I’m a teaching assistant full-time at the local school, I’ve been there about five years. I’m also the safeguarding governor at the school, and I'm part of the team which looks into religious education and engagement as well. I’m also involved in raising money to install water pumps in poor areas of Pakistan, and I volunteer and help with the Date project where you sell tins of dates to support Syria, Yemen, Palestine and loads of other places.
I've known Yasmin from the Mosque for quite a long time because she does a lot of things in the community. With the school having links with the Mosque, we sort of stay in contact through that too. And then we used to both go to Pure Gym together as well, and I took my daughters on some of the other swimming stuff she’s involved with, things that they've done with the County Council. I think she probably just saw that I was quite into fitness and I think that's probably why she thought of me. She contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in doing a course, it was a gym-based Exercise Level Two course. And I just said "yeah!”. I'm quite into fitness anyway, and I just thought it would help me and she said that once completed, maybe we could do some lessons for the community. And I thought at the same time, I will get fit, and also, our community of women will benefit.
I've been going to the gym for a long, long time now anyway, and I've always tried to incorporate it into my life. As long as I’ve had a good workout and sweat, I just feel good. I really enjoy going to the gym, I enjoy boxing, I enjoy swimming. So yeah, for me doing classes and helping others is not a chore - it's very enjoyable. If I don't exercise, I kind of get a bit depressed or feel down; you feel sluggish, you feel tired. Like the whole lockdown, obviously all the gyms were closed, so I struggled a lot with that and then obviously, like most people, I put on weight during Covid. Now everything's started to open up, I think it's given me confidence to go back and continue with it and get back to being fit and healthy again.
I think I had to enrol for the course in December or November - I can't remember at the moment because I was in between moving homes at the time. They sent me about six or seven booklets in the post and some PowerPoints. What I found quite difficult was that there wasn't any supporting lessons with them. While I was working at school, we would do Zoom lessons every day with the children. So I was used to Zoom, and I found it very strange that they didn't have that. They literally just gave me the booklets and were like, "here you go, get on with it". I think at the beginning, we had two Zoom check-ins, but no one had their cameras on, so I just ended up switching my camera off too.
I ended up doing pretty much all of my own research and then I'd go back and look through the PowerPoint just to check if what I had filled out was correct. I think because I'm in education I found it easier to do. I think if it was someone else, they would have really, really struggled to complete it by themselves with no motivation, or someone checking in. I think there was ten people on the course to start, but by the end there was only four of us.
There was a lot to know and learn by yourself with no support apart from in the Easter holidays, when we had four days of in-person lessons from 9 till 5. We had that with Dan and Dan was brilliant. He's from Activate and he had four of us who were just, like, clueless! I can imagine how stressful it was for him, and then obviously trying to get us to pass as well. I felt very, very sorry for him, but he was brilliant. You know, he helped out loads. When I failed my first anatomy exam, he sent me a list of all the areas that I failed on, which I needed to revise, so I knew what to focus my revision on. So he was very good like that. And I knew I could email him at any time. He was very helpful. But aside from those four days, I think all of us just felt like we were in over our heads with the course.
All of it was pretty interesting. Once I knew it all and I passed my exams, I was very proud. I was happy with doing the course because I wanted to learn, I wanted to do it. I didn't realise how much personal trainers or even gym instructors have to know. And then we had to do a practical exam as well, an hour lesson, where you're observed throughout the whole thing. So that was quite daunting as well. I think it was only easy for me because I've been going to the gym for so long and working out, but for someone who's never done that, they would really struggle.
I was really, really nervous doing my first class, but then once I'd delivered it, I really enjoyed it. And the ladies really enjoyed it and I got really, really good feedback. I've tried to switch it up so they don't get bored. Like I've changed the music every week. I've also changed the exercises; I've picked up on stuff that they like doing. Like at the moment they're obsessed with the plank. Yesterday I taught a spin class and afterwards they're like, "please can we do a plank!". Even though we don't even do it in spin, but they were like, "we just want to see how long we can last". So I ended up getting Yasmin to time us and I said, "right, your target is 30 seconds, but then next week we'll up it 5 to 10 seconds".
It's mainly Asian women that go to the classes, but you do get some other women as well. This is because basically Yasmin has locked off the gym as ‘ladies only’ for two days a week, so no men are allowed. A lot of Asian women don't end up going to the gym because they're not allowed to freely mix or don’t feel comfortable. The gym itself is really good, it's very clean, they've got all the weights and the cardio machines, there's different rooms as well that you could go into if you didn't want to work out in the open gym. You can tell Yasmin has added her feminine touch too! It's got like plants, lamps and candles and it smells lovely. So I think it appeals to the women who you wouldn't ever normally see going to the gym, and it's encouraging them to come forward and to exercise.
There's definitely a mix of ages at the classes, so you get a lot of teenage girls and then a lot of older women as well. Ladies who are like in their 40s or possibly a little bit older, I feel like they're just so busy in their lives. Either they're working or they're at home with kids, and they're just always doing things for their family - I don't feel like they give that time to themselves. I feel personally that going to the gym is a bit of a luxury, because it does sort of take you away from home and all the pressures and stress of home and work. And if I wasn’t at the gym I wouldn’t be at home in bed chilling or watching TV, I would just end up cleaning, cooking or ironing or washing, you just do end up doing other things constantly. And if you just have that one hour or even 45 minutes to yourself, where you're doing something for you, and something that's benefiting you rather than other people, well I just feel like a lot of them don't do that, they don't give themselves that time.
I've made friends as well which is nice! Exercise makes me happy, so it's nice that I can make other people happy through exercise as well. Unless you get into it, you start doing it regularly, you don't realise the impact it can have not just on your physical self, but your mental health as well. I feel like I don't need to sit down and talk to anyone, I just need to go to the gym and workout. I just feel like if I'm physically well, then mentally I end up feeling well as well. So I think that's another reason why the course really, really helped.