Strictly Come Dancing... It's that time again.
Well September has arrived, the kids are back at school, the traffic on the roads in the morning is deadly, the days are getting darker and colder... and the new cast of Strictly Come Dancing has been announced.
As has become the autumn custom, the British public is getting ready to settle into their armchairs for the spectacle that is; Strictly Come Dancing!
Love it or hate it, everyone has to acknowledge the way that Strictly has captured the imagination and hearts of the British public.
Personally, I love it. As I was part of the TV series and went on the national tour in 2012, I am addicted. Mainly because once you have taken part, it gets right under your skin; you get to know all the characters, the dancers, the technicians and back room staff and make long lasting friendships with the other contestants, even if you are bonded by fear.
You also get to see at close quarters what hard work goes into creating the show and what a massive operation it is. Strictly appears to run like an effortless, well-oiled machine when in fact, every show is the collective result of detailed and complicated planning by an incredibly dedicated and talented team both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
Most people who watch Strictly on the TV, enjoy the spectacle and glamour, and of course the Judges (who, after all the real stars of the show) But they also enjoy seeing the comedy acts and the personal journeys of the contestants that gives a small insight into just how mentally, emotionally and physically tough you have to be to prepare your dances and get onto the dance floor in front of millions of people.
No matter what your background, nothing can prepare you for the nerves (and sometimes abject terror!) of being on the show or far more bewildering, the public reaction to your performance.
As a professional sportsman I was used to training hard for hours every day for weeks, but when tackling something like dancing, I was completely out of my comfort zone. It was exhausting and I was completely in awe of just how hard working, talented, disciplined and amazingly fit, professional dancers are.
The experience of being on Strictly has had a huge impact on me, not just as a life changing experience and being in the public eye, but how enjoyable and effective it was as a fitness regime.
So having stepped away from being part of Strictly, the lasting impression of the experience and its legacy, is how hard you have to work every week and more surprisingly, how fit you get, and I miss that.
What I loved about learning to dance, albeit badly, is that it took me out of my comfort zone and taught me to move my body in a completely different way. Cross discipline training is now a perceived wisdom in the sports world, just look at the way many footballers and rugby players have used yoga and even ballet, to get stronger and create a better sense of co-ordination and balance.
So not wanting to miss any chance of repeating the experience, my close friendship with Natalie Lowe, my dancing partner on the tour, and Ian Waite who choreographed many of the professional dances, has resulted in the three of us creating a new fitness programme called FITSTEPS.
FITSTEPS, is a dance based fitness programme that will be available in dance studios, leisure facilities and gyms across the country this autumn. It is designed to give people the chance to experience the exuberance and fun of Strictly but also the discipline and the fitness.
Traditionally, dance programmes are seen as something that women do but we know that many men are secret Strictly fans but too embarrassed to admit it. The FITSTEPS classes are aimed at getting men involved as it is probably the only opportunity that men will get to learn to dance properly. Plus the fact that 90% of most dance classes are women, should give men some incentive.
I challenge the most avid sports man or woman, to test them selves both physically and mentally, by learning to dance. It is something you can do with partners, mates or just turn up and give it a go.
So this autumn as the nights draw in and the colder weather makes outdoor exercise or going for a run hard, I challenge everyone to have a go at learning to dance by joining the FITSTEPS classes that will be starting in every major town over the next six months.
I have yet to meet anyone who has taken part in Strictly who did not enjoy the experience immensely, make a lasting friendship, or get fitter. Here is the chance to experience it for your self.
So... get your dance shoes on, swallow your pride and give it a go!!
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