Written by Deborah Airey
It was Saturday 31st October. I had agreed to attend a Leicester Outdoor Fitness Session in Victoria Park on behalf of Leicester Student Magazine. As I considered myself to be in reasonably good shape – in that I’m comfortable running 5k regularly and have done a few 10ks in the past – I didn’t think to research what this session involved.
It’s fair to say I was surprised to discover that the session was comprised of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) style exercises. Although I do exercise regularly, I prefer cardio, specifically, walking, running and swimming. These kinds of stretches and movements were, therefore, way outside of my comfort zone.
In hindsight, I should have relaxed and asked to be in the beginner category of blue bibs. However, as I relished the challenge and thought I could handle it (spoiler alert: I really couldn’t), I was placed in the intermediate group of red bibs. The comment from someone beforehand that I must be keen to start in that category perfectly foreshadowed the struggles to come.
We started with a warm-up of gently jogging around the park in circles. So far, so good. The pace was sufficient, and I was even managing to have a conversation with someone at the same time. In between short bursts of running, Tony, the instructor would direct us to do certain stretches, for example, star jumps and lunges.
All of a sudden, the warm-up was over.
After being instructed to sprint around the tennis courts twice and start squatting immediately after, I was beginning to lag behind. I couldn’t keep up with the number of stretches required for my category. It was also at this moment when the light rain turned heavy, and I was soaked.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit miserable.
I was even questioning my sanity in doing this in my free time when I could be in my lovely, warm house having a relaxing Saturday morning. My attitude towards the morning only worsened when I heard the sighs of the woman next to me (who shall remain nameless), as Tony announced it was time for chest-to-grounds.
If you’re like me and you don’t often do these sorts of exercises, you would not know what that meant. I had only started doing burpees that morning (as Tony kindly showed me how to do them) so, this terminology was alien to me. It turns out; it’s just what the name suggests. You throw yourself on the ground, which by this stage was wet and muddy, touch your chest to your floor and jump back up again.
I’ll say again—it would be an understatement to say I wasn’t enjoying this.
If you’re a perfectionist like myself, you assume anything less than perfect is a failure. Therefore, as I was struggling to keep up with those in the beginner category, let alone the intermediate level, I believed I was failing. However, something in my perspective shifted around halfway through. It suddenly occurred to me that no one was watching me. No one cared how many exercises I did for my category.
I had missed the point of the class.
It was this shift in my mindset which enabled me to enjoy the second half of the session. Instead of viewing the numbers as compulsory, I saw them merely as a guideline. I tried to meet the expectations but didn’t beat myself up when I couldn’t. I was also able to stick with someone else who very kindly made sure I was never the last one to finish the exercises.
I came away from the session feeling very damp, and muddy, but nonetheless with a sense of achievement.
I had tried something new and given it all I could. It didn’t matter that I was probably the worst one there. I will admit, however, that I pushed myself too hard as I could barely walk down the stairs for a week!
Ultimately, although it’s not possible to attend in person at this time, if you’re up for a challenge, I would recommend trying out a session. If you need a little more convincing, several individuals who I spoke to that morning commented on how these sessions have benefitted both their mental and physical health. Also, the people there seemed genuinely friendly, so there’s absolutely no need for it to feel daunting.
Just remember, if you do go, make sure to get a blue bib.
Deborah Airey is a second year law student. Since lockdown she uses her spare time to exercise and is passionate about healthy eating. She loves to encourage others in this area.
Feature image by Chanan Greenblatt, from Unsplash.