Monday, March 20, 2023

Fighting Fit Through the Hard Times: An Ode to Exercise

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Like 70 million others, Nicky Dewe found that getting through the past few months was made easier with the help of a special someone.

In any time of crisis we must look for the helpers, those who rise up to lead people out of the darkness and put them back on a path towards the light. Of course we had Jacinda and Dr Ashley fronting up for us daily during lockdown, delivering their calm words and clear instruction, but technically speaking that was their job. One surprise hero of the isolation period, in my opinion, was the ridiculously good-looking Cockney workout enthusiast Joe Wicks. Neither a politician nor a scientist, Joe nevertheless fronted up to the camera each day to share some important numbers – specifically how many squats and burpees we needed to perform every morning while the world was closing in on us.

Already well loved as The Body Coach, Joe has been devising plans to help everyday folk get more buff since 2014, but his current mission has a different flavour. On the first day of Britain’s lockdown Joe says he woke up knowing he needed to do something to help people who were suddenly stuck inside and potentially losing it. That something was ‘PE with Joe’, a daily workout aired through his YouTube channel. Whilst many of us went to great lengths to skip out of PE during our school careers, suddenly people all over the world were tuning in, lacing up and flailing around in their living rooms while Joe shouted encouraging words at the camera.

On only its second day, PE with Joe broke the Guinness World Record for “most viewers for a fitness workout live stream on YouTube” and to date he’s had 70 million views. Just to prove what an absolute top geezer he is, Joe has donated all of the money raised through his channel and from his line of ‘PE with Joe’ t-shirts to support Britain’s NHS, which has worked out to be somewhere in the realm of half a million pounds.

Sure, it helps that Joe is already hella wealthy from his ‘Body Coach’ franchise and the multiple ‘Lean in 15’ cookbooks that have been selling like low-fat, high-protein hot cakes since 2014. Whilst a lot of that cash will have come from the highly lucrative demographic of ‘people who want to be thinner’, Joe’s focus through the last few months has been very much on what exercise does for our minds. Joe is evangelical about sweat sessions as the panacea for most of our problems and shares lots of personal stories about how it has helped him get through the difficult times.

The son of a heroin addicted father and a mother with mental health issues, Joe did not have an easy start in life but credits exercise with helping him retain a positive mindset. He also discusses readily how he and his wife, former glamour model Rosie Jones, use it to cope when they are having a bad day locked inside with their two young kids. Jumping on the weights, even just for three sets of 10 is enough to refresh their spirits.

Now I am no gym junkie but i do understand exactly what Joe is on about when it comes to fitness. I never played a stitch of sport at school but discovered in my 20s that I loved to run. The beauty of it for me has always been the freedom and the quiet and the chance to pound out all the mess and confusion in my mind until all I can hear is my own breathing. The mental focus that is required to hang in there through the hard parts is rewarded with moments where you feel strong and stable and like you could go forever. It’s the whole human experience condensed into a 40 minute session and an important reminder that pain is temporary. In fact, everything is temporary and we can move through these states with grace if we allow ourselves too.  

If we’re in the business of finding silver linings of the pandemic then for me it’s having more time to move more and make exercise the priority that I always knew it should be but often didn’t get around to. Mentally, I have good days and bad but when I’ve got my heart rate up at some stage I feel much better positioned to cope. Clearly other people are finding exercise to be their saviour too. Not only are Joe’s viewer numbers phenomenal but his insta feed is full of people thanking him for what he has done for them and their families. The fact that we were able to do it on mass during a time when we couldn’t even hug our grandmas makes it even more meaningful. 

Of course, it’s not easy being the new messiah. In a brilliant podcast that Joe did with Russell Brand, he was exhausted and emotional as he poured out his heart about finding his purpose. He explained that he needed to stay standing up throughout the interview because he was so tired that if he sat down he might never get up again. Even Russell seemed a bit worried for him. But that didn’t stop Joe from showing up each day for the millions of people who needed someone to bring a little structure to their day, offer them some positive words, and help them take control of their wellbeing in the midst of a global health crisis. It’s a reminder that we do have the tools to keep ourselves going when things get tough, and that in times of difficulty there will always be good people fronting up with support. In this case, an extremely humble yet handsome British PT.

Local Hero

Kiwi woman Daz Burns has been flat-tack over the past year building an online platform that will also help bring people together to exercise. While the advent of Covid has thrown new challenges her way in the run up to launch, it has made the service she’s offering more crucial than ever. Hey Mama Movement is a world-first innovation that allows people to team up with groups of friends, wherever they may be in the country or overseas, and pick a pre-recorded workout from the site to do together in real time. Daz says working out together is the key to staying accountable, motivated and committed which is why she wanted to create something that allowed people to join forces with their friends, wherever they may be. Daz says, “Hey Mama Movement is so important to me because no matter how many reasons we have to be happy, when you aren’t feeling great, it is hard to see the good through the grey cloud. Connecting and working out with your friends and family doesn’t only deliver fun, motivation and accountability but it is truly good for a woman’s soul.”

Hey Mama Movement has HIIT, Pilates and Yoga sessions available and subscriptions cost $19.99 per month or $199.99 annually.

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