As human beings, we always need each other to survive. Józef Tischner, in his book Spirit of Solidarity, says that “no one is an island all alone,” and that “we are bound to each other even if we do not know it”. H.H. the Dalai Lama talks about how human beings are the same, and that this is what makes us understand each other and develop closeness and friendship. When we develop the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, we can share love and compassion among ourselves, and in turn, avoid suffering. We feel love and kindness towards each other, and this not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us develop inner peace and happiness. I got to experience this by joining a fitness program recommended by my friend.
My first experience toward fitness was not the best but through friendship and solidarity, I was able to pull through. A friend of mine invited me to the gym, just to “pass time and have a feel,” she said. She gave me her training gear since I had none and I decided why not, not knowing it would be the start of something amazing in my life. As I am writing this article, I can’t help but shake my head thinking of the pain I went through that evening being my first day, and for several subsequent days. I, however, continued going to the gym, initially, it was because I was told it was the only way to counter the muscle pain, but with time, I felt the urge to go back everyday despite the pain.
It was not long before I realized that fitness transforms your whole being – not just physically, but mentally and socially. It keeps your mind and body in check, relieves stress and helps maintain a healthy lifestyle by keeping your mental health at bay. This is something I had previously been told and it sounded cliché but had a different understanding of when I experienced it.
With time, becoming fit became my driving force. I wasn’t going to the gym with the mission to become skinny, small, and petite or to lose weight; I was going with the mission to become strong, flexible and healthy. I for one didn’t realize my mindset had changed until I went over the small wins I used to write down after every session. Having a partner made it fun and motivating. I got to block out the negative noise by staying positive and keeping the encouraging affirmations flowing. With a partner, rather than thinking, ‘Next time when I hit a wall, I will just grit my teeth and push through it’, you think, ‘Next time I hit a wall, I will ask for support from my squad.’
Meanwhile, my friend had been my support system. She always encouraged me to ditch the excuses and just make time, since we all make time for the things that are important to us. Her journey to fitness too was not unruffled. She had struggled with consistency and subpolar nutrition, but because she had a support system, she managed to overcome these challenges. Her support system, in this case, was the people she met at the gym when she started out. These people, consciously or unconsciously stood by my friend as she did for me. It meant they were in solidarity and it manifested when they carried a burden that was not theirs, by constantly carrying her along. They eventually became friends, or more like family, because you find that you have similar priorities or reasons you enrolled at the gym in the first place.
I have come to learn that through fitness, you can give back to society. Giving back through something you are already committed to, makes it easier for you and those around you. For instance, you can start a run with a few of your friends, family or community members. For every mile you run, you get to earn a dollar that is donated to charity. You get to celebrate your strength knowing a dollar was donated simply because you broke a sweat! You also get the fulfillment of giving the gift of self to others while defending and promoting their intrinsic dignity.
Written by Verah Andambi, a WYA Africa B1 2019 intern from Kenya.