*This post is in collaboration with Reynolds Fitness, all opinions and views are my own*
As you must all, be well aware it’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week/Month. Mental health is a topic close to my heart because I suffered with anxiety quite badly back in 2009. A part of my life that I have documented and I shall leave relevant links below for you to take a browse upon.
I am no where near cured or am able to segment mental health into the same box as one of those annoying guys’ that comes in and out of your life. This is because, anxiety unfortunately will be in the backdrop but I’m glad that it doesn’t ruin my life like it does other people. It occasionally gets hold of me and causes me to loose sleep, loose focus and become a nightmare to live with, but this is when I have to get hold of it and work through it. Mental health is like dating. That guy who slides into your direct messages every now and then; you have to ignore them or tell them to make their mind up. Like that guy you tell the anxiety to decide what it wants. That is the same with anxiety you have to get hold of it and tell it to do one.
When I was at rock bottom back in 2009, people around me would always suggest exercise as a coping mechanism and back then I rejected it. For two reasons. The first being that I hated moving more than an inch away from a re-run of a Richard Hammond show similar, to now, in a way. I also spent years being ridiculed in P.E so became quite self conscious of moving in a gym environment.
Years down the line in 2014 I found myself again going through a bad time again. This relapse was after the release of A Level results. I had been predicted all A’s. The anxiety and stress of A Level’s resulted in me walking away with BCC and not getting anywhere near my selected option. I had to go to my clearing option which at the time broke me but now I think of it as a positive. A positive because I had a great experience and made some great friends. I got a very similar experience at my clearing option and made, I think much truer and nicer friends. But at the time it was literally the worst time. I went into, when I look back a 6 month personal crisis. The change in direction had caused me to go through a self hating and critical time that felt like history was repeating itself. I hated myself I hated life and wanted to give up. I had spent months being told going to my first choice University was the most important thing ever. I felt awful. Anyone who has issues with mental health will tell you there are triggers. Triggers which sometimes cause a relapse. My trigger is change. I seem to not be able to handle change all that great; for example when my parents divorced and when my A Level results were poor. Two big changes that were not great and which impacted me, mentally. At the end of first year, I realised this and decided to change things. I decided to find that coping mechanism which I had been told about years prior to this relapse. Exercise.
Years previously I had tried the traditional approach to exercise. This being, joining a gym. When we join a gym we assume this means we should be walking or running on treadmills, lifting heavy weights and squatting on a vibrating plank. NO. Please remove this from your heads people! Exercise should not feel like a chore. I decided that I wanted to enjoy exercise and to enjoy exercise I needed to find something I would look forward to going to. I began this with Bollywood Dancing with Just Jhoom. I love this class and to this day, is still a feel good class. I kid you not, if you’re ever feeling down you must find a Bollywood soundtrack and dance to it because it works wonders. Bollywood classes are fun and euphoric. It’s quite liberating too. Starting to exercise resulted in weight being shredded which again I have documented many times and this started to impact my self esteem in a brighter way.
In the last six months however, I have opted for a new gym. A gym that had always been in my range but I had never considered joining. I was often fearful of joining gyms due to the novelty element. I joined Reynolds Fitness. A fitness group that has been going for 20 years endorsing fitness around the Kent area. Reynolds promote that the ‘Greatest Wealth is Health’. Now I wont analyse in the same way that I would in my degree, but I would suggest, this means that when you are healthy and you are content both physically and mentally you have a desirable trait. I joined Reynolds because I love classes. Classes for Reynolds are their most attractive feature, in my opinion. Other than the spa of course. I love how there is a spin class for example, every day of the week. The classes change and they are never cancelled, instead a new instructor is brought in, so the classes always go ahead. Everyone asks me why I love a class and I shall tell you. For me, classes remind me of school without the judgemental ugly girls at school. You have a group of women and sometimes men varying age, size and fitness levels all doing the best of their abilities but enjoying it. Group exercise also gives off a team experience; you become motivated by all the other people exercising around you.
Spin for example. Spin is one of my favourite classes. It is 45 minutes of high intense pedalling to trance music. Trance music has always been a like of mine but since spin I have a new found love for it. The lack of singing means I zone out and just pedal. It burns 300 calories and has to be the most euphoric experience once you’ve unclipped yourself from the bike. When I was going through right rough patches with essays and dealing with negative feedback. I could use spin as a zone out. I book a morning or evening spin class and just pedal up a hill or sprint and zone out for 45 minutes. In these 45 minutes I don’t think about comma splices, negative comments or impending doom. I think about the next gear to add on and raising my RPM. I also love how with spin you get a different experience depending on the instructor. Some instructors are more savage than others but all, will push and will get the best out of you. Spin is seen as a scary option but it shouldn’t be, spin is personal; despite the team environment- You choose the gears. You choose the intensity and you get what you want from it.
Spin has always been a firm favourite of mine for the last year but since joining a different gym I have found a love for Body Combat. Combat is a class, I have mentioned previously in earlier posts this year. The class is a part of the Les Mills group which also have Attack, Grit and Pump on their list of fun. This class I walked into on a whim. The aqua class I had been going to, was fully booked and so combat was the next class and was the freest one. So I clicked book. Looking back I was terrified but so, glad I joined. I may not be coordinated, I may get confused with my left and rights but I get such a buzz and the class is fun. The class combines aerobics and boxing. I use this class for stress and anger releases. If I have had an argument, dealt with an absolute anus of a male or I just want to get some anger out this is the class I go to. Warning if you are reading this and know you have annoyed me in the last 5 months be aware you’re in mind when throwing that chin punch! You’ve ignored my text, stalked my social media without liking a photo, unfollowed my social media or just been an anus you are in my head! So when my instructor says ‘get hold of your person’s head and crush it on your knee’ your head is there 🙂
I love how I can knuckle down for 55 minutes; punching and kicking and get so much mentally and physically. I attend this class x2 a week whilst spin is often 3 times. I notice physical marks such as toned shoulders, arms, buttocks and thighs, all bonuses. Physical changes are great and I love them. However, for me, and seeing as it’s mental health awareness week it’s amazing to see what a difference exercise and classes in particular have on my mental health. During the last stages of my degree I became stressed again and attended a few classes and the difference it made. I felt more focused and my head space felt much freer meaning I could attack essays and presentations with a much clearer headspace.
Looking back I do wish I had used exercise as a coping mechanism when I was battling the dark days back in 2009. Perhaps it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. Exercise for me has become a tool for battling anxiety and stress without feeling compelled to talk to a person.
If you have ever been fearful of joining a class there is no need to be. I teamed up with Reynolds to share what it is truly like to be a part of a class. So on my Youtube channel you can find ‘Workout with Ev’ and get an insight into what exercise classes are like and why you should give them a go.