception desk. Protein shakes are displayed in an LED-lit fridge near the door and on the opposite wall the week’s workouts are chalked up in neat colourful lettering. Just like the city itself, this place feels productive and proactive. I imagine the members of this gym are high-flying office warriors who bang out game-changing powerpoint presentations with the same grace and ease as a set of weighted pull-ups.
Ehssan Jannessar is one of the co-founders of Classy Fitness and he’s our trainer for today. Although it’s 7am ours is his second class of the morning – an indicator of just how early Frankfurter’s like to get up. He’s burly and unsmiling, a real Bootcamp trainer, and speaks in a deep low almost-American-accent. “I opened this gym ten months ago with a friend,” he says. “We’d worked together for twelve years as personal trainers and then we opened this gym to bring this new concept from the USA to Germany.”
The concept he speaks of is a kind of turbo-HIIT / nightclub fitness class designed to sculpt every last person who enters the studio into broad-shouldered Gods and flat-stomached Goddesses. The class is designed to burn as much fat and as many calories as humanly possible within 45 minutes. And just as it sinks in exactly how challenging this Legs and Bums class will be, it’s time to begin.
The room is so dark it takes a while for my eyes to adjust to the change in lighting. “It’s strength and cardio combined,” Ehssan says. “You do three sets of strength exercises and then switch over to cardio. So you build muscle first and then burn fat second.”
As my eyes slowly adjust I see Ehssan standing at the front of the room with a microphone strapped around his head. About 20 supermodels have stationed themselves next to either a black step or a treadmill, rowing machine or assault bike. Fritzi and I find two vacant spots on a rowing machine and after a short warm-up we begin the workout.
With Drake booming over the stacked speakers from both ends of the room we begin the first of three sets. “Cardio! Start fast!” Ehssan yells. I start rowing furiously, fuelled by adrenaline from the dark room and the loud club music. “Now go slow!” Ehssan bellows and we slow it down, sweat dripping from my forehead already.
“Now switch it up!” He says and I unshackle myself from the rower and head over to one of the steps. The first strength set of the workout is focussed on our quads. I grab two 15kg weights and follow Ehssan’s demonstration into a set of squat presses. Each set lasts no more than 45 seconds but it feels like one million years. Squat presses are followed by deadlifts and weighted lunges and not once can I let go of those 15kg weights. It feels very much like my arms are going to drop off.
So it’s a huge relief to get on the treadmill for our second round of cardio. The treadmills are flush against a mirror so I’m face to face with my sweaty, contorted face as I plough through four sets of fast, then slow uphill sprints. Ehssan comes around every few minutes to turn my dial up, just to make absolutely certain that I’m constantly on the verge of a heart attack.
Kid Cudi, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber pump over the speakers, seamlessly mixed so there’s no break in the fast-paced bass that fills the room. We’re handed an exercise band for our second set of strength exercises. I put both legs in the band and squat low, and then walk backwards and forwards at the same level to work every muscle in my lower body. Next up we get on the bench, band around knees and lift one leg to one side, then the other, to work our butts, then back to squats. True agony.
I spend the final round of cardio on the assault bike in a kind of sweaty daze trying to stay conscious. For the final round of strength I lift 15kg dumb bells using only my knee crease followed by an agonising round of squats and lunges without being allowed to stand up in-between.
“Good job everybody!” Thank Christ. “Time for the warm down!” As we leave the studio Ehssan high-fives the class, a hint of a smile and a glimmer of pride seeping through his steely bootcamp exterior.
After a shower in their beautiful sleek bathroom which could easily be featured on MTV cribs I help myself to their range of deodorants and body sprays, get dressed and head to the front of the studio to quiz Ehssan about the studio. “I started the studio because I was thinking about the future,” Ehssan says. “About what I’ll do when I’m 70 years old and trying to tell people what to do for their fitness. No one will listen to me because I’ll be so old. So I decided to open this gym for the future.” Since Classy Fitness opened ten months ago the classes have been jam-packed – so much so that Ehssan tells me they’re thinking of opening a new studio in Frankfurt within the year.
“The 6am classes are just as full as the 7am classes,” he says. “It’s Frankfurt. It’s a working city, people have to wake up at 5 or 6 and go to work at 7 or 8am. Most of our members work in finance or are lawyers or doctors so they have to start early.” Just as he says that a young woman in a full business suit waves goodbye as she exits the studio. I turn to Fritzi and say “Now that’s not something you see in Berlin.”
If you’d like to try out Classy Fitness, take a look at their website to see what classes, news and events they have on offer.
And we have several similar bootcamp partners across Germany. Take a look at our HIIT and fitness partners to see what’s on in your area.