Those of us in Gen X were between the ages of 21 and 37 on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. There is absolutely no doubt that you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard about the devastating events unfolding in NYC, Arlington, VA and in the skies above PA.
One reason why I remember it so clearly is that I was working as a personal trainer at a health club only blocks from the White House in downtown DC. The radio was playing and the DJ made an announcement about a plane hitting the WTC. My client and I went to the cardio area to see the news report on the TVs above the machines.
As the morning news shows started covering the first plane that hit a tower the entire gym stopped, some paused their workouts, many were on their way to their jobs with gym bags slung over their shoulders, while others were still filtering in. As we watched the news we all saw the second plane plunge into the building. A number of people, probably employees of the fed govt, rushed off to work but most of us stayed transfixed.
What strikes me about that morning, and is the point of this post, is the fact that all of us watching the TVs, about 50 or so, saw each other almost every day before work. In general people that exercise at a health club (or studio or gym) become creatures of habit, always going around the same time of day, especially the early morning folks. Yet as we go about getting our sweat on, or in the case of trainers and instructors delivering a kick-butt workout, we seldom interact with the other people around us. However that morning we all connected because we knew we had just seen the world change.
Merriam-Webster defines community as a group of people with the same interests. And that is exactly what a fitness facility is – a community of like-minded individuals who share a common interest in enhancing the quality of life through exercise. For those of us who exercise at health clubs (or studios or gym) that facility and the people there become a part of who we are. For runners and cyclists your favorite trails or routes become a part of your soma and psyche.
Think about that. If you exercise regularly over the course of a month you probably see many of the same people at the gym or on the trail repeatedly, probably more so than some of your own family members.
But do we actually know these people? Or are they just faces that become a part of the milieu of the daily routine? How often do we take the opportunity to stop and simply introduce our self and make a connection?
In this day and age of electronic inter-connectivity with much of our lives being controlled by a callous screen we should be seeking ways to connect with others in real life, especially with those with whom we share an interest or a passion. This is why group workouts are so popular, it’s a chance for a completely random group of people to come together and share an experience based on exercise.
For some people the class becomes a brief respite from an otherwise harried day. For others a workout is an opportunity to get better-either through improved performance, improved health or simply a chance to do something that provides a positive and rewarding outcome. And for a few people it might be the first time to a new class so it’s important to make them feel welcomed and a part of of the group.
Psychologists tell us that one of the primary human needs is to feel like we are a part of something greater than ourselves. For those of us who make exercise and health a priority in our lives we should take the time to look around us and connect with others who share the same value, this can only enhance our quality of life. The explosive popularity of Crossfit is a definitive example of this in action, each box has it’s own community who bonds through sweat and hard work.
When you have the chance make a connection and introduce yourself to a fellow fitness enthusiast. More importantly, when you see that new person who looks a little lost or out of place take an opportunity to welcome him or her to the fitness community. If we place a priority on good health through exercise we have an obligation to pay that forward and share our enthusiasm to the person who might be struggling to make adopt healthy habits.
As I reflect on the anniversary my take away from the morning of 9/11/01 is NOT the negative energy that so tragically changed so many lives but the fact that we should create more positive energy in the world by connecting with others who share the same interests and values. This is how we can honor the lives lost both on that morning and in the ensuing military action to hold the perpetrators to account for their horrific actions.
In my case this happens to be fitness, but whatever you love look for ways to share that with the world and connect with others around you.