Finding My Tribe

The last 8 years I have been on a mission to improve and maintain my fitness. I am now fitter than I have ever been before and have just turned 47yrs old. What I have achieved in the last 5 years is mainly down to one factor – finding my tribe. For me this was in a gym class and I want to share with you how I found it and why it has made such a difference to me.

The crazy thing is that up until my 40’s I didn’t have the confidence to join a gym class. They were completely alien to me. I had joined gyms several times before this and went swimming occasionally or did a very basic workout but never had the confidence to join a class with people who have more coordination and fitness than me.

My muscle strength gradually declined in my 30’s and I put on a bit more weight than I meant to during my early parenting years. I realised that I needed to improve my fitness and was motivated by my active children to at least try and keep up with them while they were young. I initially started doing some light jogging and swimming with my kids but one day I was particularly frustrated with the lack of space to swim in my local pool so decided to try taking out another gym membership. This time I did the induction sessions with the personal trainer and felt the usual lack of motivation and interest towards the cardio and weight machines that I had always felt. I had a weak core after 3 pregnancies and natural birth’s – so my helpful trainer recommended that I do a yoga class. Spurred on by my lack of interest in the gym machines, I drummed up the confidence one day to try one. I remember feeling very anxious and self-conscious walking into the class, everyone appeared so confident and at ease with the moves while I struggled holding even a simple down dog. My arms would shake, and my body would sweat and at the end of the class my wrists and thighs throbbed. Was it worth it? I would ask myself, I guess in those days it would have been so easy to give up. Thankfully, my yoga instructor was so encouraging, he would wander around the class patiently manoeuvring us into the correct positions. For months it seemed like it was always me who needed the help but gradually I improved and started to manage the positions. After a year my confidence was up and I smoothly transitioned through the yoga positions, not yet a pro but a very capable intermediate.

With this newly found confidence I was ready for a new challenge. My core was improved but still not as strong as I wanted it to be so I joined “legs, bums and tums”, a cardio and strength building class which really challenged my fitness and in 45minutes I was sweating and breathless. My muscles cried out in pain those first few weeks and it was hard to motivate myself to start a class with aching muscles. The first track would be the hardest with my muscles feeling tight and sore but I concentrated on the instructor and the music and soon forgot the pain. The instructor was incredible, her strength inspired me, and I wanted to build my muscles to hold the moves without shaking. With time that’s what I did and before long I was ready for another challenge, this time I decided on a HIIT class. High impact exercise had always looked so hard but by now I realised that I could survive the classes and go at my own pace without anyone caring. I chose a class called “body combat”, it was a mix of different martial arts set to thumping music. Each track was over 5 minutes of gruelling punching, kicking and body weight exercise. As the intensity builds, we shout in unison, sweating and gasping for breath. To anyone reading this I wouldn’t blame you for being completely put off by this description, however there is another side to this class, one that is not appreciated by anyone casually viewing us from the other side of the glass. You see, this class is where I found my tribe. The magic that unfolds in those 45 minutes is what keeps me coming back. The choreography is initially hard to grasp but conquering it is part of the joy. The rhythm of the music and the enthusiasm of the instructor is captivating, each new track brings new challenges, to kick higher and harder, punch harder for longer. My tribe all compete with themselves to be fitter and stronger aware that we are only as fit as our last class. There is no judgement, no criticism, we all smile and encourage each other, sharing the experience. By the end we are spent, our body’s ache and our muscles are tired but we have this overwhelming feeling of joy and satisfaction.

No other class has this effect on me. I am fit and I am strong but every class is another challenge, I have been in my tribe for over 5 years and I have no intention of leaving. This type of physical activity, this class, probably isn’t going to do it for everyone, but it’s about persevering and finding what is … and in it, I hope you find your tribe too.