I spent my formative years in a church hall, watching my mother get her figure back. Our neighbours asked why I walked sideways, and followed every fourth step with a clap. Aerobics was ingrained in me, and as I turned tween, I spent hours in my bedroom on my Reebok Step. I didn’t need drugs – I was high on my own hormones.
My favourite class was Legs, Bums and Tums, to Madonna tracks on a Saturday morning. I dreamed of becoming an aerobics instructor. When I signed up for a two-week intensive course with YMCA, it was like I had boarded my Mother Ship. Taking turns to lead the class with lunges and leg curls, to counts of eight, other girls ran off crying. But I was born to herd lycra-clad ladies round a studio, urging them to keep their tummies tight.
I featured in a flotsam of low-budget internet ads, for fitness products with names like “Flabelos.” I played sidekick to a ladies man in a white mankini, and a look-a-like for Gangnam Style’s Psy. Close-up footage of my abdominals appeared on Channel 5, accompanied by a voiceover, describing ringworm of the groin.
That was before I made my living at my laptop. Now my exertions extend to heaving myself of bed, and chub-rubbing my way to my desk.
But I still get excited about fitness fads, so of course I want to go to Gymbox to get “festival fit” for the summer. Their new class promises to make me “Crowd Surf Ready” just in case I find myself suspended in the air, on a bed of festival-goers’ hands. Rhianna, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift have all been spotted crowd surfing, after throwing themselves off the stage, into the grubby, groping hands of their fans.
I am not rock royalty, I do not go to festivals, and I doubt anyone aside from Geoff Capes can lift me, but despite this, I am drunk on endorphins at the prospect of doing the class.
We make two lines and face each other, with a track of gymnastics mats between us. The class starts with a series of exercises on the spot, demo’d by Firas, whose Gymbox bio says he is a former international sportsman. He walks down the line and loudly observes: “Someone’s confusing sprinting with jogging!” This person is me. I have wilfully downgraded the disagreeable sprint to a gentle jog. I am saving myself for the plank-jump-ins that make me feel like my quads are being cremated.
They’ve roped in staff members to make up the numbers. I am opposite the Cross Fit trainer, who is hot. I smile at him, like: “Huh, this is so hard, it’s funny!” He does not smile back. This is not hard for him. Nor is it funny.
Core strength is key for keeping stable as you’re held in the air, so we focus on this, and upper body work. For the upper body work, we are told to get a plate. These are the circular weights you stick on the end of barbells, but we’ll be using them as weights on their own. I take this as a chance to rummage in my bag for water. “Not a dinner plate!” someone shouts, as if I’m about to pull out a picnic.
After everyone has shown how very fit they are, we cut our crowd-surfing teeth by passing a medicine ball down the line between us, holding it above our heads. The medicine balls increase in weight, then we graduate to passing a cylindrical punch-bag. The punch bag’s length makes it more like a human body, however, it’s rigid, and its weight is evenly distributed, so the next challenge is Bob-the-log. This is a bunch of logs strung together on a rope, like a sustainable statement necklace, that you might just see at a festival.
When we don’t drop Bob-the-log, Firas puts himself in our sweaty hands and we crowd-surf him across the room. Obviously I want a go, so I’m first to volunteer, despite a sad lack of sexual frisson with anyone in the room. Clearly half the reason anyone will go to this class, is for the chance to be manhandled by strangers with sweat slick bodies, a bit like on the tube, except everyone is fit.
Of course, no-one needs to get “Crowd Surf Ready” but while the scenario is unlikely, the exercises are effective. The class is fun and the gimmick got me through the door – a challenge in itself, while I’m the girth of a gazebo. I say thumbs up to festival fitness fun.
Crowd Surf Ready with StubHub launches at Gymbox in Farringdon on 14th July and will run for six weeks. Available to non-members.
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