I’ve been a gym goer in the past, back in the pre-kid days when my time was my own and I could do with it as I wished. Hey I’ve even been that person who signs up to a new gym membership in January hoping to shed the post-Christmas weight and then some, only to fall off the wagon before the month is even out.
These days I prefer to view my health and fitness with a more rounded and sustainable approach, partly down to an acceptance of myself, but perhaps more so because I want so much more than what I feel a gym can offer me. I don’t want to be tied down to a monthly membership, nor do I want to turn up and find it’s way too busy and there isn’t enough equipment. I run, I do strength, core and cardio workouts at home and that has been working out OK for me…
Well, up until recently that is, because you see I’ve strayed a bit from the fitness path shall we say. What with work and kid demands, workouts have gradually moved lower and lower down the list, so something needs to be done.
We’re all busy right? And we can all make excuses for not exercising as much as we perhaps should be, or want to be. But one key point that I always try to remind myself of when I’m trying to wheedle my way out of donning the lycra, is that without a fit and healthy body, we are of no use to anyone. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am more productive, I am happier, I feel better about myself and I am just generally more positive when I am keeping up with a regular exercise routine, which means the excuses need to stop and my bad habits need to be broken.
Cue a trip to Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Gym in Guildford to see just how bad things have got!
Nuffield Health is a charity that combines healthcare with fitness and wellbeing, in fact it is the largest not-for-profit healthcare provider in the United Kingdom, totalling 31 hospitals and 111 gyms. They aim to provide a health service that first and foremost starts with the prevention of illness. Whether this be through exercise, nutrition, health checks or wellbeing, the ethos is that ‘prevention is better than cure’. However, this isn’t always entirely possible so they also have a strong emphasis on helping patients with any medical care and treatment, which then carries right through to physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
So armed with my trusty friend Clare, who is a super fit cyclist and was always bound to cope way better than me at what had been planned for the day, for the first time in…*gulp*….10 years, I stepped through the doors of a gym.
I’ve always liked the idea of yoga and although I’ve dabbled with it every now and again, I have never fully committed to it. It’s something I’d like to incorporate into my own routine at home, so I was looking forward to reminding myself of some of the positions and starting the day off with some calm and peaceful exercises. I’ll admit we turned up ever so slightly late (morning traffic) so we had that whole thing of walking into a roomful of people and everyone turning round to stare at you, a bit like when you walk into a local pub. Plus it was clear the instructor was not impressed by our tardiness, as we were given very blunt orders to ‘quickly grab a mat and find a space’. OK so this is not the tranquil space I was hoping for, spesh when I realised the only space left was right at the front, facing in completely the opposite direction to the rest of the class….Nooooooooooooooooo…!
It’s fine, I can do this, remember posture, suck it all in, breathe and yes I’ll be fine. One hour later and I’d survived. It was hard, but then yoga is hard, I know it looks like easy sweeping movements, but you try holding the same posture for any given length of time, it is HARD! But it felt good to come away having worked muscles I don’t usually work, and although the moves increased in difficulty as the session went on, the atmosphere of the class and the attitude of the instructor certainly relaxed, to the point where at times we were chuckling at ‘in’ jokes. Where I’d started off slightly scared of the instructor, I deffo warmed to her, she had a very dry sense of humour which she combined with her experience of knowledge of yoga and I felt confident in her instruction.
So what did I learn about yoga? Well….I love child’s pose (haha who doesn’t?!?), there’s a reason why warrior pose has that name, and I still can’t get my breathing right. I really enjoyed it and it’s inspired me to check out some YouTube yoga that I can incorporate into a fitness routine at home. There is, however, just one thing that didn’t sit too comfortably with me and that is the space in which it was taught. I’m sure it’s an issue that many sports centres and gyms have when running wellness classes such as yoga, and that is that the room is very sports-like, to the point of almost feeling sterile. For me yoga should be taught in a more warm and welcoming environment, one that is softer, with more space and that invites tranquillity. I know that they are in the process of renovating their Spin room (it looks fab) and I wonder if they could consider creating a yoga nook, or retreat like den, with mood lighting, blankets, soft mats, aromatherapy and music that would help instil a more chilled out feel to the class. For me personally, that was the only thing missing from this class, an extra USP to get the local people talking. Something to consider…
We’ve literally got 5 minutes before our next class, so it’s a quick walk (or in my case a slight limp like waddle from the yogic stretching!) through the gym and into another fitness studio, ready to tackle body conditioning.
Now I’m not gonna pretend I know what body conditioning is, but it sounds like it’s gonna hurt, right!?! I’m guessing lots of intense, stretching, toning and sculpting. Ummmmm yep, pretty much.
