Realising Why Health Matters

When training is part of your job, it takes priority on a daily basis. What gives us the ability to train is our bodies. If our bodies aren’t working then we can’t train. This sounds like an obvious concept, but it’s not something I focus on or think about. I take the time to appreciate that I can train, but I take my body for granted. I’m used to waking up every day knowing that at some point I’ll be moving around. I had forgotten what it feels like when this isn’t an option, and you no longer have the choice to even get out of bed because your body won’t let you. I had forgotten what it feels like to be sick.

I’ve been injured in the past and this has put certain things on hold. But an injury doesn’t cause you to stop training. Physical injuries can often be worked around. If you sprain something, break something or bruise something you can still move other parts of your body. Even if you’re rehabbing damaged areas, you still have the ability to move your body and be active.

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago, not feeling great, but I assumed I was tired from the previous days training. I fell asleep until lunchtime and once I’d woken up that was it. I threw up, and through the day anything I tried to eat just came back up. My head was fuzzy, my limbs felt numb, and when I wasn’t kneeling with my head over the toilet I was lying in bed. I wasn’t able to concentrate on work. Walking up and down the stairs became hard work as my energy levels dropped.

Injury or illness is often a sign to slow down. But who wants to slow down when they can keep pushing and keep achieving? Maybe because you’re supposed to be an example of health, maybe because you don’t want to lose gains. But sometimes you’re forced to. So after two days I finally gave in and accepted I was sick and stayed in bed.

The frustration of not being able to train when that’s what you do is not a comfortable or desired feeling. It’s one of the best parts of my day. But I realised it wasn’t going to happen for a while longer so I let it go. The frustration and discomfort of not being able to eat was what really got to me. Something that is so natural, and necessary for day to day function wasn’t possible. Despite barely doing anything over a couple of days I started losing weight, which you never want because that means your strength is being flushed down the toilet along with your vomit.

Unhelpful thoughts entered my head. I’m missing the sunshine and being out in the fresh air (sunshine in England is precious). I’m missing out on spending time with my friends. I’m wasting time that I could be spending doing useful things. Im wasting time doing nothing and not having fun. I’m being lazy. Except I wasn’t being lazy, I simply needed some rest.

When you take a step back and look at the situation, you have to focus on a different priority. Being healthy. Taking the time to build back up, not being impatient, and actually having a bit of self compassion. Give yourself a break. Take it one step at a time, like the stairs that feel so hard to climb just to go and get a drink from the kitchen, but it’s worth it when you get back upstairs and can fall back into bed.

It’s ridiculous how much I take for granted. I feel frustrated when I have a bad day training, but that’s a stupid attitude because at least it’s a day of being able to move around and use my body. Training seems far less important when you can’t even keep food down. Once I was able to start eating again it felt like a luxury. The simplest things like drinking a black coffee, being able to chew solid food, and waking up with the energy to get out of bed, felt magical. Like sunshine and unicorns. I could get back to work. I could go out for a walk. I didn’t need 20 hours of sleep a day. This was what I was grateful for before I even considered going and smashing out some training.

Eventually, ever so slowly, I was able to train again. I did not think “first session back, time for squats and deadlifts followed by sprints in a weight vest to finish up with!!!”. Not that that’s my usual training. I did some stretching, some locomotion and practiced handstands. I stopped before I felt tired and then went home.

Regardless of any gains you lose or how much being unwell sets you back, it brings you back to reality. You realise you aren’t invincible, and you can’t always “push through it”. You become more considerate of what you’re training, plan your sessions out more thoroughly to help get you back to where you were, and perhaps even reassess your goals. As a result you come back stronger. Don’t forget that strength comes from health. Health is the foundation for everything you do. Eat well, sleep well, take time out to relax, and then be grateful for all the handstands, all the pull ups, and all the weights you lift.

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Finding Your Community

One of the amazing things about our world of fitness and movement is the community that’s been created. Community is simply people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests. We love to move, we want to find others who love the same, so we find a way to reach out and unite. There are friendships and connections that wouldn’t have been built without the passion shared for working towards the same goal. The strong support system that’s evolved to help one another become the best version of ourselves.

Communities come in all shapes and sizes. They range from small individual gyms which form a family dynamic, to global networks including people from all over the world. So how can being part of a community be a benefit?

If you’re a newcomer to training and are unsure of where to start, then finding other people with a similar goal is a great way to keep motivated and inspired. We’ve all experienced the initial excitement of starting a programme or joining a gym, and then a couple of weeks in momentum is lost, and it’s hard to get back in to the swing of things. We aren’t all able to self motivate, and a lot of us don’t want to hide away training alone. Finding a community that you feel you fit in to, and that fits your needs, can make such a difference. Let’s look at some of the movement and training communities out there.

The Gym Community.

Whether it’s a Crossfit gym, a Parkour gym, or a Globo gym, you get to know the familiar faces. Members become friends. Even as a coach, it’s impossible not to form friendships, and I consider my gym a family. This has been built by the coaches putting effort into teaching, the students wanting to learn, and taking the time to show an interest in one another. Many people join gyms for the social aspect and to meet new people. These are tiny groups full of love and support.

The Online Community.

This is how connections with people we’ve never even met develop. GMB’s online community is Alpha Posse. It’s a place for like minded people who enjoy moving and training, and is so welcoming to anyone and everyone. Being part of AP gives you access to programmes and resources, you can create a training log and share your training, ask questions, and generally have fun. The GMB Trainers are there for support and advice. One of the most important things is that there’s no judgement. And what’s really special about Alpha Posse is the relationships that have been created through the ability to share and interact with one another in such an encouraging, motivating and safe space.

The Social Media Community.

This is the medium in which the biggest community has been created. We all know social media can have a negative impact on people. It’s easy to compare yourself to others. You see some cool movement or a skill that you’re unable to do, or something better than what you’re capable of, and it can knock your confidence. You might feel reluctant to share your training. But I’d encourage you to share. On the flip side, challenges are set, games are played, and it becomes all about the fun. People can get involved and challenge one another to create movement practices and develop them beyond what they thought was possible. Instagram, for example, is a fantastic tool for this. Without social media we wouldn’t have so many people to share what we love with and constantly inspire.

The Trainer Community.

Trainers are a community within themselves, and if you ever feel becoming a Trainer is something you want to pursue then you’ll naturally become part of this. If you already are a Trainer and new to teaching, then just like someone new to training, a good support system is important. As a GMB Trainer I’m part of a group of people who want to help one another become better at what they do as their occupation. We have an online forum for interacting with one another since we’re based all over the world. A huge aspect of our community is communication and sharing. Teaching ideas and tips, making suggestions for improvements on how to coach specific movements, or sharing helpful cues. Our job is to help and guide people, and that starts from guiding one another as Trainers.

When it comes to fitness, getting started can be the hardest part. We never know exactly what’s right for us until we try it, and this applies to training. But sometimes it’s just about having the right people around us. A little bit of guidance and reassurance that we’re on track. And like I said before, finding what fits.

Looking at the bigger picture, although we train for ourselves, we’re one of so many people who are working towards the same goal. Being part of this amazing community of movement, fitness, whatever you want to call it, is something to be proud of. Make the most of everyone around you, whether it’s your student, your training partner, or your friend on the other side of the world. We need to utilise our communities to continue becoming better and better at training, and at life.

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