I never thought I’ll say goodbye to this place, but I did it anyway.
And it is at the end of the journey, I remember where it all began.
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I joined Fitness First in December 2014, a month after The Gardens Mall branch opened. I went into the gym on a Sunday afternoon and signed a contract within fifteen minutes. On hindsight, I should have done a little more research; I noticed that most of my fitness-related decision were done on impulse. It was probably for the best too, otherwise I would have been contemplating forever.
I got a gym membership, partly for the same reason that most people did – to lose weight. It was my first year back to Malaysia and with the sudden dormant lifestyle, I gained 5 kg without even realising it. Another part of me wanted to meet new people; to break through the discomfort of generating small talks. The way of being comfortable with discomfort is to dive head in (as of most of my decisions) and communicate with more people outside my usual circle, out from high school, university and at work.
* * *
My first two years in Fitness First was based in The Gardens Mall branch, primarily in yoga. This is the first step I take to a healthier lifestyle. Prior to that I have no fitness background, unless you count walking to find food during lunch. My love for yoga started here, but that’s a story for another day.
I don’t remember how the group formed, but I met new friends who introduced me to their friends and soon we became a group of 6 regulars. With two guys in the group, we would frequent the weights area (what I deemed as the high-testosterone area), filled with really strong men carrying weights in one hand, that I could barely carry with both. And almost every Friday, we would get supper after the workout; it is no wonder I never lost much weight.
As we found our own familiar grooves, we gradually drifted apart but would occasionally meet up for special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. I will always cherish these people, as the first group of friends I met at Fitness First (Hello Ong, May, Julie, KS, Chow!).
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I met a lot of interesting people in Fitness First outside my industry, that I would never otherwise have met, most interestingly, a marketer for satellites (Hello Audrey!) How cool is that! Through random passing, quick conversations and in yoga classes, I met a lot of people who are genuine, compassionate and thoughtful.
As I find my natural rhythm, I soon know more people and regulars from different classes. I remember the warm and fuzzy feeling as people told me that they noticed that I was not in class, when I missed a week or two. Or remembering me when we bumped into each other in different branches. Even the front desk noticed when I disappear once a while.
In fact, It was a regular gym goer that suggested me to try out to other FF branches, after all the Platinum membership allowed for that. About the same time, my university friend joined Fitness First (and her high school friend did the same), and soon after, I found myself immersed in another group of friends. (Hello Looh Zhen and Hui Juan!)
The world is not always sunshine and rainbows. I listened and watched as instructors swallowed their pride and anger when they were badgered and complained to management level by entitled members. On a personal level, I learnt to deal with a very emotional outburst directed towards me by a person who I later found out that was pregnant (hormones can do crazy things to your brain). I eventually looked past that one-time incident as she shared her new life of being a mother.
More recently, I stood up to an over-entitled person who made a big fuss over petty things and humiliated the waitress for a situation that was not in her control. I was flabbergasted; a person who was at least 5 years older than I was, acted like a spoiled brat.
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Although I branched out of yoga to occasional strength training (thanks to friends who motivated me to do so), I find myself gravitating towards the calming nature of yoga, the connection of mind and body. I find it difficult to quantify my years in yoga. In the first couple of years, I didn’t have the proper techniques or awareness and was doing yoga poses that were far too advanced, before I was strong enough. I ended up with injuries, most unfortunately my left IT band, which never quite healed even till now. It was a mixture of my own ego of wanting to get the cool poses and the lack of supervision from instructors in overcrowded classes.
All yoga instructors have their own unique teaching styles and I find myself resonating with Steve’s and Sean’s styles the most, and as of late, Cay Mee‘s. I am humbled by their patience in rebuilding my basic foundations, with their constant reminders and physical corrections to improve muscle memories for better alignment. There were so many times I wanted to give up in holding the pose but I chose not to – who am I kidding – I couldn’t because most of the time when I was being corrected, I was stuck in that position that I could not get out of the pose at all. Whoever who said yoga is relaxing needs to attend their classes. They must have been exasperated at one point as I repeatedly return to the wrong alignment and posture.
Much to their delight and mine, I start to notice and love the progress I was making; it was the little progression that builds up to more substantiate improvement. My foundation in yoga gradually improved from their guidance and my increased self-awareness; having the proper plank and chaturanga forms, engaging back leg in warrior one, grounding back feet during high lunges squaring hips during twisting poses and splits, strengthening core, not dumping pressure on lower back during back bend and taking deeper breaths.
* * *
So the million dollar question lies:
Why did I quit?
I contemplated for the longest time if I should. It was the comfort of a familiar routine and the full-time Fitness instructors (both yoga and non-yoga) who contributed so much to my fitness journey, that made me hesitant. After all, why leave something that is good and works for you. However, when I noticed that I froze my membership 4 times in the past 10 months, I realised it was time to let go.
Truth be told, my focus shifted since early this year. I slowly transitioned out of my usual routine and realised that there are more things I wanted to achieve in life. And somehow having a commercial gym membership slows things down as I would always go back to the routine I am familiar with, which does not leave much time for anything else.
Still, Fitness First is a good place to start your fitness journey; it offers a variety of classes with really good instructors. It is also brightly lit (I love bright spaces). For those who wonder if a gym membership or fitness pass or studio membership is suitable for you, there are a number of articles floating in the internet. It boils down to several factors really: location, cost, frequency of visit, type of activity and travel time. In fact, the long travel time is one of the driving factor to terminate this membership.
And the realisation that, my fitness journey does not have to be confined within the walls of a commercial gym. Or a gym at all.
* * *
I will always miss this place, for the wonderful people I met and the memories I collect. While my journey at Fitness First eventually comes to an end, my fitness journey continues.
To the people I crossed the path with from Fitness First, thank you for making this journey interesting.