It happened totally by accident. A video came up on my Instagram feed and BAM I was in love. What was this beautiful pattern of movements that I was watching in front of me? It looked vaguely like yoga. Yoga with break dancing moves? Controlled, agile movements danced across my screen, I was hooked and needed to know more. A little digging and I came to find that this unique form of exercise that I had never seen before was known as Animal Flow.
I started researching about where they offered classes in London… let me tell you there are not a lot out there! I stumbled across a workshop being run by Reach Fitness in South London by the beautiful Rachel Thompson. And who better to explain what Animal Flow is than Rachel herself.
When I rocked up, early as usual, I could hear the familiar sounds of a boot camp inspired workout. “Shit” I thought, “am I in the right place?” Don’t get me wrong I love a bit of getting my ass kicked in a gym session but I had geared myself up for a morning full of flowy movements, gracefully moving across the room like a gazelle, I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. Luckily, Rachel clocked me, introduced herself and parked me in the kitchen/ breakout zone, inviting me to have a nose around the gym before the class started in half an hours time. You see, Rachel is a beast after my own heart who enjoys a range of different exercise types, a massive passion for keeping fit and loves a bit of variety in her programmes.
When the other class members arrived and as I was new Rachel gave us the principles of Animal Flow including the importance of ensuring that the moves were carried out correctly. The workout always starts with a good old warm up of the wrists and supporting arm joints. This is a ground based class and we’ll be spending lot of time on our wrists – it’s vital that they are prepared
Rachel then ran us through some Form Specific Stretches. These are essentially mobility drills that help you own the positions you’ll be using in the flows. They’re great for stretching out tight areas and strengthening weak areas, which is typically the back of the body for most people.
Next, possibly my favourite and what I found the most challenging part due to my complete lack of co-ordination, traveling Forms. This is where the movements start getting put into motion. We learnt traveling Ape, how to load and unload Beast and Crab, which make up the “ABCs” of Animal Flow.
This is Animal Flow’s founder Mike Fitch demonstrating the Traveling Ape. Looks a bit crazy admittedly but hell, what a workout it is! And so. much. fun.
Rachel also ran us through switches and transitions. These are the movements that help you transition from one position to another, and begin to create that flow. I must admit by this stage I was getting excited, would I become that graceful gazelle by the end of the class? Without these switches, you’d just end up with a bunch of isolated movement patterns and where the true genius of Animal Flow lies in the movements becoming one seamless and thoughtless journey of exercise.
So we did get to a flow. And that lovely Rachel did film it and check me out making a massive booboo half way through the vid where my lack of co-ordination got the better of me. But all in all, I’ll let you make of it what you will I think I learnt a hell of a lot in an hour and a half class.
Now it’s easy when talking about Animal Flow to make it sounds like something very Woo Woo like getting in touch with your inner wolf or something quite similar but that is far from the truth. Although you can very much see where the poses and movements get their names from, it is far from easy and whilst the workout caters for all levels and abilities when you get to the “the flow” it really gets your heart racing!
And if you need any convincing that this isn’t any old girlie workout then you need to check out Eric Leija, the Primal Swoldier from the Onnit Academy who incorporates Animal Flow into his kettlebell routines and often just posts vids of him flowing, you know, as you do. Now this guy is anything but Woo Woo! You can check out a recent video posted here on Instagram. Disclaimer notice however: once you start looking at Animal Flow videos on Instagram I guarantee you will become an addict. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!
So I go back to the class whenever Rachel is hosting it and I really would recommend you give it a go if for no other reason to have a go at a truly unique form of exercise and meet some smashing people (myself included of course). You can check out all the classes at the Reach Fitness gym here and check out Rachel’s own Instagram page where you will see her doing some truly beautiful flows and how she uses it to mix up her routines incorporating Animal Flow into both weight training and cardio based exercise.