Roly Polies. Squatting over a game of marbles. Handstands. Most of us naturally did these gleefully as kids but, if you're anything like me, those days of carefree gymnastics are long gone. It took me about a year to work up to doing a headstand in yoga, due to a lack of strength in my core and, more powerfully, a lack of belief that I could actually do it.
Step forward The Power of the Body, a new fitness craze featuring 'The Frampton Method' that already has London's models hooked. You've probably seen Roger Frampton, the constantly in-demand male model who has graced all the huge magazines including The Sunday Times. He's generally posing upside down, balanced on a finger on a chair and spinning ten plates on each toe. OK, slight exaggeration there, but through honing his already strong body with a mixture of yoga and calisthenics, Roger has an insane level of control and strength over his body that means he can hold hilariously gravity defying poses.
And now he's getting us to do the same.
I approached my first Power of the Body class with a mixture of fear and excitement. Excitement because Roger had trained me before, years ago when he started as a PT, and I'm pretty sure I've improved since our first class when, as I wheezed around a kid's running track, he asked in all seriousness, "Do you have asthma?" (...I don't). I couldn't wait to be challenged by his new exercise method. Fear because my Instagram feed is full of picture of Roger hanging off lamposts/radiators/climbing frames....
...And, despite my improvements in push-ups (i.e. I can do more than none), I was worried that I had the strength of Captain America before the fancy injections. I foresaw myself glumly hide at the back of the class while others sauntered around the gym on their hands.
Luckily, Roger's class is the perfect mix of challenging, empowering and fun. The most important part is that he wants to get us into 'conscious movement'. What's that? Well, let me talk you through a typical five minutes of my life. I'll rush to my front door, balancing too much food shopping and stressed from needing a wee, rush into my flat, trip over shoes I left at the door when I was running late earlier, drop my keys, twinge my knee from bending to pick my keys up then bang my head on the door. All the while my phone is beeping from a Whatsapp conversation I'll never catch up with.
When I'm holding a squat in Roger's class, however, I'm aware of my body alignment from top to toe. Influenced by the Yin Yoga he loves, it's about holding the perfect squat and making sure the back is upright, the knees don't fall in, the brain is as engaged as the glutes and you can feel the power course throughout the whole body.
One of Roger's pupils, Natasha masters a squat (held for 3 minutes). Picture/Instagram
Roger wants us to take this consciousness and apply it to our bodies and minds all the time.
This really spoke to me. I'm tired of twisting my ankle whilst crossing the road and texting. I'll stay inside my exercise 'comfort zone' because I don't want to push or injure myself even more. In our class, Roger had us doing back bends so that we could test just how far we could actually go, and that, through changing our alignment and engaging core muscles, our bodies would protect us. It's like turning your own body into its very own suit of armour, braced for modern living.
The pace of The Power of the Body is slower than other workouts, but no less potent for it. I enjoyed The Skinny Bitch Collective, but I spent half the class nearly fainting from the frenetic pace (and the disgusting double espresso I always felt the need to scarf down before, just to get through it). I doubt I did my push-ups perfectly while I desperately tried to keep up with those around me. Conversely in Frampton's class, I was so focused on my own balance and form that I didn't worry about what everyone else was doing. The next day my arms and stomach were in agony from holding the perfect plank or doing a push up in perfect alignment, and though there was no wild leaping, we were all of us out of breath and red-faced from the effort.
The best bit of the class for all of us was undoubtedly the roly polies. When Roger casually told us all to give it a go, we all looked at each other quizzically. No way! It was years since we'd done gymnastics at school and we were bound to break a neck or (in the very least) make a fool of ourselves.
Picture by Kirby Anne
Broken down, though, a roly poly is arm balance into a reverse plank finishing with a squat - and we'd all mastered the art of each in the class! Everyone was so thrilled when we nailed it first time, plus it was fun to make the movements we'd mastered functional rather than solely a means to a toned bum.
There's no doubt in my mind that one of these classes a week would result in a lean physique, but what has me hooked is that I willingly pushed myself out of my own comfort zone to see what my body could achieve. It's empowering. The Frampton Method isn't just about 'The Power of the Body', but of the mind as well.
Check out www.roger.coach for bookings and information.