While I was at university, my house-mate would nip off two three evenings a week to the local sports centre to aerobics. Each time she would say ‘why not come? You’ll love it.’ I would not dignify her with a reply other than a derisory snort; I was not that sort of person. The prospect filled me with horror; a room of health-mad skinny women in extremely tight clothing torturing themselves to excruciating music. I could not even contemplate it without feeling queasy. I noticed however that my house-mate started to look fantastic, in fact everyone noticed; she lost weight and looked toned; she had a spring in her step, she glowed. I rather wanted to lose weight, and glowing was fairly high on my list of priorities, but I still couldn’t bring myself to go; I didn’t have the right clothes to wear, and couldn’t face battling lycra outfits in a brightly-lit changing room. I knew that I would feel chubby, lumpy, and uncoordinated, so I dug my heels in and sat at home watching Eastenders and eating biscuits.
Several years later I found myself with a delightful young child, and over a stone of un-delightful extra weight. The prospect of a swimming costume filled me with terror, but I was desperate enough to start swimming two or three times a week. The exercise was challenging but relaxing, and gave me some freedom from being a working mother. I started to (shock horror) enjoy it; my swimming costume became baggy; then I really started to enjoy it. One day the swimming lanes were closed and my only option was; OH NO an aqua-aerobics class. I was consumed with dismay; did they not understand that I couldn’t possibly participate in such a loathsome pursuit; I was not that sort of person. The other option was to go home unexercised, and so I reluctantly stepped into the unknown world of aqua aerobics; it was great. It was true that I would not choose to listen to the music at home, but it seemed perfectly normal and even enjoyable as part of the class. There were no skinny health-mad women making me feel lumpy and uncoordinated, just lots of nice people enjoying themselves. I left feeling pink and puffed-out but elated, and booked myself into the next session. After a few weeks, I needed more, and emerged onto dry land for a Bums and Tums class. I loved it; I am not sure how much exercise I got because I couldn’t understand what was happening even though it seemed to make sense to everyone else. I persevered until I could decipher the new language of aerobics. Three months later I was hooked; I was Vikki Scovell, you know the one who is always at class. I lost weight, my arms and legs grew toned, and my tummy was flatter than it had been in years. I was happy, I glowed, and everyone noticed the change. I went shopping and bought a new wardrobe of fitted clothes. I screamed with wild delight in the changing rooms the first time I slipped into a size 12 dress, and ceremonially packed a bag of size16 stuff for the charity shop.
That was seven years ago, and I have never looked back. I continued to exercise through my second pregnancy, and am proud to have gone into labour during an aqua aerobics class; the only time I have ever left a class early (only 10 minutes). Now that I am teaching aerobics and Yoga every day I feel privileged to watch other people take control and transform their lives through attending classes. I have watched people battle weight-problems, lack of confidence, and deal with personal tragedies. Friendships are forged, interests are created, and I have seen the most graceless of people gain the poise and control of a ballerina. Group exercise changes people’s lives; I know that for a fact. There is a vast variety of group exercise for every social group, fitness level, and age; there is truly something for everyone. Some of the many benefits to attending group exercise include:
o Having a qualified instructor to guide you, and teach efficient and safe techniques.
o Feeling a sense of camaraderie, and meeting new people.
o Building personal confidence, body awareness and coordination.
o Benefiting from a wide range of different disciplines, and a huge variety of class times to fit your schedule.
o Learning something new, challenging yourself, and feeling a massive sense of achievement when you do something for the first time.
o Releasing stress, and relinquishing your responsibilities; let your teacher take control for an hour. When you are following a routine and participating in class you cannot focus on your every-day troubles and cares.
o Improving physical and mental wellbeing, becoming fitter and feeling happier; recent studies at the University of Strathclyde took women with early stage breast cancer and sent them to 2 group exercise classes a week, and one session on their own. After 12 weeks the women showed significant increases in their psychological and physical wellbeing including reduced depression and a feeling that their overall quality of life had increased, as well as increases inhealth and fitness.
There as many reasons to attend a class, as there are classes to try; look out in your local community centers, school halls, fitness clubs, and parks. Go and try something this week; attending class changed my life for the better, and it may just do the same for you in one of a million different wonderful ways.
Until next time,
See you in class!