Total Warrior: Clare Smith’s endurance battle week 7

Clare Smith on her Total Warrior training in Holyrood Park. Pic: Scott Taylor
Clare Smith on her Total Warrior training in Holyrood Park. Pic: Scott Taylor
Have your say

“Don’t be late, it starts at 7.20pm,” my friend Rachael said. Really it started at 7.30, but she knows me well. I’m about to embark on my first callanetics class.

I’m not one for classes really, but I resolved prior to the Total Warrior challenge that I’d try to accept all invites to join others in their exercise of choice. Cross-training, I am told.

So that’s how I find myself with Craiglea Drive, Morningside, on the sat nav.

As I approach, I realise the studio is next door to LA Hair Solutions. It’s two years ago to the day that I last parked on this street. Back then I was going to be fitted for a wig following my first chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Back then my friend Natalie and I giggled our way through a surreal and truly depressing appointment where every wig I tried made me look like a newsreader from the 1980s. In the end I didn’t bother with the wig and braved it bald.

The scars of breast cancer are still fresh. Physically, my stomach is often still uncomfortable following the surgery last January, the side effects of Tamoxifen continue to surprise and delight and my lungs are still suffering post-radiotherapy.

Mentally, though, it seems unreal, like it must have been some big mistake. It’s strange to think that within just 12 months I was diagnosed, treated, operated on and back on my feet. And now about to undertake Total Warrior.

So two years on, with a full head 
of hair, I find myself back on the 
same street but for a much happier 
occasion, giggling through another 
new experience.

I’m met by Karin Mackenzie, owner and founder of Edinburgh Callanetics. Although I am a complete novice, I was still surprised to find a colleague thought callanetics was the art of ‘fancy writing’. Karin’s well versed in explaining what it’s all about.

“Callanetics works by isolating muscle groups and using tiny, precise movements which tighten and reshape your body,” she explains. “It’s great for increasing strength, flexibility and body alignment.”

Karin, above right, left Fife when she was 17 to train at the Edinburgh Academy of Ballet. She looks amazing – healthy, fit, happy. Not only successful in her chosen field, but a successful business owner too. I’m inspired.

She continues: “I’ve taught top-flight footballers, rugby players, marathon runners over the years. They’re clearly all exceptional athletes but even they find their first few sessions of callanetics challenging. But all come back for more as they appreciate the benefits of strengthening core muscles that their day-to-day training doesn’t reach.”

I mention I’m a ‘warrior in training’ but suffering from a painful Achilles so trying to take it easy for 14 days. She’s familiar with the challenge. “Callanetics will of course help your preparation for an extreme race like that. And you’re doing the right thing by staying active and strengthening other muscles whilst resting your Achilles.”

The class starts. It’s tough. I’m concentrating on tightening pelvic floor whilst doing small sit-up pulses. I’m trying to keep a straight back whilst waggling my leg an inch. I get to use a ballet bar and try to bend my legs a fraction about 50 times. It’s the sort of exercise that’s doable but you know will hurt like hell the next morning. My friend Rachael is a pro, I try to copy her but I can’t keep up. I’m defeated after about 15 seconds. It’s tough but not exhausting in the same way as running up a hill is. It’s definitely the sort of thing that you’d get more from as the weeks pass.

And I’m rubbish at it. But it’s a lovely environment, I don’t feel silly or intimidated. Everyone is supportive and tells tales of their first time. The hour passes unbelievably quickly. And to my surprise this latest part of cross-training hasn’t made me cross at all. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll be back.