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Dublin: 1°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

Column: 'I've discovered the joy of doing a fitness activity with others'

There is no ideal image that you must measure up to in order to become involved in fitness, writes Christine Allen.

Christine Allen Sports convert and IT engineer

BUT LIKE WHAT if people take one look at me and think what is she doing here?

The above concern was expressed by a close friend after I invited her to a spin class that I was attending as part of a health and fitness women’s group in March.

In response I reminded her that as the spinning took place in a dark neon lit studio, her teeth would need to be whitened by the same dentist whose services Ross from Friends availed of in order for her to pose any risk of drawing attention.

I made light of her fear not because I myself am a confident gym bunny, an expert on the flow of Vinyasa yoga or a serial squatter, but because being new to the world of fitness, I too have felt somewhat inferior upon attending various fitness classes.

Stepping outside of our comfort zones

After all, stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new is undeniably daunting, particularly when it comes to physically challenging ourselves in the company of those whose physiques resemble that of Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff’s in their Baywatch prime.

However it’s also, as I’ve recently discovered, highly rewarding.

While I dabbled in sports throughout childhood, I would never have classed myself as a fit person. Having plucked up the courage to join the gym last year, I would self consciously cycle whilst listening to Spotify, one eye on those partaking in the evening spin class.

For those who have never witnessed a spin class it is a form of indoor cycling that takes place on a stationary bike and involves cycling at various speeds against degrees of resistance, in various positions.

The thought of participating in fitness classes which I imagined were filled with such people was therefore highly intimidating.

It wasn’t something I ever believed I would do

shutterstock_324736394 Source: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

That was until I got involved with the LGBT fitness for girls meetup in March.

Despite my reservations regarding not only spin but fitness classes in general, I had always enjoyed cycling as a kid and wanted to host a meetup that would interest our members.

The main mental block that I had in relation to a spin class was the forty-five minute duration that participants were required to cycle for.

What if I gassed out after ten minutes of cycling? What if I couldn’t keep up the same pace as everyone else? What if I fell over the handlebars? I was getting slightly hysterical at this point.

I was afraid of being embarrassed, of feeling stupid

Doesn’t that sum up what many of us fear when trying something new?

The morning of the spin class I was undoubtedly nervous, but I somehow kept the what ifs to a minimum and before I knew it I was being advised on how to adjust the bike by the friendly and energetic instructor (there was a brief moment of panic where I truly believed I had broken the saddle but thankfully it was a false alarm.)

Then we were off, beginning with a relatively gentle pace, before being advised to increase the resistance slightly and pick up our rhythm in time with Pink! who was adamant in her demand for money and not drinks.

Halfway through the class however it became apparent that I was unable to maintain the standing pedal position, or “climb”, for the duration that the instructor encouraged over her headset.

Yet the world didn’t end and to my surprise and relief, I wasn’t the only one

While there was no question that I got my six euro money’s worth, the time passed much quicker than I had anticipated, due not only to the chart topping tunes that accompanied our ride, but the fact that I was cycling in a group. What I discovered that morning was that there was something highly motivating about engaging in a fitness activity with others.

A shared sympathetic look, the swishing of legs as we pedalled in unison, the congratulatory applause as the class came to an end; it all led to the creation of a feel good non judgemental atmosphere that I doubt could be replicated through exercise in isolation.

Following the workout my mood had noticeably improved and despite the early hour, I felt more energised than I thought possible for a dreary Sunday morning.

I’m hooked

Having begun training in mixed martial arts, and having felt the beneficial effects that results from striking a bag or pads, both in terms of stress release and body shape, I can honestly say that I’m hooked.

For anyone who is hesitant about getting involved in a fitness group like ours, or even attending such fitness classes themselves, I would say this.

For every handful of regular attendees at a fitness class, there will be people who are new. Like any gathering, there will be people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels present.

Christine Allen works as an IT Support Engineer in Dublin, and writes for sportswomen.ie and Gay Community News. She is a strong believer in the benefits that partaking in sport and fitness brings in relation to mental health and general wellbeing. You can join the meetup group here.  Follow Christine on Twitter @AllenChristine2.

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About the author:

Christine Allen  / Sports convert and IT engineer

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