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“Would you and a friend like to attend a day long fitness event coming up”

IMG_7681.JPGcame the question from a marketing lady via email, well of course you don’t need to be told what the answer was and so despite my less than perfect fitness at the moment last Saturday me and my good friend Natalie headed over to Alexandra Palace for the Les Mills/Reebok ONE LIVE event.

Les Mills and sports brand Reebok have teamed up to bring us ONE LIVE, a global fitness tour like nothing the world has seen before.

On their website the claim was that ONE LIVE would simply blow your mind….and this was very much true as I have been thinking about it all week (mainly because it hurts every time I sit down). As part of a global tour these full day festivals of fitness aimed to inspire, motivate and challenge you beyond your limits, and lets just say my quads are still hurting, I am desperately trying to schedule a body pump session this week and I am basically still buzzing about how to implement what I experienced into an offer for plus size women.

We arrived on Saturday at about 10am to find the event in full swing, classes had started at 8.30…but I’m obviously not that hardcore. The energy at the venue was electric as fitness instructors and fitness enthusiasts from around the UK had turned up to experience the world’s best group training workouts, the loudest sound system, the best lighting and staging, and an all-star cast of leading Les Mills presenters.

My question though was where were all the FAT folk?

For a while I have been aware of Les Mills as they provide many of the fitness programmes I enjoy at my local gym, and are quite obviously one of the global leaders in the fitness industry. As a fan of high energy fitness, and high value productions generally I am absolutely sucked in by their creative adverts and marketing campaigns and can see how those already involved in exercise and fitness can really take things to the next level with this company…but I struggle a little to see how the everyday woman with weight issues or the lack of confidence to do group exercise in public can get to experience all of this?

IMG_7707.JPGAfter dumping our bags in the press room and trying out some awesome new Reebok gear our 11am class was due to start, so we made our way to the main arena for a 55 minute class of BodyPump. Now I am a massive fan of this class, but I must admit the first few times I tried it at my local gym I felt like a complete idiot, not knowing how to use the equipment or even why I, a woman so clearly overweight would be focussing on weights rather than sweating it out in one of the cardio classes. But I persevered and now I try to get to my Friday morning class as often as possible and can always see the benefits of introducing strength training into my programme.

My friend Natalie had never done it before though and was a little bit nervous, but with over 1000 people setting up their kit around us while the countdown clock ticked down, she didn’t really have time to worry and before you knew it she was loading her bar and squatting like the rest of us. Over 1000 reps we did in that class and we left in high spirits with bright red faces and shaky legs. There was something magical about working out in such a big arena, and in some ways there was less pressure not more to look good despite the fact there were some hot looking women (and men) around us…there were no mirrors for a start so that helped immensely, and it was all about how we were feeling.

Our next scheduled class was not until 2.15, so after a protein rich lunch and a bit of a chat with some other bloggers we slipped into BodyAttack (just to see what it was like). We lasted about 20 minutes before deciding it wasn’t for us. The class was really high energy and everyone else seemed to be enjoying it, but after bodypump and lunch we were struggling to keep up with the fast paced choreography, so grabbed our water bottles and towels and slipped out…without I must add any sense of guilt or shame.

IMG_7719.JPG45 minutes later we were back in the same darkened room waiting for SH’BAM to start…now I must disclose this…I used to be in a street dance crew as a teenager, so for about 5 or 6 years all I ever did in my spare time was learn new routines, rehearse and perform with my mates…and as an adult woman boy do I miss this…so I was so excited to get stuck right into this. Natalie was not so enthused, but she gave it a good shot.

This session was lead by 5 cool looking women, and as we warmed up using all manor of funky moves to the latest tunes I felt like I was 16 again. The atmosphere was amazing, and despite their being a good representation of men…this session had an almighty girl power feel to it, and as I looked around it was great to see some of the larger framed women shaking their thing and smiling at the same time. Did you have to be good at dance? no way…as long as you moved and had fun it really didn’t matter.

I had a moment in that room where I looked around the room and thought

“I wonder what this would look and feel like with 1000 larger ladies”

What a celebration that could be, a space to do something high energy, that worked with our bodies natural desire to have joyful movement, in a dark space where nobody is judging or watching you, and where if you need a breather you can just stand to the side and wait for the next track.

