My thighs are burning as we squat down and up, down and up, in what feels like never-ending repetitions while smacking the floor with drumsticks. I look at my friend Caroline and she mouths three clear words: “Oh. My. God.” Less than 15 minutes into our first Pound class and we are both struggling to keep up the pace. We definitely need a drink after this.
Created in 2011 by two American women who were both recreational drummers, Pound is a full body workout that combines traditional aerobics movements such as star jumps, squats and lunges, alongside pilates exercises and drumming. It’s currently taught by more than 11,000 instructors in over 50 countries and now, it’s expanding in the UK.
We’re at a 45-minute session in Royston, Hertfordshire, which instructor Shaun Edgeley has been running for just six weeks. The town hall is a large and bright space but the lack of air-con, or any fathomable breeze, has us sweating within minutes.
At the start of each class participants are given modified, plastic drumsticks that are slightly weighted. Shaun explains that unlike in real drumming - where musicians have loose wrists - during Pound you’re meant to hold the sticks firmly with a stiff grip.
I’m expecting my arms (my weak spot in every other fitness class) to start aching within minutes, but to my surprise, it’s my legs that are truly feeling the burn. The routine is like leg day, with squats and lunges making up the bulk of the movements.
The eclectic soundtrack from Nicki Minaj to Bon Jovi is not enough to distract me from the pain, but somehow, the first half of the session does manage to be fun. Each time the all-female class bangs their sticks in perfect synchronisation I get a sense of girl power and think maybe, just maybe, we have the musical prowess to start our own girlband.
Unfortunately this thought remains only fleetingly; Caroline and I are letting the side down, banging and crashing out of time every few minutes and descending into fits of giggles. Thankfully, no one seems to mind and contagious laughter fills the room. Shaun reassures us: “At Pound, we like to say there’s no such thing as being out of time, there’s only drum solos.”
Around 20 minutes in and I’m relived when it’s time to grab some mats and move on to the floor section, but it’s not the rest I’m hoping for. We sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of us, then lift one leg just above the ground for 32 counts while tapping away with the drumsticks, before repeating on the other side. The exercise is a challenging ab workout and is followed by a series of crunches, plus hip thrusts from a lying position designed to tone the inner thighs. But sadly, the mats are soon abandoned for several more rounds of squats and lunges.
It’s at this point - around 35 minutes in - that I feel myself watching the clock and counting down to the end of the class. For me, the best exercise classes don’t feel like exercise classes, they fly by and you don’t realise you’re sweating until you leave the studio. But at Pound, the lack of variety in the movements means I’m hyper-aware of how tired my body feels. Call me lazy, but it’s just too much like hard work.
The cool down brings a welcome slower tempo, albeit more lunges, and by the end of the session I know I’ll sleep well.
The next morning my lower back is stiff and achy, by lunchtime it’s hard to move around – I spend the next 48 hours walking around like a robot before making a full recovery.
The class may have left me feeling like a broken woman, but other participants clearly adore it; one tells me she has been every single week since Shaun launched the sessions and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. The classes are also great value for money, at £5 per session for a block of six or £6 per individual class.
During August, Shaun will be teaching the classes for free in a nearby park as part of Active Parks, a scheme run by North Herts District Council to get the community active. If this heatwave continues, I could be tempted to join – I’ll just make sure I stretch my back next time.