Performance

Mirror Mirror

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Francesca White discusses how an emerging attitude to fitness is reshaping our minds as well as our bodies.

BY FRANCESCA WHITE

 

Whether it’s barre or boxing that has you swapping your weekend lie-in for a fitness blast, there’s no denying the effects of a good workout. But it’s not just our bodies that are being reshaped – it’s our minds.

Cardio raises your heart rate – cue oxygen, and lots of it, ricocheting around your body. As a result, we push harder. Weight-based workouts create microscopic tears in our muscles, forcing our body to release reparative proteins. The result is denser muscles and improved strength.

But whether you’re rowing or downward-dogging, the psychological effects of exercise are always the same: a rush of endorphins, which leaves you sky-high. Add to this the mindfulness element that many gyms promote (yogic postures, meditation, a final “Shavasana”) – and whereas once we were crawling out of the gym sweaty and exhausted, we’re now walking out feeling taller, mentally and physically.

The mood-boosting music (Psycle), eucalyptus-scented towels (Equinox) and motivational mantras (Bodyism) help. But these are more than the trappings of a burgeoning, boutique fitness industry. They feed into our self-esteem – and with 36% of young adults in possession of a gym membership, their effect, though subconscious, is widespread.

What’s more, our bodies are becoming stronger. Resistance-based workouts are on the rise, and the discipline required to hoist a 20kg barbell brings new focus to gym sessions, where once we would simply sit on an exercise bike for half an hour. Gone, too, are the days where we would stumble into the gym in an old t-shirt. Today’s gear is high-performance stuff designed to shape waists, sculpt bottoms and lengthen legs (also useful when it’s being worn for the rest of the weekend).

The combination of a strong body and a strong mind is a powerful one. Hopefully, that’s what we all see when we look in the mirror today.