In our regular series I Spent A Week With, editors at Because sacrifice themselves to all sorts of potions, workouts and experiences to try it so that you know you'll want to too! This week, Carmen Bellot gets back in the saddle at a physical gym and shares her post-lockdown experience (ok, maybe not quite a week, but gotta take things slow!...)
You know what the age old adage says: suns out, buns out. For decades, women and men have felt the pressure of needing a #summerbod – whatever that is – just in time for the sun to peep out for our short-lived British summers, but with a heatwave on the way and the last lockdown restriction being lifted, the stakes feel higher than ever. This, matched with a nationwide dissatisfaction with our post-lockdown physique – two thirds of people in the UK were unhappy with their body after last years lockdown, a parliamentary study says – flurries of people are returning back to pre-COVID workout classes or gym routines. After committing to at home workouts and Youtube yoga for most of the year, I've been questioning whether that's even necessary. What is it that an exercise class can give me that I can't achieve at home? 

So, after a year of using tins as weights and fearing that my neighbours will see my doing squats through our living room window, I decided to return back to the gym. BC (before COVID), I favoured a Barre class as I was sold into the idea that I would have the body and grace of a ballerina, but as so much has changed over the past 18 months, I was ready to try something new. This is how I came across Bodyism; a members club centred around wellness and a healthy lifestyle through exercise, nutrition and mindfulness.

One Friday morning, I entered their flagship in Notting Hill ready to start my day with a Bodyism Sculpt class, which is described as a "feel-good workout that fuses dance, conditioning and mobility practices to target your smaller muscle groups and engage your core." Deanna Brash, a club manager and personal trainer at Bodyism, was hosting the class, and her welcoming demeanour and fun attitude instantly settled my fitness anxieties. Straight away, we went into a heart pumping mix of dance-like exercises. In all honesty, at first I was a little self conscious; the last time I'd danced in public would have been long before the pandemic entered our everyday lexicon, and at that time I definitely would have been a lot more intoxicated. But Deanna's positive energy radiates, and I quickly lost my inhibitions and surrendered to the joy that allowing your body to move freely gives. This seems to be a common occurrence for Deanna, she tells me after class. "I see people’s confidence soar when they come to my class, they go from being a little shy and uncomfortable with moving their body in a new way, to being so free and happy." But this doesn't just work your serotonin levels, expect your body to feel the heat too. "People feel more connected to their body due to the nature of the warm up and the movement patterns," shares Deanna. "It works lots of small muscles, so there is a noticeable improvement in their joint stability, posture and core strength. The class can pull in the waist and really lift the butt." After the warm up, leg lifts with ankle weights and resistant bands proved to me that I'll definitely will be waking up with some aching muscles the next day.

The class was a nice, small size of socially distanced participants – enough to feel part of a group but not too many to feel uncomfortable. Even with restrictions, I was surprised there wasn't a couple more attendees for a pre-work class, but this is part of the new exercise habits Deanna has noticed. Firstly, the type of exercise people are doing has changed. "I’ve noticed people want to improve their cardiovascular fitness/aerobic capacity and endurance, either after having had COVID, or in case they catch it or another respiratory virus," she says. "Additionally, everyone is more conscious of their general health and want to build better endurance levels." Secondly, when people exercise has changed. "Before lockdown, people were restricted to training at specific times of the day due to work and other commitments, people now move more intuitively. They exercise when they feel at their most energised, and they want to continue doing so," shares Deanna. "At Bodyism, we’ve seen people who used to train at 6am now training at 1pm, because they have more flexibility with their time and they have more energy in the afternoons, or prefer to spend breakfast time with their families." I guess like how where we workout has changed, COVID has impacted even more so where and why it fits into our lives.

Despite how appreciative I am of Deanna's pose corrections, and how nice it is to be in a public space without a mask, I'm still dubious whether it's worth giving up home workouts just yet. With everything having to be digitised over the last year, the quality of content now available online is on par with the routines found in studios. Yes, you won't have someone twisting your leg when it's out of position, but a good trainer should tell you what to watch isn't out of place when you're doing each move. When I asked Deanna she had a valid comeback, a reason that's just as important as keeping your body fit; social interaction. "There is a sense of camaraderie in a group class (or in-person with a trainer) that you don’t get at home on your own or virtually. People are coming in with their friends, grabbing a shake together post-workout or even making friends on the gym floor again – everyone seems so much more chatty and sociable pre/post class. There is someone there in-person to motivate you and hold you accountable, in a way you may not be able to self-motivate at home. You can’t put a price on that." And after a year of being in isolation, who really wants to do anything at home on their own?

How's the best way to get back into fitness? Deanna shares some simple steps to follow.
+ The first step is to create a plan! Schedule in your workouts and dedicate a time to them each day (if you don’t do this, that is when the day ‘escapes’ you.)

+ Start slowly, don’t jump straight into high intensity workouts – manage your energy levels.

+ Don’t feel like you need to start with 1 hour workouts if that’s too much, start with 20-30 minutes and build your way up.

+ If you suffer fatigue or you are returning from a respiratory or immune illness, go for low impact workouts and activities like yoga, pilates, walking.

+ Add in more physical activity that isn’t a workout. Get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to work, take the stairs instead of the escalator. They're simple changes that'll create a more active lifestyle.

To become a member of Bodyism, click here.

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