When I work out, my preference is to go solo, but I'm fully aware of the benefits of exercising with others. In a class, trainers will push you to your limit, and it's always good to know you're not the only one struggling to do another set of burpees.
Staying away from the gym and still getting that fitness class experience at home is not a new phenomenon. But adding a wearable into the equation means you can track your progress in real time and get a better idea of whether you're getting a proper workout.
Essential reading: Boxing wearables to help you dominate the gym
That's what Hykso, maker of the punch trackers that I tried last year is aiming to deliver with FightCamp. The set of interactive boxing-fitness classes uses those punch trackers to measure your performance and make sure you feel the full benefits of each workout. Think of it a bit like MyZone and its quest to gamify fitness using its heart rate monitor.
I've been using the FightCamp beta since December, throwing in a couple of sessions a week at home in between my running to find out how well it all works. Has it become a permanent fixture in my training routine? Here's what it's been like living with FightCamp.
Before the punching
Before we get into the testing (and the punching), let's talk about what you're going to need in order to get the most out of FightCamp. First on the list is the boxing kit. You'll need the Hykso punch trackers, some hand wraps to keep them on your wrists, and ideally a heavy bag or free standing boxing bag. Hykso is planning to launch some wraps with pockets to keep the trackers in, which should speed up the process of getting them on.
There is a FightCamp Home Kit that is now available and includes everything you'll need, but at $500 it's not cheap. So hopefully you've got some of the above already.
I'd also suggest making sure you have a decent amount of space around the bag. These classes involve a mix of bag work and HIIT-like exercises (sit ups, burpees), so you'll definitely need that extra room.
There is also the subject of the ongoing costs. FightCamp is a subscription service that can cost from $25 to $39 a month depending on how long a period you want to be signed up for. You can trial the service for free for 30 days and for new subscribers, you do get the trackers free.
It's time to pick your workout
Once you're all signed up and set up, your next move is to download the app. As I mentioned, you can access these workouts from the FightCamp website also, but if you want that wearable support, you need to have an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV.
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Whether you opt for the app or the website, it's then time to pick a workout. Each workout is assigned a trainer and these trainers are a mix of former fighters and personal trainers, many of whom have worked with a string of A-List celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Adriana Lima and Usher. So it sounds like we are in good hands.
The workouts currently fall into two categories; total body and core strength. There are six workouts in total available right now, but Hykso is aiming to have a steady stream of classes added over time. Crucially for some, these range in duration from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. So even if you think you don't have the time, you could easily squeeze in a class in the morning before work.
Punch and burn
I've tried all of the classes currently available, with and without the tracker, and they are well designed to make you feel like you've worked hard. Even in those short 15 minute classes. The best way to describe FightCamp is that's it's like a mix of boxing and HIIT training. It breaks up those small, but intense boxing segments with bodyweight exercises that ensure you are working the right areas of your body.
For each class there will be an intro (which you can skip) that breaks down the kinds of punches you are expected to throw. These range from jabs, uppercuts, hooks and even a plank punch. That where you take a plank pose while landing a punch on the bag. If you thought planks were tough, this takes things up a notch.
You can expect to jump into a warm-up for a few minutes before you're ready to get punching. On the app, you'll be able to see the duration of each FightCamp round and an indicator whether you are keeping up with the punch count. The trainer normally reminds you how many punches he or she expects you to throw each round, and you'll know by the end if you've met that target. Over on the right side of the screen is your punch count, punch rate (punches per minute) and output. Essentially the same metrics offered in the main Hykso app, and it's all provided in real time.
I always think that trainers are key components to making any home fitness classes work well and thankfully they lean more on the motivational side than the irritating and the overenthusiastic, which can be off-putting. Instead what you get is music playing in the background and a trainer offering words of encouragement and telling you the types of punches you need to throw.
In terms of the punch tracking integration, I have no complaints. It picked up every punch with no issues. One obvious limitation is that these trackers will not pick up those parts of the classes in between the boxing. If you're asked to do 30 seconds of mountain walkers, it's on you to do it. This is why heart rate monitors lend themselves so well for HIIT or spin training - because they will continually measure that workout intensity. The onus here however is on you to do it, and to do it properly. You'll know if you've done the workout correctly because you'll feel it. These classes will push you, but not in a way where you think you might not ever pick up those trackers again.
When the class has come to the end, you'll be instructed to do away with the gloves and trackers and do the stretch and warm down. Once completed the workout will be added to the related workout page with an output score. There's currently no way to dig deeper into that data, nor is it integrated with the main Hykso app, but maybe that's something that'll will be added some time in the future.
I've enjoyed my time with FightCamp and I'm intrigued to see what the team have in store for the next set of classes. Most importantly, I felt like the classes worked me hard. This is about getting you fit. Whether it's a 15 minute class or a 30 minute one, it does push you out of your comfort zone.
The emphasis on punch metrics as opposed to heart rate as we've seen from the likes of MyZone and Wahoo means its unique, too. With that mix of HIIT moves though, it does mean that some of your activity remains untracked. Maybe offering support for heart rate monitors could improve that, although it would mean donning another piece of wearable tech.
As a starting point, there's a lot to like. The workouts are nice and varied, the wearable integration works well and the app looks great. The stumbling block for some may well be the subscription plan prices. If you're swapping FightCamp for a monthly gym subscription, then maybe it'll work for you. If you're hoping to add this on top of your gym workouts, it might start to sound pricey.
If you like the idea of punching and mountain-walking your way to a fitter you instead jumping on a spin bike, then FightCamp is worth trying. I'm still using it, and think I will be for some time yet.