Steve Uria calls his 60-minute, 20-circuit Switch Playground HIIT workout classes “choreographed chaos.”
You’ll just call it hell.
Think kettlebells and kickboxing — 30 seconds of one before you “switch” to the other, then back for another round — as one circuit of 20 completed.
Switch’s brutal euphoria can help explain why everyone from NFL stars to runway models are among the 40 to 60 members filling up the New York City HIIT haven’s classes on a regular basis.
The crowds nearly double, however, when Uria, who looks more UFC Octagon-ready than group fitness instructor, takes over the class. In a mostly millennial class setting, it’s hard to believe that Uria just turned 50, especially when the shirt comes off and the South African native is yelling “give it your all” at workout’s end.
“I embrace being 50,” says Uria, a former member of the South Africa Special Forces who’s trained former boxing champion Oscar de la Hoya along with a host of NFL and NBA stars.
Uria is now trying to get his fellow Gen-Xers into high-intensity workouts, such as Switch.
“I’ve designed Switch for everyone — from Olympic athletes to 65-year-olds. They take the same class and walk away from the workout achieving what they wanted.”
Unlike South Africa, Uria says the U.S. is more millennial-based when it comes to group fitness, perhaps because older adults are reluctant to give it a shot.
“The misconception is that if you’re 50, you have to be in top shape before you come, or have to come in the latest trendy workout gear, which is not true,” Uria says. “Just be comfortable.
And even though the atmosphere is pumping (what else could it be with a live DJ and nightclub lighting?), Uria says the best bet for older adults is to work at your own pace. Rest assured, there’s no drill instructor mentality at Switch, he says, but some tough love.
“Switch is not a bootcamp, it’s more like a mentorship,” Uria says. “We’re not gonna scream and call you a loser if you can’t do it. I’m gonna [figuratively] hold your hand and show that you can do it.”
Don’t believe HIIT’s good for you? Science says it is. A 2017 study showed that intense exercise — especially HIIT (high-intensity interval training) can help slow down — even reverse — the aging process by increasing mitochondria (energy-producing cells), even repair years of physical inactivity.
“All age groups can benefit a great deal from HIIT in a short amount of time, from building muscle strength to endurance,” says Dr. Steven Struhl, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Health. “However, older adults can reap additional benefits like a reverse of muscle decline, improved memory, better lung health, and lower glucose levels.”
If you’re pushing 50 or more, both Struhl and Uria advise investing in a trainer at first to show you the ropes. Then start slow and gradually increase your intensity. Uria says most important, be realistic and have fun.
“If you’re looking at a 20-year-old Victoria’s Secret model or athlete, and saying that’s how you want to look, then you’ve already lost,” Uria says. “Be the best version of yourself.”
Steve Uria’s at-home Switch HIIT workout
Want the feel of a Switch class before actually signing up? Try this body-weight workout designed by Uria. Then sign up at switchplayground.com.
30 seconds each exercise
1 minute rest between stations
Back lunge knee raise (left leg)
Back lunge knee raise (right)
Side plank (each side)