Wellness: Happy body, happy mind? Experts answer
A silver lining of lockdown was the space and time it gave many of us to invest in our mental and physical fitness. With June 21 fast approaching, we can’t wait to burst out of our bubbles - but how do we keep the new self-care regime going as the pace of life picks up? Inês Mourão asks two Cambridge fitness and wellness experts
Emma Kerr, from Cambridge, is a yoga and pilates practitioner and instructor at Body Work Company, a massage therapist, and the face behind the brand Spirit + Soul
Velvet: Hi Emma. You have been teaching classes online during the pandemic, how has that worked?
Emma: “It has been challenging, but Zoom has been a lifesaver. It keeps that sense of connection; sometimes after class people would stay longer and chat with each other. But people miss the energy of being in a room with others. The healthy competition found in group classes motivates them. That’s something that is missing online.”
Velvet: Many people during lockdown took on classes they weren’t doing before. Why’s that?
Emma: “For some working out from home suits them better. Being in their safe space allows them to experiment with different classes, without having the fear of being observed. Others thrive in studio classes and like to be in the same room as the teacher; having them there to guide them. Studios are now considering that and offering blended classes.”
Velvet: Why is exercise so important?
Emma: “Many exercise to achieve the desired shape. But the benefits of working out go way beyond the physicality of it. Doctors are prescribing exercise for mental health now, which is a very big step forward. That is why so many people took it on during lockdown, I think, to take care of their mental health.
“Also, in lockdown our routine was gone. That’s another reason people started working out more - to create a routine, because structure is very important for mental health too.”
Velvet: Would you say mindset is important to achieve your health and fitness goals?
Emma: “If you feel fit and strong you can help somebody else to be fit and strong too. But we should be less goal-orientated. We need to ask ourselves: ‘Can I do an hour of exercise, or do I only have time to do 15 minutes?’ and be able to adapt and be alright with that, not beating ourselves up if we can’t reach that goal we set. Appreciate that you are at that place doing that exercise for yourself and your wellbeing.”
Velvet: What would you say are the most common triggers that get people off-track in their wellness journey?
Emma: “If you go into overdrive, you go into fly or fight mode and then you get the anxiety. That’s when we need to stop and refocus on the motivation that made us start this journey in the first place. I hope people took this time in lockdown to stop and reassess. If there is something that this pandemic taught us, it’s that we can’t take our health for granted. We saw so many healthy, fit 30-year-olds lose their battle to Covid, it was frightening.
“Many believe that if they exercise they can eat whatever they want, but it all comes down to balance. This year it was a bit more difficult to not add on weight. I still have a few lockdown pounds from being on the couch, eating chocolate, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race a few too many times. But you know that is wellness too!”
Velvet: Did you have any concerns with your students working out from home?
Emma: “I worried some of them could get hurt working out without me being there to guide them. But there weren’t any reports of home injuries, so people were being careful. Most of my clients I have been teaching for years so I know them well, but for a teacher with new students on Zoom, that was a concern. A skilled teacher will be able to teach in a safe way on Zoom. This year was a real learning curve for teachers.”
Velvet: Have you noticed any major changes in your students’ strength and confidence during this past year? And how has that changed over the pandemic?
Emma: “Some people have improved in certain ways. They weren’t in class looking at others and worrying about others looking at them, which allowed them to relax and push themselves a bit more. Others have used it to keep on their level. I haven’t lost any students; everyone has been coming to class as usual.
“Confidence has for sure taken a toll this year, though. When you go to class, you are in a safe place and nothing else matters. There is no room in the studio for your day. You can come in and clear your mind. We now more than ever go to class to feel good and boost our mood and not so much for the physical element.
“I believe we should mainly workout for our mental health. The benefits aren’t only what you see but how you feel. You can take that to your everyday life; develop coping mechanisms and manage stress levels. So it has a broad benefit across everything. In most cases, a class is an opportunity to have an hour to ourselves, switch off and then come back in a different mood, calmer.”
Velvet: What tips would you give people to stay committed to this wellness journey that they started?
Emma: “Take your time, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it to class, have a bit of a stretch, take a bit of a breath. Slowly build it back into the new normal instead of forcing it into your routine.”
Velvet: And some easy ways to incorporate more movement into your day?
Emma: “Have a stretch! If we look at dogs and cats they are always moving, stretching. Get your joints moving if nothing else. And think about your posture: stand nice and tall, open up your chest with shoulders and jaw relaxed. It is something that will make you feel better in a second.”
Velvet: What has been the most life-changing moment in your health journey?
