3 gym classes you should try

Disclaimer: I am by no means a fitness guru. I have worked out for a number of years, but have no qualifications in this field; I’d just like to show you some things I’ve personally found to be of benefit to my body & mind.

Year on year, I try to take my fitness to the next level. I’ve been working out at the gym for around 5 years now, yet recently my routine became a little mundane. Don’t get me wrong, I would still hit the gym up at least three times a week, and go relatively hard when there, however it felt as though my body was getting used to the workouts I was doing. You see, working out is a bit like your sex life with a long-term partner, it needs to be kept interesting by trying new things.

So, one of my 2018 resolutions was to try some new gym classes, and having never done a class before, I was a little apprehensive. But, I thought, “F*CK IT – what’s the worst that can happen?”…

1. BODYPUMP

With a little help from my colleagues friends, I hit my first class. Bodypump was an apt class to start with as the gym, Kent’s, is close to my office, and you can pay on a class-by-class basis. This is ideal as I already have a monthly subscription at a different gym. I’d recommend checking out options near where you work; you need to make it as convenient as possible, so it’s difficult to find excuses for missing the class. And, believe me, you’ll do your utmost to find the excuses 😉

Growth tip:- Every time you don’t give in to these excuses, you build your prefrontal cortex (PFC). I’d suggest reading up on the science behind it, but I like to think of it as my ‘willpower muscle’ which is strengthened by resisting, and pushing through, my excuses. For instance, it’s pissing it down outside, so you could easily decide against walking to the gym and getting wet. Making the DECISION to walk anyway builds your willpower, even if it’s by 0.0001%, so the next time you make a decision it’s easier to ignore your own excuses. 

Bodypump is a barbell workout, led by an (in my case, hilarious) instructor, which involves lots of squatting and lifting, to music. As it’s based on high repetitions, it’s more likely to get you toned and lean, rather than helping you to build huge muscle mass (if you are looking to get ‘bigger’ the general consensus is to lift heavier weights for fewer rep’s). Bodypump is a great way to get into gym classes in general because you can use as light or as heavy weight as you like, depending on your ability at that point. Also, there is an element of rhythm involved, which seems to be the case in many classes, and so it gets you used to this. Alternatively, if you are looking to focus more on your rhythm as well as get fit, Zumba could be a great shout.

2. METAFIT

After a few weeks my body began to adapt to the strains of Bodypump, and so I decided to join the class before it as a kind of ‘warm-up’. Little did I know what I had signed myself up for… Metafit is a form of high-intensity interval training, which basically means quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short recovery periods. You’ll find yourself doing exercises like burpees, sit-ups and squats… and sometimes all three at once! This is a shorter class than Bodypump, normally half an hour, but you really get put through your paces. The first time I did it I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. Although there is no barbell, your body-weight is enough to get you seriously panting. I see Metafit as more of an intermediate class, and before beginning it, I’d recommend getting a base level of fitness. If you don’t feel you have this, you could try jogging around the block, just to get your body used to recovery after exercise, because re-paying that oxygen debt is what Metafit’s all about.

3. SPIN

So, at this point, I was doing two classes a week at the gym near work and thought I’d mix it up a little by doing one at Energy Mill where I work out a few nights a week. I was slightly spoilt for choice by the number of classes available, but a friend recommended trying a Spinning class. In on respect, I’m grateful to this friend… In another, I’m questioning their friendship. SPIN IS DIFFICULT. It will really test you, both physically and mentally. Essentially, it’s a high intensity cycling workout (on a stationary bike, may I add) where you follow the instructor, pedaling against varying degrees of resistance. To alter the resistance you turn a knob on the bike, so you really do have to mentally tough in order to keep the resistance at a point where you are giving your all. There’s been many times, sat on that bike, where I’ve been SO tempted to turn the resistance down when climbing that figurative hill. But no pain, no gain. You must resist that temptation with all of your will. It is an amazing workout and I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much. I really like the feeling of being part of a ‘team’ during Spin; fighting against that resistance together, compared to my other two classes which feel a little more individualistic. To me, Spin honestly can feel as much like a spiritual practice as it can fitness.

So, there you are, 3 gym classes you should try. At the moment, I’m really enjoying these 3, and I think they complement each other nicely. I’ll be sure to update you with any new classes I undertake 😉 Comment below with any classes I should try 🙂

As always, thanks so much for reading.

Peace.

A

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me & my guitar, the anxiety cure

I started playing guitar around ten years ago, when I had lessons for a brief period of time, and ever since I’ve dipped in and out of it.

Having never been in a band, I didn’t have the motivational leverage (I’m aware many don’t need it) to practice eight hours a day. So, as a result, it didn’t become an ingrained habit of mine. This is, even though, I thoroughly enjoy playing the guitar when I take the time to do it, I listen to all sorts of music all the time, and more than any of that it is an amazing practice in presence.

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By that I mean, presence to the moment, with no thoughts about what he/she thinks of me, or how last weekend wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped, or when that elusive next promotion is going to come at work… Nothing but presence to this very moment.

There are countless other practices in presence, such as meditation and exercise, which I partake in, but with guitar beginning to come back into my life I have had a burning desire to post about it.

I believe the reason for the presence experienced when I’m strumming away is that I enter what Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I know) refers to as a flow state – make sure to check out his book on this topic. It occurs when a task is not too easy, not too difficult, but just right,  so you enter a present state in order to keep focussed and perform to the best of your ability. As I’ve said, this removes excessive thought from other events that normally have only built up in the mind and have little (or no) basis in reality – often things that you have built up through repetition, meaning you have developed strong synaptic pathways to that particular memory/premonition and therefore triggers a strong emotional response.

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The amazing thing about presence is that the more you practice it, the more you experience it in all areas of life. So, me finger picking my guitar for an hour a night, isn’t just enjoyable and creatively fulfilling, it also means when I’m in a heated business meeting about hitting this week’s demand target, I’m more likely (though not certain) to keep calm and be able think well under pressure as I tap into present energy – what Csikszentmihalyi refers to as source energy, rather than my mind darting around, worried about how I’m being perceived by my boss and others in the meeting. Don’t get me wrong – I still feel the rising burn of anxiety – but I am much more likely to let it dissipate than to resonate with it.

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SO, yes, playing guitar is an extremely enjoyable creative pursuit, but the hidden pay-off, and why so many people love playing any instrument so much, is the enabled entry into the present moment, and the present moment only.

Thank you for reading, I’m eternally grateful.

Peace.

A

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All images taken on an iPhone by Angela Pegg