Exercise. Definitively: an activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness. That might not be how you or I define it. "Effort", yes, ok, putting it mildly but we'll go with it.... "physical", absolutely, but what about: sweat, pain, guilt, sick...I've just taken you through my first experience of spinning at my local gym, led by a woman whose instructions could all be interpreted as sexual innuendoes: "I want more, I want it faster, harder, come on you have more, I want to see you sweat!." At least this distracted me from the agonising burning taking over every part of my body.
50 minutes of dogged determination, sexual prowess courtesy of Debbie (said gym instructor) and more sweat than I thought humanly possible, I left my bike, feeling broken but proud. I also told myself that I would never, under any circumstances, go through that again. There had to be a better way!
Nevertheless, the following week, I ended up sat on the very bike of pain that I found myself crawling off six days earlier. And in minutes I was taken back in time-there I was again, sweating, burning only this time, I found it marginally more enjoyable; something resembling adrenaline worked through me and indeed I did want to give Debbie more, and faster and harder. I wouldn't say I'd been bitten by the bug, but I found a release in that one hour class that genuinely made me feel better; I slept better, my skin (after returning to a colour resembling flesh not beetroot) looked healthier and I felt more attractive.
And I'm not the only one. Hundreds of thousands of people adorning lycra and shaking a water bottle force themselves through the gym doors and push, lift, stretch and pulse their way to a healthier body and mind. Managing regular exercise can lower heart disease, type two diabetes, improve your sex life, lesson stress and levels of anger as well as give your general mood and energy a boost. It also give us the opportunity to reflect and think without the buzz of a mobile phone, the ping of an email, the endless mental notes that make their way onto a never ending to do list. Instead you think about how you breathe, how it feels to stretch your legs, you concentrate on the way you move your arms and within that you lose yourself. Perhaps not for very long, but you do. And for many, myself included, things become a little clearer. Yes, the gym makes me feel better physically, but it also gives me a mental strength that I value just as much.
There is of course, more than one way to build this strength; gyms up and down the country offer a wide range of classes that cater for a range of learning and physical needs. Here is a taster of what's out there:
Inspired by Les Mill's, former Olyimpic champion and Mayor of Auckland, Les Mills International offer a range of classes including Body Attack, Body Pump and Body Combat all of which are practised around the world and hugely successful.
Anti- Gravity Yoga
Founded in New York in 1990 by Christopher Harrison, this unique exercise regime is effective strengthening muscles, increasing agility and is also beautifully creative. Combining both pilates and dance, Gravity Yoga not only strengthens core muscles and increases balance but is also low impact, making it good for your bones too.
This popular work out is largely influenced by ballet however, no dance experience is necessary. This increasingly popular regime is making its way across the country due to the effective way the short repetitious exercise tones and stregnths the body.
Words: Gemma Thorpe
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