Our Co-Founder Anna Jones had never entered the weights section in her gym and couldn’t tell the difference between a dumbbell and a kettle bell – so what happened when she tried one of our new Stylist Strong classes?
As someone who has never done a scrap of strength training, I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive before trying my first Stylist Strong class. While I’m not a complete exercise novice – I’ve practiced Pilates most of my adult life – there’s something about lifting weights that still feels daunting. Will I bulk up? Will I injure myself? Will I ever feel confident picking up anything bigger than a two-kilo dumbbell?
It turns out I’m not alone. As recently as 2011, a survey revealed that only 0.9 per cent of women lifted heavy weights, and the weights section of the gym still feels very much like a man’s world. But times are changing – today, #strongnotskinny has 7.9m posts on Instagram and strength training was declared 2018’s top fitness trend by ClassPass in the US. Which is why we decided this was the perfect time to partner with Stylist Magazine on Stylist Strong, a brand new form of strength training exclusively for women, in our new Mayfair club.
I arrive early for the first day of classes, signing up for one of the ‘Everyday’ sessions. The classes are split into three categories: Everyday, for beginners (definitely the right option for me), Classic, for those looking to delve deeper into their strength training, and Performance, for those training for something specific. My class is led by Stylist Strong’s Master Trainer Caroline Bragg, a specialist in female training who also runs her own post-natal retreats. Warm, friendly and reassuringly knowledgeable, she puts me at ease within minutes, explaining the movements we’ll be doing (these classes are all about building solid foundations in movement and body balance) and helping me choose the correct weights. Mercifully, there’s a wide range of weights, from smaller dumbbells to enormous kettle bells that I wouldn’t even be able to pick up, let alone lift over my head. I instinctively go to pick up the smallest dumbbell available, but Caroline persuades me to opt for the next weight up.
As we start going through the movements and repetitions – the exercises are all grouped into threes – and I realise I can actually lift more than I thought, the endorphins start to kick in. Which is handy because our next move, the charmingly named Goblet Squat, involves a kettle bell, a piece of equipment I’ve never used before. Holding a 10-kilo kettle bell against my chest, I squat down slowly before driving back up at speed. Caroline comes over to correct my positioning. ‘You need to hold the kettle bell straight – imagine it’s a glass of wine and you don’t want to spill it all over yourself.’
By the end of the class I’ve lunged, planked and lifted more than I thought possible and learnt the first stage of performing the perfect press up, holding my arms at their lowest point while on my knees. The classes work on an eight-week progressive training cycle, and Caroline promises that by the end of the eight weeks I’ll be able to perform 10 full press-ups with ease. As for bulking up, she assures me that’s a myth – the fact is that gaining a significant amount of muscle mass is extremely difficult for the vast majority of women. Luckily, getting strong enough to move a piece of furniture or flip the mattress yourself isn’t.
As I leave the studio, a quote on the wall catches my eye: ‘We are women and we are always stronger than we think.’ Wise words to remember next time I’m choosing those dumbbells…