So, it’s a bit like doing step aerobics after drinking a can 0f red bull; it’s fast, it’s furious and it’s gonna get you that summer body. The instructor stands up on a mini stage, which is great as sometimes it’s a struggle to see what they’re doing when it’s a packed class, and she also has a microphone, also perfect because it can sometimes be difficult to hear what’s being said. I know from experience that if you can’t see an instructor properly and you also can’t hear them, it is gonna end in a rather unflattering, uncoordinated mess! The class is packed with women and heaps of equipment; steps, risers, hand weights, round disc weights, so I can tell this is going to be good and I’m hoping I’ll be able to hold my own considering I do a far few exercise DVD routines at home.
Again, not gonna lie, it was hard. Coordination…not a problem. Knowledge of moves…not a problem. Shedloads of squats and lunges off the side of a step…yep ummmm we’ve got a problem. So yeah it was tough, but boy did it condition and boy did it highlight my strengths and weaknesses. What I liked about this class was the fact that you could come into it at any level and be OK, as the instructor gave a couple of different variations and this certainly made it more accessible. I thought I was fairly OK in the squat department, but where I’ve been a bit slack, or even possibly a bit too set in the same routines, I came away feeling as though I need to up my game. Which I guess is one of the things Nuffield Health want to achieve; they want to inspire and motivate and I deffo can’t argue with them doing that for me. My only negative with this class was that it would have been nice to have arrived at the class and told what equipment we needed to get out. It was, I guess, presumed that everyone who was taking part had been to a class before, so as a beginner it felt slightly daunting. It took both of us asking other class members what we needed to discover what we should be doing, and for me if I was a member of a gym I would expect to have that information available to me, or in fact to have the class already set up.
The last class of the day was Aquafit and I’ll be honest I had a few preconceptions about this and was totally imagining it to be a walk in the park compared to the other two classes. But before we start we need to get changed into our swimmers. The changing rooms were really nice, like something you’d get in a swish hotel health club, lots of wooden well kept lockers with hanging space (always a bonus), mirrored hair drying stations and the showers are clean, equipped with hooks and toiletries, plus there’s even a nifty little machine that dries your swimming cossie out after.
Now, in the changing rooms there were a lot of women of, let’s just say, a certain age, which absolutely isn’t a problem, but totally fitted with my image of aquafit. You see, I’m sure I’m not alone when I consider it to be an ‘old woman’s’ exercise; something for the oldies to do when perhaps their bodies aren’t working quite so well and they need a more gentle exercise. But woah, woah, woah was that judgement about to get (pardon the pun) blown out of the water!
Because as it turns out., aquafit ain’t all that easy at all, in fact it’s damn hard and if it was promoted in the right way, I can guarantee people of all ages would want to come and give it a go, as it was seriously the most fun I’ve had in a loooooooong time!
Myself and Clare spent most of the session in hysterics, (partly at the fact our boobs kept trying to escape from our not so sporty swimwear) trying to keep ourselves afloat at the same time as doing the moves. Of course I can do knee raises, but OMG because of the resistance it’s so much harder in the water and even more so if you’re trying to lift them up above the surface without taking in a lungful of the stuff. An hour of lunges, ski jumps, squats, sprinting, leg raises and punches in the water bizarrely left me both soaking wet from the water, but also soaking wet from sweat…I don’t think I’ve ever been double wet before!
The instructor was brilliant, really old school military, which to me is the perfect person for a fitness trainer. I don’t know about you lot, but I deffo need someone barking orders at me to make me work harder, and as she told us afterwards, what’s the point in being there unless you’re going to work hard!?!
This was by far my favourite class of the day and I can really see it gaining in popularity, particularly if it was aimed at a younger market. Fitness clubbing is set to be one of next years big fitness trends and I can picture aquafit sitting in really nicely with this; I’m thinking club tunes, flashing strobe lights, working up a sweat. It’s the new thing I’m telling you! I honestly cannot rave on about it enough, because I am of the belief that if you have fun and enjoy something, you’ll do it again, plus I know for a fact I am gonna ache like mad tomorrow.
Oh well, better go check out the jacuzzi, steam room and sauna then…you know, purely for review and post muscle aches purposes 😉
The Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Gym in Guildford is a bit of a hidden gem, one that not many people know of, yet it has all the equipment, all the classes and all the health expertise you would expect from a high end fitness centre. As well as what I experienced, they also offer personal trainers, physiotherapists, regular health MOTs, a fully equipped gym, nutritional therapists, physiologists, swimming lessons and health mentors. The key thing that I got from spending the day there is that fitness and health, although a serious issue, is one that should be a lifestyle choice, it should be fun, shared with others and should be fully supported by professionals and those that know what they are doing. It has reminded me of the things I love about exercising, how great I feel when I exercise and the areas in which I need to focus, and for that I thank them 🙂
If you would like to find out more about what they offer head on over to their Facebook page @NuffieldHealthGuildfordGym or if you would like to find your nearest health centre visit the Nuffield Health website.
*Experience gifted for review.