I was really interested and slightly shocked to read an article this week detailing how women had paid over £5,000 for a six pack. After reading the headline my initial thought was some sort of surgery had been involved but it turns out it was a 12-week intense training program at a London gym. Great! At least they are doing it the right way I thought. But is this still a dangerous culture?
I spent my childhood being bombarded with images of skinny celebrities, believing that the only way for me to look good was to be as low a body weight as possible - I wanted visible collar bones, hip bones, all the bones! I look back and think about how much time I wasted severely restricting calories and spending hours exercising, hindsight it turns out is a great thing and I don’t ever want my daughter to feel the way I did about my body when I was growing up.
Times are changing, and we as a culture are slowly starting to embrace different body types, however, there still seems to be pressure on women to look a certain way. More notably now there seems to be a massive rise in fitness and strength professionals, thanks to social media we can see these images on a daily basis. I too have fallen into the trap of wanting a six pack, for me this was more about seeing what my body was capable of achieving. That said, we all operate differently I could work twice as hard as the woman next to me and still not have abs whilst she has a six pack and eats a chocolate bar - ok maybe not quite - but we are all built differently and should never compare ourselves to others.
This got me thinking about how much pressure there is on women to look a certain way, and how it impacts our mental health. First and foremost, working out, for me, is predominantly about my mental wellbeing, I feel less stressed, happier, healthier, more confident and less anxious. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the physical gains are a bonus and I am very proud of what I have achieved so far (I like to bore my Instagram followers sometimes), but that is not the be all and end all, especially after having two children, because when you have to accept the massive stretch marks and saggy skin you’ve been left with, abs become less important. If I can walk into a gym full of men pumping iron and hold my own, I realised I can certainly walk into a boardroom full of men and present to them with a day’s notice. It’s done wonders for my career, perhaps I need to bill my gym membership to my boss...
As with these women featured in the article, I too love a PT session. It’s fun, it pushes me to lift heavier and gives me the confidence to try new exercises. Me and my trainer are more like friends, even if he does wear socks with sandals and want me to tell you he’s the best in the industry. I’m a big believer in fitness being accessible to everyone and I also know that as with anything you have to have a routine that’s sustainable. When it comes to things like weightlifting it’s important to learn the basics from a professional. YouTube videos can only show you so much. But £5,000 is out of reach of most people and any programme needs to be sustainable.
My gym and many others understand the importance of fitness and weight training and making it accessible to everyone. Several times a year my gym release a free six-week program which anyone can take part in, whether you are a member or not. You get to join a community on social media, receive a training plan, nutritional advice, support from qualified professionals and tips and tricks. All for free. In fact, I was £200 in profit as I won their last free ‘shredded in six’ programme for the best transformation. I may have bribed some people to vote for me with a cocktail or two…
Nobody at my gym looks the same, we all have different goals and ambitions. Some women can lift more than the men and vice versa but we are all different shapes and sizes and there is never any judgement. The goal is to look after our overall health and wellbeing, not to have #absfordays however much it costs. Anyway, it’s winter which means you’ll find me knee deep in hot chocolate (with cream obviously) and some sort of pie probably, which I’ve heard is not conducive to a six-pack.