Exercise is different now
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If your targeted Instagram ads are anything like mine, then you’ve recently seen a video of Emma Stone talking about an emotional experience. Dressed in stealth wealth activewear, she describes walking into a room and feeling ‘terror… and then I cried.’
‘We all have our problems and we all have our pain,’ says Naomi Watts in another ad for the same brand, going on to say how it ‘feels good’ to ‘approach them head on… you’ve unpacked something.’
It sounds like therapy, right?
This is The Class, an online exercise programme that is currently making the shift from obsession of in-the-know New Yorkers to Peloton-level ubiquity. Some of you might be devotees of The Class already, while others might be wondering how a brand can possibly flourish with such an unGoogleable name.
Founded by Taryn Toomey, The Class is described as ‘a cathartic workout for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s for anyone looking to find their way back to themselves.’ And it’s not the only brand selling tears and emotional release with their workout. Kate Spicer wrote a great piece in last weekend’s Sunday Times Style about Sanctum, the Netherlands-born workout concept describing itself as a ‘transformative wellbeing practice that explores energy frequencies with mindful movement’.
When asked about the differences between their concept and The Class, Sanctum co-founder Gabriel Olszewski said: ‘The Class is a workout, Sanctum is a vehicle to reach the mind and the heart.’ Which sounds a bit snipey and not really in keeping with the spirit of positive energy that both brands promote.
‘The problem is that it’s a wellness trend now,’ Nathalie Kuhn, co-CEO of The Class, told Spicer in the Style piece. ‘The concept of “emotional strength” has entered the wellness marketing lexicon. Studios are layering it on to existing classes.’
I can imagine how frustrating it must be to see that the concept behind something you created has been picked up and used elsewhere, but I don’t think Taryn Toomey needs to worry about losing the roof over her head just yet. Besides, anything that supports the idea of exercise as being more about how you feel than about how you look is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
I remember the first reformer Pilates class I went to after my mastectomy. It felt so good to move my body again, to feel as though I was getting stronger, and to dare to hope that the worst experiences of my life were behind me. I’m not ashamed to admit there were hot tears rolling down my hot sweaty face towards the end of that class.
When you think about the cathartic power of exercise, it’s mad that for so long it has been reduced to something that you do for weight loss. It was only really when researching for my book that I realised the quite extraordinary amount of research proving the benefits of both aerobic and strength training for everything from your mental health to your immunity.
If you want to keep you bones strong as you age, you need to exercise. If you want to stave off colds and flu: exercise. If you don’t want to get cancer (and I really wouldn’t recommend it), then exercise has been proven in countless studies to drastically reduce your risk. The key to avoiding almost any ailment you can think of is exercise.
Of course, you don’t have to pay for an expensive online subscription, or attend a trendy new class - although you can if you think it will encourage you to move your body more. The Class is the sort of thing I will definitely give a whirl, but I no longer see every new fitness trend as the magical solution that’s - finally! - going to ‘fix’ my lifelong disinclination to exercise. I’ve learnt that, for me, the answer is variety and novelty (because I get bored easily).
I’ve known people get so wrapped up in trying to find the perfect type of exercise for them, that they end up doing nothing. The best kind of exercise is the one that you will do. For you, that might be swimming, cycling, running, weightlifting, yoga or playing football with your kids in the park.
I’ve written before about how we have been let down by physical education in school, which was a truly grim experience for the less athletically-inclined among us. I wonder how it might have changed my attitude if school had taught me about the power of movement to reduce anxiety, boost mood, and improve overall wellbeing.
Anyway, I can’t change the last 30 years, but I can change what happens tomorrow. And so can you.
This week I’m…
Feasting my way through The Imperfect Nutritionist Jennifer Medhurst’s 7 Principles of Healthy Eating
Powering through the rest of cold season with MOJU vitamin D shots
Planning a cinema trip to see if Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear really is as demented as it looks
It makes sense I guess - gym membership is cheaper than ever, Primark sells compression leggings, and pumped-up gym bro bods are de rigueur. Add in some spendy branding, pseudo wellness jargon plus an emotional/intellectual connection - et voila, an exercise form that's certainly not for the hoi polloi...
"I’m not ashamed to admit there were hot tears rolling down my hot sweaty face towards the end of that class."
Love this. Pulled a few tears of joy, or something like ?primal reciprocity? out of me as I read.