When I was 17, I developed these strange tics and rituals I had to complete in order to go to bed, leave the house, or go on holiday. The taps had to be checked (by swiping my hand back and forth underneath them to check there was no water flow), windows were stared at for an obscene amount of time, and electrical plugs, bank cards and certain lights around the house were all areas of great panic. Anyone who’s had similar experiences will know I am talking about OCD.
While over the years my OCD has calmed and in its place severe anxiety and occasional depressive episodes have come in its place (oh joy), one thing I never really did was exercise. I went to the therapy sessions, did the CBD, joined the support groups and took the pills, but exercise? Nope, not for me. I’d always been pretty lanky and boney, and never made much of a sportswoman in school. At university, I joined the gym on campus for an obscene amount of money (for a student budget, at least) and went a grand total of two times over the entire year. Then as I became older and grew in my twenties, my body started to change. I started to become a little rounder and discovered I could no longer eat everything I wanted to without any form of self control.
This was the original reason I decided to start working out around the age of 24 (I am nearly 27 now) ; purely because of my physical appearance. When you’ve been skinny for most of your life, then you all of a sudden start to see your middle expanding and your chin doubling, it’s kind of frightening. And because I had never been to a gym much before, I was not exactly at home in one; in fact, I suffered with crippling insecurity whenever I was in one, and felt like a fish out of water. So (without much regard for my bank balance), I started seeing a personal trainer instead. Her name was Sophia, and not only did she help me get a little fitter, she helped to transform my mindset for the better. She taught me to feel a little more positive, both with her words and motivation, and through the exercises she proved to me I could actually do. I learnt that I was way stronger than I thought, both in my muscles and in my mind.
Then came Psycle. I remember the first class I did; I went with the PR Rachael (who soon after became another friend of mine), and I was an absolute mess throughout the entire thing, silently begging the instructor to just finish up already so I could run out and collapse. For those long, painful 45 minutes, I vowed to myself I would never go again, but then afterwards, something happened: I felt a profound sense of achievement. When putting your body through 45 minutes of the most intense cardio, you feel a rush afterwards that becomes almost addictive - and I knew I had to feel it again.
Every time I go to Psycle, whether it’s at the original Mortimer Street studio or the new Clapham one closer to my house in SW, I feel stronger and fitter in my body, and my mind feels just that little bit more positive. I call it my safe haven now; any time I find myself really struggling with my anxiety, I try and book in. For me, my illness comes in waves, but it can be totally excruciating. I feel like a prisoner of my own mind, and I cannot control the hostile, relentless thoughts and worries that run through my head. Going to a Psycle class silences my mind, if only for 45 minutes. It makes me feel like part of a family, and like I am not alone. My favourite instructors (particularly Sarah, Alana, and Seema) have a way of inspiring you to work harder and forget the battles you face outside of the studio. I even recently did my 100th class, which felt like the most amazing achievement for my body and my brain.
Exercise is recommended by most mental health experts to help with conditions like anxiety (just check out this information from Anxiety UK), however, I know that exercising alone is never going to ‘fix me’. But finding a place like Psycle where I can be free for 45 minutes, and feel stronger and more positive afterwards, makes all the difference in the long run.