A lot of women are afraid to enter the weights section of the gym. This is partly because they’re afraid of the burly men that surround them once they’re in there (read my post about that here), but also because there’s an age-old myth that ‘women who lift weights are bulky/manly/freaks of nature’. Plenty of women are willing to go to the gym because they want to ‘tone up and get that summer bod’ (yes, I did just type ‘bod’, ew)… but what they don’t realise is that ‘toning up’ is just a code name for ‘building muscle’. And to build lean muscle efficiently, you need to start lifting some bloody weights.
Les Mills International is a company that is taking the UK gym scene by storm. I had previously tried their BODYCOMBAT class (which is great, by the way, they just don’t have this at my uni gym), but they also run sessions like BODYJAM, BODYSTEP and GRIT. Last year, I stumbled across a BODYPUMP session, and immediately fell head over heels with it.
Within the first ten seconds of entering the room, I was instantly put at ease by the instructor: I was wearing an old, pub work t-shirt, so he shouted ‘Morning, Hooch‘, which was a bit embarrassing; but I can see that he wanted me to feel included, and I was grateful for this show friendliness. Having had little experience with using weights in the past, picking the correct amount and getting my equipment ready was a bit daunting the first time; but to be honest, I just sort of copied what everyone else was doing and seemed to manage fine. BODYPUMP is basically weightlifting in time to music- a bit like dancing, but you’re doing roughly a million weighted squats instead. Having said this, I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and – aside from my time on the 90DaySSSPlan – I have been attending ever since.
I would say that the classes are perfect if you’re just getting into weight training and you’re not really sure how to do things properly: I started out by just doing a few of these sessions per week; and now tend to do one-two a week, plus my own weight training in between. They gave me the confidence to know what I’m doing in terms of my form: my student budget wouldn’t stretch to hiring a personal trainer, and charging into the weights section like a bull in a china shop could potentially have led to an injury (of either myself, or someone else… I’m very clumsy); but during the classes, the instructor walks around and corrects you if you happen to be doing a certain move wrong. I feel like my continuation of the classes really complements the rest of my weight training- it keeps my form in check, and so when I’m going it alone, I can keep the tips I’ve learnt from that week’s session in the back of my mind.
Although you are lifting weights, the speed of the class means that it can be counted as a HIIT workout: you’re lifting lighter but at a much faster speed than with ‘normal’ weight training. However, just because you have to go a bit lighter certainly does not mean that the class can be deemed ‘easy’. I have actually nicknamed the Monday instructor ‘Satan’ (which is a bit unfair because she’s really nice), as she works you so bloody hard that I practically have to crawl home at the end of the class.
BODYPUMP acts as a full body workout. I love starting my Mondays with this because it kicks me into touch for the rest of the week- I feel like I’ve exercised every centimetre of my body, even if the stairs are a bit tricky come Tuesday morning. There’s not always time to train your core at the end of the hourly sessions, but if your form has been correct throughout, you will naturally tighten your middle and can really feel the burn the next day. As with any weight training, the sense of achievement that is felt when you up your weights (as you can see in my ‘Proud Of’ list) is immense: feeling yourself getting stronger each time you train is incredible; and I know I’ve improved so much in the past few weeks alone. Being in a room full of like-minded people helps as well: I’m naturally quite competitive… so if I see someone up their weights, this has a knock on effect and I tend to do the same (much to my poor body’s dismay).
If you fancy trying out one of these classes, simply head on over to www.lesmills.com, click on the ‘Find a Class’ link in the top right-hand corner, and go from there! I promise that you won’t regret it- although your body might fall out with you for a couple of days after the session.
What are your thoughts on BODYPUMP? Have you done any other Les Mills classes?