Emma: “I went to India to train to be a yoga teacher and that was pretty life-changing. This journey is about interaction with the world; it’s about growth, development, change and being flexible in your mind. The past will hold us back and the future will pull us forward. That pull and push weaken us. Mind and body connections are a journey and as we change, our bodies change too. So we have to be in the now, because where else could we be?”
Karen Norris, from Cambridge, is a Transformation & Health Coach. From personal training, nutrition to vinyasa and fitness yoga, you’ll find it at karen-norris.co.uk
Velvet: Hi Karen. Would you say mindset is important to achieve your health/fitness goals?
Karen: “Absolutely! I would say mindset is THE most important part of achieving your goals, health and fitness, and anything in life. I start my day and encourage my clients and students to do the same with a morning practice. This varies from person to person and their own goals, what's important to them.
“Mine begins with both a yoga and meditation practice. This is super beneficial for my mindset for the rest of the day. I also use a journal where I jot down my thoughts, inspirations, and plans/goals/priorities for the day. I also find having a weekly checklist of good habits is super helpful to keep me on the right track.”
Velvet: How does achieving your goals benefit other areas of your life?
Karen: “When you achieve your goals, or at least take daily action if you are working towards something bigger, it’s motivating and rewarding in itself. By writing it down as you go and checking it off, you start to notice the momentum of where you started and how far you have come. Looking back over achievements is motivating, rewarding, and inspiring to keep moving forwards. The sense of achievement will not only lift your energy but the energy of the people you surround yourself with. They too will get inspired to take action towards their own goals and dreams.”
Velvet: In this new age of wellness, do you think people are making their own rules when it comes to their fitness and healthy lifestyle?
Karen: “Yes. I can see that and as long as it's with good intention and makes them happy whilst not harming others then it can be a positive thing. We are all creative beings and what ticks one person's box may not another and vice versa. For example, the Yoga Shred class I created - a mixture of yoga and fitness combined. Yoga years ago was never about the asanas, the physical practice, it was about getting you in a state for meditation. I do also teach the more traditional vinyasa, but it's still super-fun to mix things up and create different things. Coming from a gym background I completely get why people like variety.”
Velvet: And how did your routine and work practice change during Covid?
Karen: “Luckily before Covid started I was finishing a marketing course designed for teaching yoga online - be careful what you wish for. . . So as the pandemic started I got on Zoom and continued teaching my yoga classes from there. I also had quite a few personal training clients that had a little space and equipment at home to train online. The funny thing is during the times the gyms have opened back up many have chosen to continue to stay online. Due to the convenience of time and no travel, I now offer both options.
“Pre-Covid one of my goals was to create a YouTube channel - youtube.com/channel/UCzyAqBMVGvV6KTRGRCSFRBg - with fitness and yoga videos. At the end of last year, I finally got round to creating it and now I am posting regular weekly videos which I love. Students that miss my yoga classes or clients that want an extra fitness workout in the week have something to follow along to and keep motivated.”
Velvet: What are your best tips to stay motivated to work out and stay committed to a healthier lifestyle?
Karen: “For tips, I would re-emphasise my answer to the first question. Begin by writing your top goals down and then break down each day how you will be working towards them. Whether it’s for a diet or fitness or general health, create a checklist, stick it up somewhere you can see, review it DAILY and check off as you go. Those little ticks are very rewarding and keep pushing you forward. If you don't manage to do it all no worries, tomorrow is a new day, baby steps each day. I don't choose too many as that can be overwhelming.
“If it's diet-related - get prepared. No judgment! But the number of times I have heard: ‘It wasn't my fault, I was out and all I could get was a sandwich, packet of crisps, etc.’ By preparing, I mean at the start of the week do a shop for all you need. Prepare your meals the night before or in the morning; take the time now so you don't lose it later.
“You fail only if you quit. So keep getting back up and keep going. Remember F.A.I.L = First Attempt In Learning.”
Velvet: What made you want to become a coach and why are you so passionate about the wellness industry?
Karen: “I love helping people, guiding them to achieve their goals, their potential. I want to help people see the magic they hold within themselves and that they are limitless to what they can do. Our limits come from our minds, our ego. I want to help people crack through this limiting mindset and become the best version of themselves.
“In fitness, health, and yoga these are the tools to living a high vibrational life. That is what I teach and am so passionate about. Imagine what the world would look like if everybody stepped up, let go of their limiting beliefs, judgments, and fears. If we all committed to a daily practice. To know without a question that we can achieve our goals. That we can create our dreams whilst becoming the best version of ourselves. It would look a lot different.”
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