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Many of us may have slipped a little with our exercise routine this year and that’s okay – 2020 is definitely out of the ordinary. But how do you get back into exercise after a long break? We asked the experts, owner Shirley Sun, at Chatswood’s Leap Health and Wellbeing, and resident Exercise Physiologist Eliza MacDonald.

When did Leap Health and Wellbeing open in Chatswood?
Shirley: “Leap opened in Feb 2018. When I moved back to Sydney after several years in Melbourne, I struggled to find a quality studio in the north shore that had everything I enjoyed: Reformer Pilates, Functional Training (cardio + strength training), and Yoga. Most of the studios did just the one thing and that was it. I was paying multiple memberships and travelling to multiple places just so I could do everything, and I thought there has to be a better way!”

What was the intention behind opening the business?
Shirley: “I experienced first-hand the benefit of a varied and holistic exercise program on my wellbeing. When I worked as a Finance Manager in large corporates, I made a point to finish work at 4:30pm every day so I could make it to my favourite Pilates/Yoga/Functional Training class.
To me, that was how I recharged my batteries every day, so I could be my best physically and mentally. My daily class was like therapy to me, and it helped me perform better at work, have more energy, and be a better person inside and out. I wanted to share this with more people. Statistics show that only 20-25% of Australians get enough exercise each week. This figure could be so much higher, and more of us could experience the joy and the transformative benefits of exercise. So I decided to quit my corporate career and open up a fitness studio that offered all of these wonderful exercise classes.”

What does Leap offer?
Shirley “Leap offers a variety of small group exercise classes that when combined together give you a complete exercise program taking good care of your long-term health and wellbeing. The idea is by doing a couple of class from each category, you’ll meet your exercise requirement for the week without feeling bored or overwhelming your body. We’re especially helpful for people just starting to exercise because we don’t throw you into the deep-end and hope for the best. Many of our members came to us as absolute newbies, and we trained them from the ground up, meeting them where they were at.”

What else does Leap offer that’s different?

Shirley: “Care – We get to know each one of our members, so you aren’t treated like a number. We greet you by name every time you come in, we make sure to adapt the exercises for you, and we celebrate every one of your milestones. We have a Leap Champions wall at the studio which acknowledges our members’ efforts in achieve their monumental visits, like 50, 100, 250, and 500! Yep, some of our members have done 500 classes since joining.


Guidance – All our instructors have years of teaching experience, so you benefit from their knowledge about movements that are the best for you. On our team, we have accredited Exercise Physiologists, accredited Exercise Scientists, and Pilates instructors who train other instructors. And
they all share one thing in common – unrivalled passion for movement and genuine care for our members.

Knowledge – When I used to go to fitness classes at big-box gyms, I did most exercises wrong and no one was there to show me the right way of doing them. This resulted in a knee injury. At the Leap studio, we don’t want our members to mindlessly mimic the movements – that won’t help you in the long-run, we want to show you the correct technique and which part of the body should be doing the work, so you can take good movement with you for the rest of your life. We’re also vocal about holistic wellbeing – exercise is one part of a healthy lifestyle, but so are
nutrition, sleep, mental health, and even how happy you are with your career and life in general. So we hold fortnightly health and wellbeing webinars, and we invite experts in each of these fields to share their tips and tools to help our members live a fuller life.”

Many of us have taken a little time off from our usual exercise routines due to restrictions and COVID craziness this year. What’s the best way to kick-start an exercise program again?
Eliza: “It has been a tough year, but getting back into exercising regularly is one of the best ways you can look after your physical and mental health – so start by giving yourself a pat on the back and remember that after months couch time, any exercise is better than none. Start slow, incorporating more movement into your day by taking the stairs or arranging to catch up with a friend on a walk. From there, scheduling structured exercise into your weekly routine in advance can be helpful. Tuning in to that virtual class on Tuesday at lunchtime will quickly become normal if you make a habit of setting that time aside. Plus, you have the added benefit of an instructor to guide your safe and sustainable return to exercise.”

Is it different for men and women, young and old? 
Eliza: “The importance of exercise doesn’t change based on your age or gender – everyone can benefit from moving more. However, your exercise program might look different depending on your stage of life or your health and fitness goals. Think about what it is you want to achieve by exercising, and the types of exercise that are realistic and enjoyable for you at the moment. Use these to guide your exercise plan.
If you are unsure where to start, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or exercise instructor will be able to help you design an effective exercise program that is appropriate for you.”

