Throughout challenging times in my life I have turned to fitness as an outlet for frustration and heightened emotions in order to provide purpose, focus and a positive influence that has assisted me in overcoming many obstacles and progressing on my personal journey through life.
Fitness has been a pinnacle in my life and I wouldn’t be half of the person that I am today without it. When it comes to mental health, fitness is certainly a foundation stone for me, allowing me to bring balance to my body, mind and soul in order to remain motivated and confident in life. I found it fascinating to speak with England rugby ace Ben Cohen on his experience of fitness for mental health which I’ll share with you here.
Ben Christopher Cohen, MBE is an English activist and former rugby player who began his professional career with Northampton Saints in 1996. He won the 2003 Rugby World Cup for England in 2007 before moving to France to represent Brive, returning to England two years later and joining the Sale Sharks.
Prior to recording this interview I had just attended one of Ben’s very popular HIIT classes – hence why I’m bright red, sweaty and slouching here like I’ve just ran a marathon – what a workout that was! HIIT is a form of interval training, or cardiovascular exercise strategy, which alternates short periods of intense exercise with less-intense recovery periods of movement. The aim is to raise the heart rate to burn more fat in lesser time which is very beneficial for heart health, improves insulin resistance and decreases blood pressure.
This class lasted 30 minutes and is an all over body workout that mixes bodyweight and dumbbell HIIT exercises to push you to your maximum ability. Ben keeps his classes exciting by making each week entirely different to keep the body guessing and achieve maximum results. Suitable for all ages and levels of fitness, each exercise can be modified to accommodate every individuals needs and I appreciated dropping to my knees as I panted through my press up’s and moved at my own pace for repetitions to actively catch my breath between bursts of intensity.
I attended my first HIIT class of Ben’s with a wonderful group of ladies of various ages and abilities, all of whom I had never met before but instantly made me feel incredibly welcome. It can sometimes feel daunting to meet new people, try new things and enter a fitness environment that you’re not familiar with, but despite Ben being a world-famous athlete who is instructing the class, he was so incredibly down to earth and encouraging that all apprehension and nerves melted away and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
Several stations were set out for our bodyweight and dumbbells class for which we all got into line as Ben talked us through correct posture and how to safely and effective perform each exercise, emphasising the importance of quality over quantity.
It was incredibly reassuring to have such a team / family environment in the gym, and despite not knowing any of the other ladies names as I arrived just in time for the class to begin, it was refreshing to see so many smiles, giggles and motivating words shared as we cheered one another on throughout and all tried our best without judgement or competition.
Ben is a fantastic motivating force and an absolute fountain of knowledge when it comes to fitness, taking great pride in his work and really honing in on the attention to detail to get the very best out of everyone. His sense of humour, charisma and effortlessly-inclusive approach to fitness made the thirty minute class fly past in a puddle of sweat and puffing, but I loved every second and felt so energised and excited to tackle the rest of the day with good health in mind.
Should you find yourself in the Northampton area then I highly recommend that you book into one of Ben’s classes and discover just how physically capable you are. We could all do with a little extra encouragement, enthusiasm and positivity when it comes to thinking about our health and HIIT classes tick all of the boxes and then some whilst also being a great social experience to meet other like-minded individuals and keep you on your toes to live your best life whilst improving mental health.