It's British Week right now on ITG. Why? Well, why not! But also to celebrate the UK launch of Glossier. Consider this a warm, editorial welcome to all our new friends over in Blighty. Starting with Victoria Beckham, we'll be sharing stories from our favorite Brits—plus a few discoveries we've made ourselves. Stay tuned... Cheerio!
I was in contact with Russell Bateman for about two years or so before I actually trained with him. Scheduling conflicts, distance, injuries I'd made could be to blame for this, but in reality it was because I was scared. The first I'd heard of Russell came from my London-based booker when I asked for a workout recommendation while I was in town. She showed me a photo of one of her model’s (six) abs and explained that they had appeared soon after she started taking his class. Maybe you've heard of it? It's called Skinny Bitch Collective (a seemingly unpalatable name, but it’s good-humored). “SBC” for short.
I immediately looked up his Instagram, as one does. It's full of workout videos—obviously—but not your run-of-the-mill model in the gym, lifting and lowering her leg three inches 30x. There are videos of girls jumping explosively, punching each other in the stomach, fighting each other with blades, crawling on the floor like leopards, making very intense eye contact while undulating their hips, riding each other on piggyback, and conga-lining around the studio with resistance bands. This terrified me. And I work out pretty much every day! I'm pretty fit! Out of intrigue, I followed his account, but any time Russell and I were in the same city, I would always cop-out of a class.
Until he set up a residency at Project by Equinox in New York City, just a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Too close for excuses. Before our first class together, I took a preparatory hit of my Albuterol inhaler and summoned a positive attitude. Now, I should say—Russell is really nice online. When we talk on Instagram, he's great. Yet! I assumed that the person who created the Skinny Bitch Collective must be intimidating in person. This was a miscalculation. He’s English, which means he is automatically charming, for one. When I told him that I was terrified, he immediately put me at ease. Fear was a good thing, he cooed. "You'll be fine."
Now, no disrespect to Russell, but all my concerns were very quickly realized. No, I was not "fine." This shit was hard. First things first, we had to drag ourselves in plank position across the floor. Then turn around and go back the other way. Done properly, it looks like you're Superman. Done like me and it sort of makes you feel like one of those dogs who has their hind legs attached to a wheelchair. But sweatier.
Over the next hour we also did ropes, jump squats, pull-ups, some crazy plank variations, and other things that made me yell “Fuck!” a lot. All this while Russell filmed me on his iPhone. As annoying as it was, having someone in your face with a camera is a pretty motivating force to work out harder. You don’t want to look like a lazy out-of-shape asshole on the internet.
I left Russell's class shaky and exhausted. But I also wanted more—as soon as I wasn’t cripplingly sore. Russell himself is a genuinely caring person interested in helping others feel optimally healthy and happy. He's also not creepy. Both are things I cannot say about all trainers. And, inexplicably, both are things that have me plank-crawling back to the studio whenever he's in town.
Photo via the author.