It's 4:40am, it's dark and I'm tired. But I'm about to be rudely awoken by garish orange, fitted with a heart-rate monitor and shouted at if my beats dip below 84 per cent.
I'm rushing to make the 5:15am class at what could well be the next F45: Orange Theory. The class is surprisingly packed. There's an even gender split of very early risers, raring to go – and me, looking nervous and already exhausted.
This high intensity interval training (HIIT) focused class is one of several new fitness trends sweeping Australia. I'm on a mission to find out what could be the hottest sports trend of 2018. There's always something we get obsessed by: first CrossFit was all the rage. Then it was F45. What's next?
Founded in Florida, Orange Theory could be Australia's best American import since Kristina Keneally. It now has 728 studios in 16 countries, including Australia.
The 'theory' is about excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Classes are designed to get you maintaining a heart rate of 84 per cent and above for 12-20 minutes during your hour work-out. This is the 'orange' zone. Every participant is fitted with a heart rate monitor and screens show the colour coded zone you're in: grey for the lowest, working up to orange then red for the highest beats per minute. If you walk away with 12-20 'splat' points, the theory is you'll burn nine times the calories you burn in a normal day.
Class is split into two and I spend the first half following instructions of when to sprint and when to jog. Having screens display your live action heart rate, gimmicky though it may be, is definitely a motivating factor, especially when the person either side of you hits the orange zone and you're shaming yourself publicly in the blue. I can't take my eyes off it and for a while, it distracts me from the fact I'm feeling destroyed.
The second half of the session consists of functional weight-based exercises (demonstrated by the instructor and displayed on a screen) interspersed with rowing, but I'm so knackered, I'm at risk of not getting those magic 12 splat points. I just get over the line with 12 points in the very last minute and feel satisfied but cooked at the end. Not for the faint hearted.
This one's a UK import – a mini-trampoline workout class, choreographed to current music. Bounce's CEO is Australian Kimberly Perry and, fresh from launching 130 franchises in the UK, has now launched 6 in Australia since coming here in August 2017.
The Darlinghurst class is run by the infectiously high-energied Mariana Cabral, who says mini trampoline workouts have been around for a decade her native Brazil, so she knew it wouldn't be a fad here: "NASA has reported that exercises performed on a trampoline are three times more effective than floor work, because they absorb 87 per cent of the impact, so you can go much harder – a higher intensity with low impact."
The experience is fun and utterly exhausting. My plus one would "never" go back for the latter reason, but I'd return for the former.
Tim Barnsby loves clubbersize because it "brings a night out to your workout." The 43-year-old from Melbourne has been going for two years and loves it so much, he became an instructor.
With franchises in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, it's quickly growing and bringing some joy back into exercising: "It's not like a normal workout - you wear luminous clothing and are handed glowsticks – there's lots of happy energy – so you can go in in a bad mood but come out feeling really good" Barsby says.
There's a specific appeal for men: "Classes are in the dark – perfect for men who feel self-conscious or intimidated if they can't dance."
Predictions from the experts
Sports scientist and former Bachelor contestant Tim Robards thinks the outdoor HIIT training is the one to watch in 2018: "HITT will continue to grow, especially bodyweight training as people are enjoying balancing office work with a little hit of nature and vitamin D."
Shaun Krenz, Director of the Seaworthiness Show, the largest annual event in the southern hemisphere, says the global success of Ninja Warrior will strengthen the trend of calisthenics (gymnastics based fitness), but also predicts that virtual reality fitness will be the next big thing:
"At this year's Seaworthiness Show in Sydney this April, a new German VR fitness system will launch that includes a virtual headset and moveable, gyroscopic frame that the user lies in, in a plank position, flying through virtual settings using core strength to control the movements of the machine. This is like nothing we've seen yet in Australia."
It could be the start of a craze: "In 2018 and moving into next year, VR will emerge as a serious fitness offering and not just virtual rooms but dedicated virtual clubs with classes of any variety at any time of the day or night."