A SPRING iN MY STEP
We are at the start of a new season, and it occurs to me that I might just be a seasonal change junky! I look forward to each of the seasons for varied reasons, not least because by the time that the new season arrives, I am tired of the last one. I enjoy the letting go and embracing something new and, of course, my psyche gobbles this up like a grizzly bear just emerging from its slumber. It hasn’t been a bad winter here, but I admit to particularly loving Botswana’s spring; as Charles Dickens wrote “Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade” – and that captures the perfect weather that spring is here – not too hot not too cold. Even more, spring is about life! It is the promise that everything can grow again (or disappear like my waistline).
Don’t you feel a stirring in your loins? Maybe it feels like you have been lying on your couch the whole winter, eating far too much comfort food and hibernating like a bear yourself? If it does, then here is your wake-up call. If you are anything like me during the winter my exercise programme tends to take a knock. I find it hard to get out of bed when it is dark and cold outside and there are too many fabricated reasons not to wake up to ten reps of bench presses, squats and crunches, and instead hit that snooze button once too often. Once spring comes however, I notice more bounce in my step partly because of the change in temperature and the tightening of my clothes and it is not just coincidence. Warmer days have a direct influence on mood and behaviour, as proven in a 2004 University of Michigan study which found people who spent at least 30 minutes outside in pleasant weather — either by taking a trip to warmer climates in the winter months or by taking advantage of a newly warm spring day in the park – had happier moods. And in corroborating research, a 2014 UM study found that being outside could lead to a better mindset and reduced stress.
For me I just feel rejuvenated, like being born again, certainly from a sports perspective at least. I have become a ‘cross fitter’ which is the name given to someone who does a strength, conditioning, and overall fitness programme, consisting of a mix of aerobic exercise, bodyweight exercises and weightlifting. CrossFit describes it as “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains, developing fitness in the ten components of physical fitness: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy. In other words – a workout and a half: But to be honest it is not only the methodology which draws me but the cross fit ethos.
“Simon Sinek said “Imagine if you went to one of your friends and said: ‘how would you like me to dress so you would like me better? … how would you like me to speak so you will like me more?’… and your friend will tell you, ‘Just be yourself. That is what I like about you.”
That kind of sums up the CrossFit Ethos – unpretentious and real. This ethos that did not come from the methodology. It was born authentically out of what CrossFit does and its authentic values – results, personal responsibility and accountability, belonging, humility, camaraderie, service, integrity and excellence, work ethic and discipline, resilience and grit, humility, and virtuosity.
It feels unpretentious from the minute you walk in, as if you are entering a warehouse rather than a 21st century gym. No glitz, no glamour as in a CrossFit class (called a box), there are no mirrors, TV screens, or cell phones, and even floors and walls are part of the workout. There are social rules like leave your ego at the door, show real respect, do not wear headphones, connect with others – to say it is a way of gym life different from my experience is not an understatement. The programme is built on the coached workout. This is not your typical “follow along and face the instructor” as everyone only watches themselves in a wall full of mirrors. The coach briefs the workout, instructs the movements, and then coaches the class to ensure everyone is moving well, using the right loading, and pushing themselves appropriately. The coach is coaching in a way that is much more akin to the sports coach than the fitness instructor – they will make a point of knowing your name if it is your first time and then remembering it and using it often: And class participants are much more like team-mates at practice than automatons imitating an instructor in aerobics or cycling class.
Everyone in the WOD (the class which uses the acronym WOD for Work Out of the Day) greets you, which may vary depending on the gym (at my local it is a fist pump, at another that I sometimes frequent it is a double slap of the palms). This show of respect and camaraderie is expected. People joke that CrossFit is a cult, which it certainly is not but the community aspect of it is really strong.
Just as life has its own phases of happiness, sadness, ups and downs, what I do for exercise and wellbeing changes. Just like each season change and gives way to a new season with hope that our life will change and nothing is stagnant in life.
I have a new home, in a box, but not for hibernating; well, for a season at least!