That was it…I now realised why I had got this invitation in the first place (I can be a bit serendipitous like that). How amazing would it be to be involved in the UK’s first major fitness event for plus size women, sod it a UK wide tour of mass participation fitness events, where women can come and have fun trying out fitness classes and get inspiration to start or equally keep on track with their fitness journeys.

Les Mills say

We’re on a mission to create a fitter planet. This doesn’t mean making people work out. It means helping people fall in love with fitness so that they want to work out.

And that’s what I’m about too…I don’t want to simply get 1 million overweight women running, I want to plant that seed which turns into a full blown love affair with the sport, so infectious that those women then go out into the big bad world and inspire others to get running.

Founder of the company Phillip Mills is a former track and field athlete and businessman from New Zealand is author of the book Fighting Globesity – A Practical Guide to Personal Health and Sustainability and he says like an overweight individual, we are, as a race, simply consuming far more than we can healthily maintain. We all face a huge challenge to create global sustainability, starting with our own health, fitness and well-being.

Now I am not in the business of fat shaming or wagging my fingers at overweight people because slim people can have just as unhealthy lifestyles and impact on the world, but what I do know is once you get the fitness bug it does improve your life from a health and happiness perspective, irrespective of any potential weight loss or gain. Part of the problem though is at the moment its very much a case of them and us, those that work out and those that don’t like we are two separate species.

When you look at the sexy marketing materials for most sports brands and fitness events like this one, you don’t see people like me anywhere, so why should I think that this event is going to be suitable for me? But it is, they are, generally speaking events like this are suitable. I guarantee if I had brought a group of 100 of my ladies to this event they would have enjoyed it, OK they may not have been able to do all of the session, but thats not the point.

We have to ask ourselves, is the age old theory of “Build it and they will come, enough?” or do we need a completely new approach to this where we are completely explicit about who we want to come and say this event is for YOU because we care enough about people like YOU to cater for you specifically…or are we happy with the status quo doing small scale local events where you get the same old faces or empty studios. I sometimes wonder if some folk involved in sports development/public health simply enjoy revelling in the challenge, hoping one day things will change even though its unlikely they will.

Things change only when you do…I know that much.

IMG_7728.JPGThe last session of the day for us was CXWORX a session using weights and resistance bands to improve core strength I lasted the first 10 minutes or so and then I sat to the side and watched, Natalie the powerhouse that she is stuck it out right to the end.

Physically though I was DONE, feeling a little shaky if truth be known but also I felt a little emotional, overwhelmed about where the incredible journey has led me. So I took on some fluids and simply watched the last 40 minutes of so of the session from the sidelines, the exhausted bodies, the smiling faces…the collective sense of achievement. Some things are universal.

I left the event physically drained, but spiritually topped up, my mind full of questions about how I can get involved with something similar for my women, and over the past few days I have been bouncing ideas around and having major swings of confidence and doubt about wether I can actually make this happen.

Les Mills and Reebok and many massive global corporations just like them have the power, the clout and the money to change the world…but at this point I do not. But what I do have is vision, passion and the personal experience to know what works, and a community of thousands of women cheering me on…the frustrating thing is getting to the point where I can make a meaningful contribution to this global challenge…not the global war on obesity because like many wars I think it is a ridiculous concept, obesity is a symptom not the problem…but what I’m interested in is the fight to make the world a healthier, happier and more sustainable place to live for all of us regardless of size.

Just another thing to add to my ever increasing to do list hey?

I would like to say a massive thank you to Les Mills and Reebok for inviting me to this event, and for opening the lines of conversation to discuss next steps. The event was phenomenal on many levels, so this post is by no means a criticism of them.

Me and Natalie had a blast

If you are an individual, business or corporation that thinks perhaps you can help me join up the dots and get my idea for a mass participation event specifically designed for plus size, beginners and physically inactive women in the UK then please get in touch.

Seriously guys we can’t keep preaching to the converted when it comes to inactivity and health and in the process ignoring the people that need our help the most.

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