Hello, I write to you cannily with aching abs and even more aching buttocks, for I have joined the church of exercise-mad, squat jumping, active wear encased Londoners. The gym behind my lifestyle change is very aptly called Evolve and it’s the best gym you could wish to be a member of.
Since Evolve is on my road, I spent months walking past and peeking in through the window like a snooping neighbour, wondering if I could brave a class full of lean, sweaty bodies. It looked so hard-core! The members were a mixture of ages, mostly women with some attractive men shouting at them. It seemed premium and niche, lacking the usual crowd of half-arsed people you find in commercial gyms, wearing ill suited, cheap trainers from Sports Direct and a full face of make-up. Evolve is very much a purist gym; it has classes, but 100% not Les Mills classes and it has PT sessions, but not like “so what would you like to work on today, Deborah?” sessions.
Prior to joining, I was unlucky to have the worst case of glandular fever my doctor had ever seen, which resulted in the rare secondary complication of hepatitis. Bleugh. I felt absolutely horrible for months and you can read about it in detail here. Eating and resting made me feel better so I got a little… fluffy, shall we say. Basically my body started to resemble the beginnings of a collapsed trifle with muscle atrophy and undulating wobbliness. This was followed by many all-nighters working at a brutal advertising agency, still feeling so unwell. Like all sensible people, when life gets too much, I threw another challenge into the mix and got myself back into dancing. To my surprise, I successfully (but rather painfully) auditioned for a TV role alongside superstar dancer and now good friend, Zec Luhana. Sadly, after an exposure to bullying and constant bitchiness in my dance company, a lifestyle shake-up was in order.
I needed to train in a friendly environment, run by wonderful people. To my pleasant surprise, over the past 9 months at Evolve, I did not expect I would make such great friends, or receive a generous smorgasbord of other benefits that have improved my overall wellness and happiness. This special place has changed my life. I don’t say this lightly and believe something as simple as a gym community can have the most positive, uplifting impact.
David, a tall Scotsman, taught the first class I attended at Evolve. He makes lots of noises that I can’t understand but I believe they are words of encouragement. It became quickly apparent to David and my fellow class-members, that I was no athlete; I could not jump on the box… at one point I fell off the box before requiring hand-held assistance. My legs were crying. I could not burpee without splaying my legs out like a frog and I was sweating so profusely that had I placed my head underneath a running tap… there would be no visible difference. I was in trouble. After frog-pees and labouring through the ski-erg like a flailing mess, I thought it must surely be quarter past? No, it was 8 minutes past. The longest 8 minutes of my life were slowly passing through a mire of pain and loud dance music. What fresh hell was this? I’m making this sound awful, and in a way it was, but it was also brilliant.
The first few weeks I trained at Evolve were my initial period of breaking down to be rebuilt. I was sore all the time and found it really really tough. I was bad at everything and used to go first thing in the morning to get the session OUT of the way by 7.30am. My day resumed with a surge of happiness, energy and mental strength. I had conquered the hardest thing I was ever going to do that day, before most people were awake. I felt so amazing and keen to return. Was I getting the fitness bug?!
After 9 months in, I like to go in the evenings too because I actually look forward to training. All of my fitness abilities are on an upward trajectory and I feel so lucky to enjoy exercising. It’s this love for the training that is the best outcome I could have hoped for. I also look forward to the laughs and seeing my gym buddies in the evenings when we have escaped our respective workplaces to train with a collective, sweaty sense of joy. Shout out to Sam, Ellen, Megan, Gemma, Dee, Lou and everyone else! Alex gets a special mention for being the most fantastic character model who kindly came along to a shoot I was producing, and channel his inner Leonardo Di Caprio from The Revenant.
The results from my first 14 weeks:
I certainly still have some way to go! I still feel milk-maidenly and unathletically shaped like a character from “Carry On Fitness”. I am self-conscious sometimes about my curves which are partly a gift from the oestrogen gods, partly a result of my Reeces Peanut Butter Cup proclivities… but you can see that I look fitter and stronger, less fat and more “toned”. And I am happy! Not merely because my body looks better, but because I am high off my tits on endorphins all the time and my skin glows and I sleep better and I have more energy.
Another thing I didn’t appreciate (and I’m sure many fitness-enthused women will relate to) is looking like shite; Never in my life have I felt so comfortable to walk into a space full of gorgeous people, wearing not a scrap of make-up and my hair tied back. Nobody cares. We are here to train. Evolve will make you feel great, but how you present yourself and what people think about your bare-faced, raw morning look, is irrelevant. I’ve heard Dave and Ash say that they see women without make-up on, all day every day and how it’s more unusual to see women looking glamorous. This is the sort of gym I’m proud to be a member of, one that leaves out the shallow and vapid attitudes that give the fitness industry a bad name.
At its core, there is a heart to Evolve, greater and warmer than any of the commercial gyms in London. The amount of care and communication I’ve received has been wonderful. It’s so far from a transactional relationship as I genuinely don’t pay enough to receive messages back about macro tracking in MyFitnessPal at 11pm, or tolerance for my constant barrage of questions about Joe Wicks, about bioelectrical impedance or about carbs. Ash, Dave and now Olly over-invest their efforts to make sure we are all happy. A prime example being in the unlikely event that only a couple of us book in for a class, this is not a cancelled class… oh no, this becomes an attentive personal training session, as I experienced this week!
Of all the amazing things I did in 2017, joining Evolve has been the best. To anyone around, I really passionately encourage you to come along and join the community.