At the gym: Yoga, Pilates & Mixed Martial Arts

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Rebekah Hendley: Yoga & Pilates

After weeks of stuffing our faces with Christmas goodies and the beginning of term boozing, the vast majority of us have already blown our ‘New year, new me’ New Year’s resolution. We start the year with good intentions to get fit and shed the pounds before the summer sun but why do we feel we need to wait for a reason to start getting fit?  You can start your new healthier lifestyle today and what better way than a beginner’s class at the Gym. Gym membership at Lancaster University is extremely good value for money and, with silver membership, you get full access to the swimming pool and gym at any time.

However, if the gym isn’t for you and the thought of treadmills and cross trainers makes you feel queasy, then a beginner’s class is definitely worth a try. With the stress of deadlines and exams fast approaching, I would definitely recommend a Pilates or yoga class. Not only will it help you beat the bulge, both of these classes will clear your mind, get you away from the computer screen and relax your muscles during the stressful months that lie ahead.  Now you might be thinking what’s the difference between Pilates and yoga? I definitely was before I tried both of them.

In short, yoga focuses more on health and relaxation and includes exercises such as breath control, meditation and adopting different bodily postures to enhance flexibility. It’s definitely the more relaxing of the two and helps to clear your mind and stretch any of those nagging aches and pains. Afterwards, I definitely felt more at ease and focused. Pilates is similar in some respect, however it was a little more strenuous than I first expected. I was definitely in shock when the press-ups started! As a press-up virgin, I couldn’t help but dread the following exercises. However, the class as a whole was still an enjoyable workout including a series of exercises using different apparatus designed to focus on improving physical strength, flexibility, posture and finishing with some peaceful meditation designed to enhance mental awareness. I came out feeling refreshed, if not a little sore from the stretches; my flexibility is minimal but you know what they say – no pain no gain!

I personally enjoyed both of these classes, the atmosphere was relaxing and welcoming and the instructor, Laura Daglish, was easy to talk to and friendly. It was a nice change from the usual gym routine and I will definitely be trying these again or maybe the Pilate and yoga mix class also run by Laura. It’s my aim to get back into shape but not just for summer. It’s going to be vital for all of us to look after ourselves in the next few months, leading up to and during summer term, when being healthy and having a clear mind will be crucial to surviving the dreaded exam period. Classes are only £3.70 for students, or free for anyone with platinum gym membership, so it won’t break the bank either, you’re working hard so treat yourself, you’re definitely worth it.
Bryony Seager: Mixed Martial Arts

Exercise puts you in touch with your body; it makes you healthier, stronger and fitter. You can’t ignore your body; if you do there are generally consequences. Okay, that’s the serious bit over with!

MMA (standing for mixed martial arts) and kickboxing are just two of the multitude of classes that the campus gym offers. I started both MMA and kickboxing last year, thinking that I should try out the different things at the gym – now I’m pretty much addicted. It’s a high energy, full-contact sport, but it’s a huge amount of fun, whilst also learning self-defence and lots of aspects of martial arts – certainly better than slogging away on a treadmill going nowhere for half an hour.

The classes are split into two: beginners and advanced, each lasting roughly 50 minutes. Any levels of abilities are welcome to the beginner’s class, and then it’s up to you as to when you feel ready to attend the advanced classes. Martial arts is something that has always interested me, but that I’ve never taken part in and in that sense MMA is great because as instructor Kieran O’Brien says, MMA “is whatever you bring it… a mix of styles.” So in that respect people who come along to the classes come from all sorts of backgrounds; no martial arts (me), taekwondo, boxing, ju-jitsu… so whatever your level there’s definitely something to learn.

The lessons themselves are quite diverse. Beginner’s classes are usually concerned with drilling new techniques or combinations. In the MMA classes this is usually grappling/take-downs, in kickboxing it’s exactly what it says on the tin – kicking or boxing; learning how to engage someone whilst on your feet. Now with this sport comes something of an issue, I don’t necessarily want to give credence to the side of the argument that this sport can be horribly violent – of course, in a ring, I guess it can be. But when we practice there is absolutely no malice or violence behind it, people are there to learn, and are extremely friendly, helping each other out and being conscious of the abilities of the person they’re fighting. O’Brien calls it a “friendly struggle… a simulation” – the intention is not to hurt but to learn something and increase your skills whilst doing it. Of course the gym is well equipped with mats, boxing gloves and muay thai pads, so everyone has the opportunity to practice safely. It’s not all about the physical either; when sparring with other people who practice it takes a lot of thought as well. It’s a “bodily-involved chess match”; except unlike real chess, if you miscalculate your move you might get kicked in the butt. I guess it’s like wizard’s chess in that respect… even better.

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