Exercise became a part of my life around two years ago, and during this time the gym hasn’t factored majorly into my fitness regime. While I busied myself with running, a little outdoor training and yoga, I had an on-off relationship (membership) with my local gym.
My uses of the facilities were relegated to classes and the pool. The relaxation suite was grim and the gym floor seemed dull and redundant. The weights area was dominated by meathead guys who popped steroids and listened to Rick Ross while grunting obscenely through reps (usually in the daytime, instead of, you know, going to work), and running on the treadmill while gazing blankly onto the high street didn’t appeal.
It wasn’t just my local leisure centre that tainted my perspective of gyms – while I loved classes, I preferred to do my cardio by clocking miles in the street rather than being on a machine.
Also, I have always found the way communication is geared towards women in many gyms quite condescending and demotivating. Rather than treating women as athletes, and equal to our male counterparts, we’re told the weights area is for men while we should stick to the cross trainer and naff ‘fat-busting’ aerobic-come-gimmick classes.
YIN: Sorry to interrupt, Tahirah’s post! I’ve got to share a little gym challenge for you to kick start your workouts in the gym. It’s one of the interval training challenges I came across on the gym floor at 200 Aldersgate Virgin Active Classic Club. All it requires is 10 minutes of your time, I usually give it ago just after my warm up as I know my legs have the energy for it.
You’ll have to pick out your three effort levels: 1 being the lowest (slow jog) and 3 being the highest (top speed). I chose 9km, 12.5km and 16km for my speeds. You start off with one minute at level 1, followed up by level 2 & 3 before coming back to 1 and repeating it twice before ending on effort level 1.
The levels: 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3,1.
You’ll be guaranteed to hyperventilating by the end of it. If this intense 10 minute challenge doesn’t break a sweat then you’re some kind of mutant. The folks at Virgin Active will be changing the challenges every month so be sure to keep checking back.
It’s been important for me to stay away from any negative propaganda in the health industry because while I’d of course love a six-pack and a booty, I’m a woman – a chunky, far-from-skinny woman – who works out for health over weight-loss. I’m not an anomaly by the way. There are actually a lot of us.
Because I champion women having a healthy attitude towards fitness, I felt weary about paying for a membership to a space that may counter that attitude.
However, at some point this year I found that I was hitting a plateau with my fitness. I ran steadily (and slowly), but I wasn’t building strength in my core, wasn’t particularly agile, and there was space for improvement in my overall fitness game. I also found myself becoming more and more interested in weight training.
Besides, seeing Yin beast his 12-week Virgin Active Challenge and transform from the brown Millhouse to the brown Gosling (his words, innit) right before my eyes, I knew it was time for me to rise to the challenge also.
Stepping into Virgin Active’s 200 Aldersgate gym, I fell in love. Spacious and slick, the impressive sensibilities spoke to my inner bourgeoisie. And I’m not going to get started on the relaxation suite – nobody’s got time to read me gushing for 5 minutes. But I will say I feel like I’m in a spa, not a gym, when chilling in the large jacuzzi post-workout. More importantly, with friendly and helpful staff, the space manages to feel inviting and accessible rather than elitist, regardless of its premium atmosphere.
Yin and I are now in a race to see who can improve our fitness the most in the next 12 weeks. While we’re both pretty competitive (we’re both Leos. Go figure) we also support each other well in the gym floor. He’s teaching me correct form and weight reps, while I’m forcing him to stretch properly after each session.
I still prefer to get my cardio on the street – but there is no need for the two training methods to be mutually exclusive. The gym supports my outdoor runs beautifully, making me fitter overall. Just a couple of weeks in, my core has gotten stronger and I’ve seen improvements. Plus, working minutes from our home club means lunchtime workouts, making it easier to get impromptu workouts in when life skews my well-intended training plans.
200 Aldersgate Virgin Active Classic Club, Barbican, London, EC1A 4HD