Forget ‘how to’ business books, any team manager wanting to motivate their staff could learn a thing or two from Faye Edwards, group exercise manager at Thames side super gym Third Space.
It is a grey evening and twenty or so office workers have made it through the first day of the week to the gym’s riverside exercise studio. They discard any thoughts of project plans and to do lists as Edwards lets out a rallying cry. “Haaaaaaappy,” she yells, as she cranks up the soca music, “Mondaaaay,” they cheer in reply, completing a weekly ritual that lets them know their time has begun.
“Your first space is your home, your second space is work, and your third space is here,” says Edwards a 5’2 powerhouse who can outlift most men, “The Happy Monday thing is my cheesy way of saying let’s start the week as we mean to go on.”
The Monday class is F.I.T. Jam, a concept designed by Edwards that has won celebrity following from Davina McCall and Dame Kelly Holmes. It is a high energy dance fitness workout to music including dancehall, soca, and house, with moves worthy of a Beyoncé video.
Sounds fun for those with natural rhythm, but what about those who flail around at the back of the class? Her answer is where people managers should take note.
“You’ve got to read people. Everyone is a different learner, some are visual and some like to listen. I’ve had people that struggle with co-ordination, so I break it down into verbal and visual cues, count it through at a slower tempo, then build. I’ve not had one person who hasn’t got it.”
Third Space, a cavernous 28,000 sq ft exercise space next to City Hall, feels more like a funky boutique hotel than a gym. Concierge staff greet guests, and walls are decorated with pop art and kitsch ornaments. A wall of interactive LED lights on the stairs follows guests as they descend, one of several touches designed to help the mental transition from work to workout. Changing rooms come, of course, well stocked with products from luxury cosmetics brand Cowshed.
On the gym floor a dozen City workers pound treadmills wearing brightly lit headphones on which they take instruction for Speed Fiends - a class designed in collaboration with an Olympic sprinter to increase speed and power. Elsewhere, there is a yoga studio lined with juniper logs, a 25m pool surrounded by glowing green glass, indoor cycle studios, a bespoke training rig and mini sprint track.
“Your first space is your home, your second space is work, and your third space is here”
It is Edwards’s job to keep the gym’s 3000 members, 70 instructors and 193 weekly classes in shape. She also has to keep abreast of latest exercise trends, teach her own classes and tailor the workout programme to members’ needs, which differ between Third Space’s five London locations. At Third Space Tower Bridge, there is a demand for yoga and high intensity interval training.
Edwards was a youth worker when she got scouted by a fitness instructor in a Zumba class seven years ago. This background has given her a good understanding of people as evidenced by the thank you cards and flowers that line her office.
“These are from a member who is in her mid-50’s with a stressful job,” she says pointing to a bouquet, “She was really low, and needed a lot of guidance as to what the different classes mean. The whole team supported her and she gave up smoking and drinking. A year on she is completely transformed. It is really inspiring.”
Inspiration works two ways, a scroll through of clips of Edward’s high octane classes on YouTube is enough to make anyone sign up. One thing you will never find in her classes though, is a clique.
“If you don't want any engagement then do one to one personal training. If you’re in a class, we’re here as a team. I encourage people to share and get them into good habits. If I’m teaching squats with a heavy bar and someone is struggling, I can help them clear the bar, but if there’s someone else that can do it I’ll encourage them.”
It is wisdom from which any team manager could learn. Why not swap a bit of team building for body building?
Explore the neighbourhood – Edwards' guide
The Scoop, More London, SE1 2DB
This is the amphitheatre between Third Space and City Hall. It has free theatre, festivals and films. In the summer we do free outdoor workouts there.
Leon, Pret a Manger and Itsu (various locations SE1)
This area has very good healthy food shops that get all my wages! A typical lunch will be soup from Pret a Manger, Leon’s chargrilled chicken and brown rice, or an Itsu salmon dish.
Gaucho Tower Bridge, More London, SE1 2AP
We go to this Argentinian steak restaurant for our staff outings.
Third Space Tower Bridge, 2b More London Riverside, London, SE1 2AP