Community: Use Other People To Get What You Want

mud ninja team 2013

Exploring life with other people is not only more fun, but more healthy and effective!

Back in 2013, in my third summer of running obstacle course races, I put together a team of friends to run the Mud Ninja race here in Ohio. A friend of mine who runs a training studio (Lori Crock of Movestrong Kettlebells in Dublin, Ohio) joined the team and offered to lead monthly MovNat-based workouts for team members (and any of her other clients who wanted to try it out).  The race was in July, and I think we started the workouts in April. The idea was to get people into a movement-based mindset for their exercise instead of working out for the mirror or with machines or whatever. And the practical upshot of this was: I had my best OCR season ever with the help of the community around me.

We’ve talked before about how OCR has such a great community – people help each other out at races with boosts up a wall, technique suggestions, impromptu team challenges, and constant encouragement. But today the point is to discuss what community can do for you off the course. Because having the right people around you can literally make all the difference when you’re working toward a goal – any goal.

Recently, as I discussed in my last post, I have been in a bit of a funk. Movement and exercise had gone the wayside a bit, food choices (while better than most Standard American Diet, or SAD, fare) were getting too permissive, attitude was bad, and more. And I sat back and thought a bit about that magical 2013 season where I placed in my age group at the Savage Race and then had a great time with the group at Mud Ninja, and what had made that season so awesome.

I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t that I’d worked any harder or eaten any better or what have you, but rather that we’d had those group workouts with Lori. She’s a fantastic trainer, and because she is so entrenched in the ideas of movement-based fitness and paleo diet philosophy, it was a community of people that “got it” – and wanted to push themselves to overcome their individual health challenges.

Dublin is a bit far away for me to get to regularly for workouts and still take care of the kids, support my wife with her swim team, and frankly not spend half the day driving around. So going back to Movestrong, though I’d have loved to, wasn’t going to work. I looked at my options and saw that there was a three-times-a-week boot camp workout at the YMCA where my wife coaches. Perfect.

I showed up that Monday, ready to go.

The class is run by Jim, a former USMC master sergeant who still comes to the class with his marine camo cap and shorts every day. The workouts are very reminiscent of military PT – lots of push-ups, planks, crunches, and such. Stretching is emphasized after warm-ups and as a last set – it’s not missed. There’s plenty of HIIT (high intensity interval training) type work, and it moves at a pretty fast pace. And the best part is that it’s good fun.

Jim runs the class with the style and humor of a military veteran, pulling from the lexicon of weird crap that military people say.  He feels absolutely no problems with giving crap to late-comers or commenting publicly if your form on exercises isn’t great (apparently I have “alligator arms” when I do push-ups, for example). He likes to turn the tables on people and change the workout just because he wants to – keeping us on our toes. And he challenges us constantly. Planks with slow-push-ups interspersed in them, followed my more planks with no rest. Mountain climbers and side-jacks with no rest (lots of no rest). He makes sure that everyone gets a great workout and has fun.

But the most important part of it is the facet that is frequently talked about as one of the big benefits of Crossfit, running clubs, and other regular group exercise: the community. People cheer each other on. They support each other as they all suffer mutually. They laugh and have fun. They complain about their sore muscles together. And they keep each other accountable to show up again – even if it’s just a “hey, see you next time” as you’re heading to the car.

The importance of community in our lives can’t be underestimated. We are social creatures – our ability to work in groups was what kept us alive and thriving during the pre-agricultural times when we were simple hunter-gatherers. We relied on each other to gather food, defend the tribe, take care of each other’s kids, tell stories, and more. Humans evolved as social creatures.

And how many times do we look at tragedies with lone gunmen, terrorist attacks, active shooters, etc. and find out after the fact that they had always been loners? How often do we hear about combat veteran suicides and how those people felt they had no one to talk to? How many times can we hear about the effects of communities such as AA or other support groups in overcoming addictions? Community is healthy for human beings.

And in my efforts to lone-wolf it and try to work out alone as much as I like to at times, I was missing that community that I was appreciating back in 2013. It’s a different community – not quite as close-knit as last time, but it’s been great so far. I have people who ask me where I was if I miss a session. I have people to glance over at as we laugh at the pain we’re in while Jim has us do yet another set of flutter kicks.

And that’s one of the things I want to create with Mudlife Crisis – a community of older folks who care about health, take action for each other and themselves, and aren’t willing to throw in the towel and accept that they’re getting older. We can help each other as we help ourselves. That’s what community is all about.