Gay men’s sexual and mental health awareness organisation Impulse London hosts a free full body workout and discussion this Sunday afternoon. Here, personal trainer and Sweat and Smile founder Taofique Folarin explains more about this unique event and how it can benefit you.
Hi Taofique, who are you and how are you involved with Impulse?
My name is Taofique but people also know me as Taz. I am an actor, writer and personal trainer amongst many other things. Some have penned me as an activist too, which is fine, however, I really just enjoy helping the community in anyway I can. I have been working for Impulse London since last year. It all began when I organised the event #BlackAndGay along with fellow member and friend Jazz Rocket. And I have recently been appointed Impulse London’s new Director of Events, which I am thrilled about. 2018 is going to be an exciting year at Impulse London.
What’s your background in health and fitness?
My earlier career was spent as a performer in the West End in shows such as Avenue Q and The Lion King. Because of the high level of fitness and discipline needed as a performer it was a natural progression for me into fitness. I have been a personal trainer and coach for over two years and I am lucky enough to work for some of the best boutique studios in London, teaching a variety of classes, from boxing conditioning to HIIT to Barre to core to strength. As a trainer I believe in education through movement. Fitness is far more than just exterior perfection; it should encompass total well being, ground up, inside to out. Which is something I implement in all my sessions.
How did the idea for the Sweat and Smile event come about?
I came up with the idea for Sweat and Smile just before Christmas 2017. I was feeling particularly low and wasn’t my usual highly motivated self. I decided to drag myself to the gym anyway. I was really astonished on this occasion as to how drastically my mood and outlook changed for the better once I had finished my workout. This got me thinking about all the others that experience particularly low days and how they too handle it. And so, with some further research, Sweat and Smile was born.
What’s the idea behind Sweat and Smile?
Many gay men suffer with depression and anxiety amongst other mental health illnesses, particularly during the winter period. Exercise and movement are great methods to relieve stress, improve memory, help you sleep better and boost your overall mood. If you’ve seen Legally Blonde than you may be familiar with “exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy”.
That said people can easily forget the many benefits of exercise other than weight loss and muscle gains. Meaning those that are suffering may be deterred from entering a gym. Sweat and Smile is about creating a safe space for those that may or may not be battling mental health issues to work out and educate them on how exercise can be beneficial. Sweat and Smile is also to help raise awareness amongst our community and be a tool to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
What can participants expect to do on the day?
A fun, stripped back 50 minute functional training session with the custom line up of strength, speed and endurance, using the state of the art rigs and runners at the luxe, urban studio space Sweat-It, where I am also a trainer. I will be taking the workout on the day and you can expect big tunes, sexy lights and sweat. There will also be a few surprises on the day.
Who are you hoping to attract to the event?
The event is open to everyone who has an interest in their own well being as well as their community’s. I hope people that may not normally attend a class or gym will attend too and find a new love for exercise and reap the many benefits.
What if someone’s never stepped foot in a gym before? Are they welcome? Will they be able to do the exercises you’ve got planned on the day?
Of course they are welcome, and if they have not exercised before that should not discourage them because we all have to start somewhere. All exercises planned have modifications to increase or decrease the intensity depending on fitness level. But most importantly it will be a very supportive and encouraging environment with only good vibes allowed. I should mention the word ‘can’t’ is banned from my class.
What do you hope participants get out of the day?
I hope participants will come and take away new tools for bettering their mental health and well being, make new friends, and gain the confidence to add exercise to their lifestyles. And, of course, to Sweat and Smile.
And finally, some practical points – if guys are going to get sweaty on the day, does the venue have shower facilities? And what should guys bring with them?
The studio Sweat-It is the newest star on the London boutique studio scene. It has very state of the art facilities, from the showers down to the gorgeous moisturisers right down to the Dyson hair dryers. And don’t get me started on the studio equipment. Towels will be provided on the day and they will definitely be needed. No need for a padlock or locker pound coin though as we do things digital at Sweat-It. This is a FREE event too. However, Sweat-It fresh smoothies will be available to purchase on the day. And don’t forget your trainers and gym wear. Other than that, just bring yourself!