After losing a lot of paid work overnight, dealing with the health implications of the pandemic, and our life changing overnight… It was actually the closure of the gyms and fitness venues which hit me the hardest. 

I hadn’t quite realised what a lifeline it had been, until it was gone. 

Here is my column for Yorkshire Evening Post… by me Sophie Mei Lan

I have worked from home on my own for a few years now and I have always boosted my productivity and kept motivated by creating a structure for myself by going to gym, yoga and dance classes. Yes it means that I am fit and feel strong in my body but the gym and my fitness classes are so much more than a vanity project. 

Whatever mood I am in, fitness makes me feel-good, you cannot beat that feeling of achievement at the end of a workout whether it be an early morning swim HIIT session or a night time Burlesque Chair Dance class. I’d go as far as saying fitness, exercise and sports have saved my life. 

I spent Valentine’s Day single but in good company creating a cupid shape at The Sanctuary Wakefield

As someone who has lived with severe anxiety and depression since being a youngster, there are no amount of talking therapies or clinical treatments that have helped me as much as my exercising has. 

My philosophy since being really poorly has always been “anything is better than nothing” when it comes to working out because fitness always makes you feel good. So I know that when I rock up to a gym class, well less rocking more rolling out of bed or my home office and legging it to make it just in time, that even if I feel like it’s the last thing I want to do I will always feel better for it. 

It has been the positive crutch in my life to help my overall wellbeing and on days where my confidence is lagging or I feel lonely, even just turning up and not talking to anyone at the gym and just working out with other people has been a massive boost for me. I’d say most Personal Trainers I’ve used also double up as therapists as well as fitness experts to help you deal with every aspect of life, keeping you fit in mind, body and soul! 

Yoga has been an amazing therapy

Better still, unlike alcohol, the high of exercise is much longer lasting and is always rewarding and good for us. 

 I think the importance of Personal Trainers and fitness leaders too often goes unnoticed or unrecognised because we have this societal view that “exercise is a necessary evil” when actually once you try a range of things you can find who and what works for you. 

I set up a Women’s Health Club a while back on facebook and since the Pandemic hit it has evolved into a thriving community called “Squats and Sparkles – Women’s Health Club” where professionals, novices and holistic health enthusiasts can join together to share skills, workouts and motivation. 

Whilst the online world will never replace human contact, I have been bowled over by how health and fitness professionals have adapted to this pandemic which also has had a detrimental impact on all of their jobs and livelihoods.

It really is time to recognise their importance and show them the credit they deserve. 

Gyms, personal trainers, health & fitness venues have been so generous with their skills despite all the unknowns at the moment… my Aerial Yoga and Barre sessions at The Sanctuary Wakefield have been replaced online via MindBody App and free facebook lives, I attend morning HIIT and stretch classes via the Move GB app, Sparkle Warrior Fitness and Katy Padam both local personal trainers have been sharing workouts and tips to keep us motivated, Cat Thomson, Nilupuili, Arzoo and Leyla Love have been all offering free Zumba workouts and so have the Aspire gyms I normally attend too. 

I’ve had life coaching from Simply Ladies in Leeds, holistic health tips from Sammy Butterfly and I’ve even been learning Qi Gong via Skype with Beyond Healing. 

Whilst I lack confidence… getting outdoors at bootcamp has helped recently

And as restrictions are lifting, I have been able to attend outdoor boot camp sessions across West Yorkshire with Atiff Fiaz. My local church St Helen’s have taken me on socially distanced walks and talks as I realised I did not know my local area! 

A charity who I often work with sharing dance and movement skills with adults with learning difficulties CoActive Arts have been making DVDs, online tutorials and phone calls to keep people motivated and active at home. 

These are just a few examples of the many people across our region sharing their skills, keeping us motivated whilst also dealing with the uncertainty of this changing situation. 

It is times like this where we appreciate what really matters in our lives, and I know that keeping as fit and holistically healthy has somehow helped me to deal with this time when most of my traditional mental health support has been reduced to phone calls.

I had been hoping to do Tough Mudder again

I for one am going to be showing my support for the gyms, health clubs and fitness professionals when venues are allowed to reopen. And whilst I love going to the pub to watch football and occasionally socialise, there is nothing that beats the buzz, camaraderie and long lasting effects of exercise sessions led by professionals in real life.  

Every morning I wake up groggy and filled with anxiety so my morning ritual is always to move, dance, stretch and do a gentle workout. Even on days where it is the last thing I want to do. I have been known in lockdown, I always blame lockdown nowadays for everything, to do my morning exercise in my PJs with my eyes closed until my brain and eyes engage and I realise I am exercising. 

Hip Stretches are believed to release stress and trauma

But I am not on a gruelling training regime, I just know what my mind and body need to be able to take on the day, mainly for my mental wellbeing.

Squats and Sparkles – Women’s Health Club