We sent new blog contributor and Gymbox member Genevieve Teevan to try some S&M. This is what happened.
S&M in Gymbox-speak stands for Stretch and Massage. The class does involve ropes, but kinky it is not. The 45-minute session I attended was divided into roughly 30 minutes of hard stretching and 15 minutes of massage using a foam roller. You won’t work up a sweat but there can be pain – the satisfying kind – if you push yourself to deepen each stretch.
Like most Gymboxers, I probably spend no more than 2.2% of my workout time stretching. More than a token calf stretch just feels a bit preening and self-indulgent – I like to suffer during exercise, as if I deserve to punished for my vanity – but my (very muscled) Gymbox PT Elliot Moger insists that stretching makes you stronger. So here I am at S&M class: to stretch myself stronger.
The Australian instructor, Tracey Benson, a professional dancer who you can see perform the role of Penny in Secret Cinema’s Dirty Dancing this July, says the class will be ‘all very holistic and gentle’. We take off our shoes (you can keep your socks on) and start bending to touch our toes. Each sequence progresses until we’re twisted like misshapen pretzels. Then we hold each position for far longer than is comfortable.
I’ve tried an embarrassing number of fitness crazes over the years, yet some of Tracey’s stretches are new to me. We’re reaching corners of my musculature that are habitually allowed to lie dormant. We wrap ropes around our feet and calves and then haul on them hard enough to work our arms as well as the leg muscles and hip flexors that are being targeted, a bit like doing Pilates on a reformer machine. My muscles are like: Yesss! Thank you!! THIS is what we’ve been waiting for, only we didn’t know it because we were too busy pedalling and lifting and burpee-ing – and don’t EVEN talk to us about those tuck jumps.
Great, so now I know my muscles hate me. But apparently they can be made happy with odd, slow stretches. I think the length of time that we spend holding each stretch is why this class feels so effective. We’re not rushed. The stretching is the main event, not a perfunctory add-on. It can take a minute or two to find your balance so that you really feel a particular stretch where it counts. Tracey circulates and corrects our form. Her slight adjustment of the angle of your foot takes a stretch from: Ho-hum, la di da to: Yee-ow, that hurts!
Tracey describes the foam roller section of the class as ‘the cheapest massage you’ll ever get’. Starting with the roller under one ankle we slowly work our way up until each part of our body has had its turn. The massage is more intense if just a small area of your body (e.g. that place on the back of your calf where the muscles meet) touches the roller. Plus, your upper body and core get a workout supporting the rest of your constantly shifting weight.
Much of the S&M class content is yoga-inspired but there are none of the pseudo-spiritual affections that can accompany yoga (Yogi: Turn your gaze to the sky. My brain: Sky? We’re in a disco-lit basement, you delusional hippie.) This class just feels chill. There’s no atmosphere to ruin if you fall over with an un-Zen-like thud. People do. We laugh with/at them.
I’d recommend this class to anyone who does a lot of lifting, running, cycling or other sport.