The idea of a British women’s health collective likely conjures up images of polite ladies of a bygone era, daintily playing tennis followed by tea—not a hardcore circuit routine beloved by It girls like actress Suki Waterhouse and pop star Ellie Goulding.
And yet, show up to a gathering of the Skinny Bitch Collective (the name alone should erase any lingering doubts about the aggressiveness of this group) and you’ll find a legion of stylish women—yes, some mere mortals among the famous faces—getting seriously sweaty.
SBC, as it’s often known, has become a full-on workout craze in London, with the city’s coolest multi-hyphenates quickly becoming converts thanks to its heart-pounding circuit moves (and sharing their devotion through the artsy-edgy—not to mention ab-y—Instagram page).
And the collective’s founder, Russell Bateman, is emerging as a cult wellness leader, passing along tidbits to his well-heeled disciples. “Deep, nourishing sleep, more sex, healthy fat, naps, keep hydrated, train hard, and rest harder,” is how he explains his prescription for healthy living, before adding, “And get your [significant other] to give you a back rub whenever you can.”
Lucille Roberts, this isn’t.
The name, Bateman says, started as a joke. As a trainer, he tended to work with a lot of models in groups, which prompted an acquaintance to ask, “Got the skinny bitches today?” And thus, a cheeky name was born. “I like making people’s ears prick up—and the name is always going to get attention,” Bateman says. “I didn’t realize quite how much when it started, to be honest.”
And like most derogatory phrases, the women who swear by SBC have embraced the name as a means of empowerment, oftentimes quite literally in bras, beanies, and more emblazoned with the polarizing logo. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift (another well-known friend of models), while haters gonna hate, Bateman doesn’t stress too much about those who don’t dig the moniker. “What’s important in life is embracing those that get it and not those that don’t,” he notes.
The workout, on the other hand, is no joke. Like, at all. The Skinny Bitch Collective workout is, at its core, a killer circuit routine with ever-changing power moves galore (some of which you’ve probably never done). “No class is ever the same,” Bateman promises. “You will do things you’ve never done before, and experiencing these movement patterns is integral to breaking out of your comfort zone.” Hence the occasional blindfolds.
Even classic moves, explains Aiysha—a Londoner in her mid-twenties who has been working out with Bateman for years—have a twist: “You can expect burpees with a 180 squat turn,” she says, or “upside-down mountain climbers” with your feel up the wall or support beam.
And like all good 21st century workouts, it’s huge on Instagram. The SBC page is full of photos and videos of women doing the workouts, and while they aren’t all Vogue alums, they certainly look like they could be. And the inspirational/aspirational power of Instagram is something that Bateman takes seriously.
“I’ll shoot a video of my class, then I’ll edit it, make it emotionally laden, [and] raw,” he explains. It helps when you’ve got friends in high places—or, at least, clients with their own massive followings. “If I film Ellie, she will post to over seven million people, so it’s my responsibility to make something visual and inspiring,” adds Bateman.
But at the end of the day, there is something almost primal about SBC. Ballet Beautiful (another model favorite) or ModelFit, this isn’t. As Aiyasha says, who’s had to carry her sweaty classmates on her back, “we move in animalistic, primitive ways, crawling, jumping, climbing. I personally like to think of it as a cave girl sorority.”
Bateman puts it even more plainly: “It’s built to make a girl leave the session leaner, stronger—and make them feel like they just had an orgasm.” Perhaps that’s a metaphor for the fitness rapture of having (astoundingly, proudly) survived a series of these high-intensity workouts…
Want to form a fitness crew of likeminded women? Here’s how one workout-lover created a posse...
For more information, visit thesbcollective.com
(Photos: Skinny Bitch Collective/Facebook)