In a room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, an emergency light begins to flash, the door is bolted and the first few bars of music kick in. When this happens, you know you’re in for one of the most intense workouts of your life.
Over the next 30 minutes, I push my body to its very limits, performing various exercises during two laps of 12 stations. It may sound like your everyday circuit training, but having completed two sessions a week over the past four weeks, I can safely say that the Engine Room is anything but. I’ve done CrossFit, Bikram Yoga, personal training and military boot camps, but this beats them all hands down. The Engine Room is all about using movements that are part of your day-to-day life. One of the typical exercise stations could be jumping onto a box, performing a squat and jumping down before picking up and hurling a slam ball to the ground, or something as simple as a lunging kettlebell swing. The point is, your body will push, pull, lift and bend through a full range of natural motions.
“I wanted to create a room in which people could partake in functional training in a safe, group environment,” explains Steven Wileman, chief operating officer of Horizon Fitness and the man behind the Engine Room.
But that is merely one half of the concept.
“The issue with group training is that people can cheat,” says Steven. “You always get that person at the back pretending but actually not giving it the effort. I wanted to ensure that everyone in the room put the same effort in and got the same workout. That’s where MYZONE comes in.”
Using a module strapped to your chest, MYZONE transmits live data to the screens placed around the room, detailing each person’s effort percentage based on their maximum heart rate (MHR). This way, the leaders of each session – the Mechanics as they’re known – can see exactly how hard you’re working and coach each individual.
And that little personal touch goes a long way. Even when you’re 20 minutes in and heading towards the final 10 seconds of your station, muscles burning in agony and your entire body screaming at you to stop. And then to hear a Mechanic say: “Great work, Matt, one more per cent and you’re in the red zone” (working at 90 per cent of MHR or above). It really spurs you on to achieve more than you perhaps thought you were capable of.
Equally, the communal atmosphere of the group environment is also integral to the Engine Room experience. When you’re on the brink of giving up and you look around to see your fellow Engine Roomers in a similar state, but pushing through these physical and mental barriers, you somehow dig deeper and pull out those last few reps. While visually, we may look as if we are putting in different amounts of effort, one glance at the readings onscreen tells you that we’re all running at similar percentages of our differing levels of fitness.
Since launching back in December, the Engine Room has earned many fans, perhaps none more distinguished than the international title-winning female bodybuilder from the Philippines, Luz McClinton. She attended several sessions during a recent visit to Muscat and vouched for the dynamism and intensity of the training, claiming she’d never come across anything quite like it in her career.
Don’t worry though; you don’t need the physique of a bodybuilder to get involved with the Engine Room as there are three levels available – V6, V8 and V12 – with the V6 aimed specifically at those who haven’t done training like this before.
MYZONE injects a good dose of science into training, giving you access to a dizzying array of stats, the likes of which are usually reserved for professional athletes and sports stars. From session to session you can assess the amount of calories burned, average effort and average heart rate among others, giving you the ability to track and monitor progress from week to week.
Steven is adamant that it would take you several hours of free training on the gym floor to achieve the same results as 30 minutes in the Engine Room and so I put this theory to the test. Sure enough, after eight 30-minute sessions in the Engine Room, my overall effort level averaged out at 84 per cent and the average amount of calories burned was 457.5, compared to the workout I completed alone in the gym, where my average effort was a measly 62 per cent and I only burned 433 calories over the course of a whole hour.
To achieve such results in only 30 minutes is nothing short of incredible and I left every session with a sense of elation, riding the post-exercise wave of endorphins all the way home and well into the evening.
“Due to the intensity at which you train in half an hour, you experience the afterburn effect,” says Steven. “This means you will continue to consume and burn calories up to eight hours after you leave the room.”
As he deftly puts it, “The Engine Room is like putting your foot down in a Ferrari and riding on the edge of your seat around the Nürburgring [a German race track] for half an hour.”
As for me? Well, I can’t wait to get into the driving seat again.
● The Engine Room is currently at Horizon’s Azaiba Mixed, Azaiba Ladies and Madinat Sultan Qaboos branches, with plans to launch at a further four centres in Muscat and one in Sohar in the near future
● Members of Horizon Fitness can buy 12 Engine Room sessions for RO60. For non-members, the cost is RO96
● Gym membership at Horizon ranges between RO99 and RO109 for a year
● Call +968 243 904 27 or +968 243 904 28 for more information