When I heard about Soccercise, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had images in my mind of spending sixty minutes doing kick-ups and dribbling a ball around cones. Someone described it to me as Zumba with balls. Once I arrived, however, I found out that it was neither.
Soccercise is a high energy aerobic workout that uses footballs to make everything more challenging. Aimed at women, it is part of the 'This Girl Can' campaign launched in 2016. Conceived by Sports England, the campaign encourages women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities to take up an interest in sport.
With the help of government funding, South Mitcham Community Centre has brought Soccercise to the borough of Merton. There are two one-hour classes a week held on Wednesday (7pm-8pm) and Saturday (10am-11am) and taught by Oral Williams and Robert Harriott respectively, who are from the Dundonald Development Foundation. The first two classes are free, and although the exact price has yet to be confirmed, future classes will be no more than £2-£4. Given that most exercise classes are upwards of £7 or require an expensive gym membership, this is excellent value, and a great way to get a taster before committing, if you are unsure whether it will be for you or not.
If like me you have zero interest in football, don't worry; soccercise bears no resemblance other than the use of a ball. You will not be expected to bend it like Beckham, but there will definitely be bending involved.
Oral started Wednesday's class with some gentle exercises to get the muscles warmed up. This included lunges, high knees, speed walking, and travelling backwards, tapping balls on the ground along the way.
After that it was time to hit the floor with some mat work. I recognised many of the exercises from my pilates class, which also take place at the community centre. For example, there was the plank, squats, and leg lifts, both of which incorporated a football, and made the exercises a lot more challenging, one because of the extra weight, and two, because of the need for extra control.
Unlike pilates and aerobics, however, soccercise also involves group work. One resistance exercise involves pushing the ball towards your opponent, while in another you stand back to back and pass the ball by twisting back and forth. There is also a game of catch, which tests your coordination and concentration as the ball can come to you at any time.
Now it was time to get down to some serious cardio. Tapping a ball with alternating feet does not sound very difficult or energetic, but don't be fooled. You may start off slowly, but the speed soon increases, as does your heart rate.
And that's just for starters. Oral's next instructions were to dance around the ball without touching it. 'Oh no, you touched it, that's twenty press ups.' So down Sophia went. 'Look at her, she's actually doing it. I was only joking.'
After a while, I began panting. 'We're going until the end of the track,' Oral said. It was a seven minute song.
So throughly pooped, we returned to the mats and played a little game similar to Simon Says. On each corner of our mats were different coloured cones, and every time Oral called out a colour we had to stretch out with the ball and tap it. This was great workout for brain as well as the body.
At the end we had a brief cool down and the went into a sort of meditation, where we closed our eyes, counted down from a hundred, and just cleared our minds. We didn't want to reach zero, because that meant it was time to open our eyes again, get up, and return home.