Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Friday, 6 May 2016

Sober Is The New Drunk And Exercise Is The New Clubbing

Sober Is The New Drunk And Exercise Is The New Clubbing

The Debrief: How our gym classes took over our social lives

On a Saturday morning in millennial Hackney, East London a group of mates are hanging out. What are they up to? Going for a boozy brunch, simultaneously ordering almond milk lattes and mimosas? Crossing paths on the way home on this morning after the night before? Huddling together on a creaky sofa in someone’s shared flat and watching reruns of Friends?



No, none of the above. They’re going to an exercise class which goes by the name ‘Booty Camp’ in London Fields. Clad in gym gear, they’ll grab brunch afterwards and catch up, which will consist of gossip, rye bread and milk substitutes. Sober is the new drunk and exercise is the new clubbing well, actually, it’s not, but you see where I’m going with this.

Farewell ‘Booze Britain’?

There’s probably also something to be said for millennials and our awareness of mindfulness, wellbeing and an increased interest in our general health. Interestingly, despite the fact that we millennials face incredibly tough economic times we aren’t turning to booze and drugs to distract ourselves. We drink less, smoke less and do fewer drugs than the generations who went before us. One recent study found that moderate alcohol consumption is cool as far as millennials are consumed. Nightclubs up and down the country are closing, while new ‘fun’ workout classes and fitness studios seem to spring up all the time.

Indeed, despite the fact that we are, relatively speaking, poorer than our generational forbears, we still find both time and dollar to exercise. Goldman Sachs recently wrote a report about how millennials are shaping the economy, they found that we ‘exercise more, eat smarter and smoke less than previous generations.’ According to them this is to do with our online life as digital natives, we’re ‘using apps to track training data’ and ‘find the healthiest foods.’ They also found that exercise and fitness is the one arena where this generation are prepared to spend money.

Cycle for your soul

It wasn’t always like this. The gym was once effectively punishment. It was a pernicious place, you went there alone and did your time in silence, save for headphones plugged in while you stepped, up and down, on the stepping machine, ran and ran, on the treadmill, or rowed, rowed rowed your boat…fiercely down a non-existent stream. All of the equipment at the gym felt like embarking upon some kind of existential crisis-inducing road to nowhere - a metaphor for post-modern life in the digital age.

In recent years things have, thankfully, changed. Thanks, perhaps, in part to the rise of social media, Instagram fitness bloggers and hashtagging specifically, as well as the gentle permeation of our culture by Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle LA-style, community-based workouts, we are no longer restricted to solitary soulless silent exercising. If the figures are to be believed we’re exercising more than ever before and doing it with our mates. Exercise and socialising have come together in a cost and time effective way to make what the fitness industry has termed ‘athleisure’.

Athleisure and Exersocialising

A quick whip around The Debrief office confirms that we do work out with our mates for a variety of reasons. One being time, it’s a good way to make sure you do some exercise but also manage to see your friends. Another being that you’re less likely to bail or flake out on exercise if someone else is involved.

Editor, Rebecca says:

‘My friend spent ages talking me into doing this class with her. In then end I went along and now I do it with her every week. It’s my one chance to see her all week because were both really busy and even if we don’t get to chat its really nice to hang out for an hour.’

‘We often do it pre-Friday night drinks, or we do it on a Sunday morning and go for brunch afterwards, it’s an excuse to meet up.’

‘I used to just go to the gym on my own – it makes it a social thing – there is a slight competition element but it feels like leisure time as opposed to something I have to do.’

Features and Beauty Writer, Chemmie says:

‘I’d always rather go with someone else because it encourages you to go – if you’ve organized to go with them you’re less likely to back out than if it’s just you.’

‘I think the fitness thing has exploded – we’re more aware of health and how we look (probs social media lolz), maybe it’s the one thing we feel we can control and work towards in a climate where everything else is so uncertain? Plus, there’s kudos in it – others respect people who take care of their health and appearance (again for the social media ops too).’

‘There are so many group exercise classes to choose from now. It’s all about seeing new places/doing new things/meeting new people – class pass lets you go to classes in all different gyms so there’s always variety. Also clubbing/partying has literally fused with exercise in terms of morning raves/Groove Cycle/exercising in dark rooms with neon lights.’

To prove the point even further, yesterday morning Chemmie and Social Media Editor, Alyss, were discussing doing a marathon in our morning meeting. Within ten minutes they’d both entered the ballot to run the London marathon next year and are now planning to train together.

In fact, there are some friends who I only see when we workout these days. We know we’ll both turn up, it feels productive and we can hang out afterwards.

Better Together

According to researchers at Kansas State University you’ll work out for up to 200% longer if you’re doing it with someone who you think is better than you at it, if there’s a competition element. They also say that you’re more likely to prioritise exercising if you don’t want to miss out on the group activity. Another study found that gym-goers benefit from social interaction. Dr Toben Nelson, ScD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, found that there was a clear link between exercise, socialising and mental health.



Sapan Seghal, owner of London Fields Fitness and host of Booty Camp, has worked in the fitness industry for over 10 years and says the change in the way we workout is palpable.

‘There is a growing group exercise trend now. Instead of going out to bars and clubs people are spending more time in gyms. It follows that if you spend more of your life there and you’ll want more of a social interaction. People like to have a social element as part of what they do.’

He thinks social media and awareness play a part because ‘we’re more health conscious’. ‘It’s become a lifestyle thing’, he says, ‘people want to have a nice cup of coffee, go to a class and enjoy their time while they do it. People used to train before because they felt like they needed to but now they want to do it and they want to enjoy it.’

‘Exercise can be quite lonely so we try to make it a fun and sociable thing, encourage people to talk to each other. Booty Camp is fun, I tell bad jokes and there’s lots of partner work’ he says. ‘It makes me really happy to see people coming together. Booty Camp has become a community where friendships are born.’

Caroline Dean, a ‘mind and body connector’ who specialises in yoga and Pilates agrees. ‘It’s not actually a new thing –group classes have been around in some form for years, from the 1980s with aerobics classes. That said, there’s definitely been a gradual rise over the last few years where women don’t want to go to a gym, so what’s happening now is a new breed of class. There’s something for everyone. We’ve seen the rise of more personalised studios and classes. For so many years commercial gyms dominated the market but in the last 5-10 years things have changed.’

She’s currently working on something called Yoga Happy Hour because, she says, she felt ‘wellness and fitness had become a bit too serious. With yoga, for instance, there are lots of pictures on Instagram of people standing on their head and being super flexible. A lot of people came to me and said they felt excluded – like they couldn’t be a yogi. So I wanted to make fitness fun again by making it a social connecting event, where people can come and try and give it a go.’ 

Like this? You might also be interested in:

How To Get Fit Doing Just 10 Minutes Of Exercise A Day

The Home Workout That Will Actually Get You Fit

5 Fitness Classes To Try When You're Bored Of Yoga

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

Tags: Friends