What’s the best way to stay motivated after returning to exercise?
Eliza: “Find a way to exercise that you enjoy! Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and it’s much easier to stay motivated if you look forward to moving your body. If enjoying exercise is out of the question for you, try and find a context in which you feel able to get it done. This could be going to your favourite outdoor space to walk, scheduling a group fitness class to attend with your friends, or promising yourself a coffee date once you’ve finished! Setting goals for your exercise can also be motivating. Rather than focusing on elusive lifetime goals (I’m looking at you, marathon!), come up with some super-realistic daily or weekly goals – being able to achieve these each week is motivating and will keep you on track to meeting those longer-term goals.”

How often should we all be exercising and why?
Shirley: “To stay fit and healthy, the Australian Department of Health recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise, as well as muscle strengthening exercise every week. Moderate intensity exercise means you can talk while doing the exercise. Vigorous intensity exercise means you are unable to talk while doing them. Muscle strengthening exercise involves weight-
bearing training (body weight or free weights), and resistance training. This combined with good nutrition ensures long-term health (lowered risk of chronic health issues e.g. heart diseases, diabetes), and mobility.”

What would the perfect exercise regime for a week look like?
Eliza: “The perfect weekly exercise regime is the one that you do – Exercise programs are only as good as their completion. Since no two people share the same health and fitness goals, the ideal exercise program is going to look a little bit different for everyone. In general, 150 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you huffing and puffing (moderate intensity aerobic exercise), as well as 2-3 sessions of strengthening exercises (resistance training) per week is a great target to work towards. Exercises that challenge your balance, coordination, and joint mobility are important as well. Don’t worry if this is not achievable for you at the moment – any exercise is better than none, so start with what you can do and build up towards meeting these guidelines. The key is to slowly build it up.”

Leap Health and Wellbeing offers Reformers Pilates, Yoga, Functional Training and Barre. Can you give us a quick rundown on each of these and who they’re appropriate for.
Shirley: “The best way to explain this is through our 4 Pillars of Exercise

The 4 Pillars represent the 4 groups of exercise that our body needs – cardiovascular training for healthy heart and lungs, strength training for strong muscles and bones (core strength falling under this group), balance for well…staying upright and proprioception, flexibility for free movements. As you can see, variety is key when it comes to exercise. This is precisely why Leap offers the mix of classes that we do.

Functional Training is great for cardio fitness and strength. Reformer Pilates is great for strength, particularly core strength. Yoga is amazing for flexibility, mobility, and balance. Barre is great for cardio, strength, and balance.”

Leap Health and Wellbeing also now livestreams fitness classes. What does that entail and how is it going?
Shirley: “LIVE STREAM classes means you can now bring the studio home! It’s easy to join, camera on or off – you choose, roll out a mat, use everyday items as exercise equipment (e.g. can foods as hand weights). We make a point to get to know all our members, whether you join us in-studio or online, so we can tailor exercises to you. If someone comes to class with an injury, we make sure to give them something else so they can keep moving despite of injuries.

We also have a huge online exercise library containing over 200 full-length classes that you can do in your own time, or pop into the studio outside group classes and follow a class in your own time. We offer all these services because we know flexibility means you’re more likely to fit exercise into your busy life.”

Is there anything else our community should keep in mind after taking a break from exercise and wanting to return? 
Eliza: “It is important to keep in mind that after a long period away from exercise, your strength and fitness may have changed – you may not be able to perform at your pre-COVID capacity straight away. To return to this level safely and sustainably, start with workouts that are less frequent, less intense, or shorter in duration than those you were completing before your time off.”

Shirley: “To assist, we’d love to offer a FREE copy of our Beginners’ Guide to Exercise for Real Results to the community. It’s packed full of helpful tips and insights on getting you started with exercise – things to watch out for to avoid the pitfalls, and how to make it sustainable so you don’t quit after just a couple of weeks. Click here to download: https://leaphealthandwellbeing.com.au/beginners-exercise-guide/


Leap Health and Wellbeing

Ground Floor, Tower A, 799 Pacific Highway (corner, Thomas St, Chatswood

Ph: (02) 8034 1886

Website: https://leaphealthandwellbeing.com.au/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leaphealthandwellbeing/