Ahhhhh….September. It makes me think of a lot of things...back to school, transitions back into a cozy time, fall crispy mornings, smells of apples and leaves and, if we are lucky, warm days to complement those cool nights. Those of you who know me well, know how much I love all things pumpkin and cooking, being comfy in my sweats, and wearing my fall clothes and boots. The fall is a beautiful time, and the colors that we get to see are just simply spectacular and a gift from God, no doubt.
This month, the theme of Lion and Lamb Fitness is COMMUNITY, and what a special community this has been! It has been evolving for years and it holds such a special place in my heart, as do the people I have be blessed to know in the journey.
One and a half years ago, we were all forced inward to our spaces, as COVID19 began its stay in our world. So, when everything shut down and many needed to be and work from home, while others needed to go to work, as essential workers, community and togetherness were gone in the blink of an eye, or at least that is how it felt to me. Essentially, a new way of life was descending upon us and life as we knew was about to change for the long haul.
So many were connected through the Rochester Athletic Clubs (back in the day there were both co-ed and women’s only facilities) prior to the pandemic and had developed relationships within that space. When March 15, 2020 came, the gym was set to close for the "short-term", which ended up to be forever, and it broke members’, instructors’, managers’, sales staff, and trainers’ hearts. It felt like we were losing family and friends...and we were. This place was different, it wasn’t just a gym...this place was like a family. I wish I could describe it in words, but it is so hard. I developed long term friendships that have evolved to be like family to this day. I spent so much time here with really special people, with my people, my COMMUNITY. And then it was gone….POOF...just like that.
I also remember not being able to go to work and see the people and kids that I work with every single day. I spent more time with these people and kids than I do with my own family, and now this new normal was in place and I felt like I lost my people and kids from work too. It was all so confusing and, quite frankly, it was scary and so uncertain. All of a sudden, both communities seemed so far away, and I needed to learn a new way of existence.
While the change in communities wore heavily upon my heart as time went on (because I truly thought it would be a few weeks and things would go back to “normal”), I felt the need for connection grow so strong that I wanted to problem solve what to do, without really knowing how to do it. So, I did my best to set up both jobs virtually. As a speech-language pathologist for an elementary school and a fitness instructor and trainer, I was completely in over my head with how to effectively use technology for instruction in any way, shape, or form. While the school district was able to help guide us through what we needed to do the best it could, I had to figure out how to do something similar to access the RAC for Women community, too. Knowing how important exercise had become for me over the years, as well as with those relationships that became necessary for me, I decided I had nothing to lose by trying to forge ahead into uncharted waters to create a “short-term” exercise space, until we could get back to “normal”. Well...needless to say, there has been nothing normal about the journey. The rest is history, well at least short term history. Lion and Lamb Fitness, God willing, will celebrate its one-year anniversary on September 14th, when we had our first OFFICIAL virtual class.
Throughout the formation of this space, one thing stood out without question and that was the intense need for community. Recently, there have been messages I’ve watched and books that I have read and listened to that resonated with me and the message I wanted to share with you all about community, as we were not meant to go through this life alone, rather be engaged in relationship with others.
So I ask you...what does connection mean to you? Is it forming relationships, the Bluetooth connection in the car or the wi-fi connection on your phone? Is it checking to be sure you are connected on a Zoom call or that you’re feeling a connection with a spouse or significant other? So many ways to define connection.
Holly Furtick, a wonderful speaker and wife of one of my favorite pastors, shared in her message called, “You Were Not Meant To Do This Alone”, “The wrong people can lead you down the wrong path and they can ruin your life”, and that “The right people...believe in you, cheer for you, talk you down from fear, support you, connection with the right people can help you accomplish everything you were put on this earth to...You were not created to muscle through life alone, meant to have meaningful connection with others.” It made me think about who my people are and what spaces I go to, in order to find community. It still warms my soul to watch the connections that are maintained at Lion and Lamb Fitness. I see it each week in classes, in my small group training, talking with members after virtual class, and connecting at our in-person classes.
In the same sermon, Holly also shared that “Community and friendship don't magically happen; they are formed over time. They are not found. Relationships require time...time talking, time laughing, time fishing or hunting, time crying, time having hard conversations, time doing whatever you want to do.” Additionally, she shared, “You were meant to experience life with real human beings, not pictures behind a screen where you type comments back and forth...I want a friend who listens and understands, who is there”. This couldn’t be more true. In a day and age where social media defines so much, and distorts it too, true connection is abandoned for “likes” and “comments” that all occur behind a phone or a computer.
In Braving the Wilderness, written by Brene Brown, she shares that “as members of a social species, we don't derive our strength from our rugged individualism, but rather from our collective ability to plan and communicate and work together...Our neural, hormonal, and genetic makeup support interdependence rather than independence.” In other words, we need one another and we are better together. Isn’t that true? The saying that “many hands make light work” or that “it takes a village” tell the same story...we need each other.
In my new favorite book by Kelly McGonigal, PhD called, The Joy of Movement, she talks about how exercise and movement connect greatly within belonging within a community. Movement, in and of itself, can provide a “high”, almost like the mind rewarding the body, and over time, we crave that movement. In many cases, movement brings us to spaces like gyms, whether virtual or in-person or both, that allows relationships and connections to support our emotional health too. Kelly shares, “Many of the classes I taught turned into communities that, not only moved together, but also supported and celebrated one another. In these classes, I learned what the collective joy feels like, in both the synchrony of our steps and in the group hugs when a participant returned after a long absence...Exercise has at various times in my life rescued me from isolation and despair, fostered courage and hope, reminded me of how to experience joy, and given me a place to belong”.
How amazing is that? Over and over again, I am reminded about the blessings that God have bestowed upon me, with the people He has blessed me with. Not in a million years, would I have been able to imagine the depth of relationships that I would have with people….family, friends, friends who have become family, the kids of Lion and Lamb Fitness that I see so often and chat with, and the list goes on.
I am blessed beyond measure in this community. God has been so good to me, faithful to me, and has loved me more than I could ever begin to understand. He has shown me this through this fitness community. He has filled my heart with love for so much that I feel like I could burst. This is why giving to our Rochester community, beyond the borders of Lion and Lamb Fitness is necessary. This fitness community will be one of supporting each other virtually, and very soon (God willing) with in-person classes, and we will always be a place where EVERY SINGLE PERSON matters and belongs. We will also IMPACT our greater Rochester community by giving back 10% of our income each year to a member voted space. This year, we will be supporting area food initiatives with our profits from the yearly sales and with 100% of our garage sales funds. We, at Lion and Lamb Fitness, exist for a much greater good. Thank you for walking this journey with me, whether you are a member, subscriber, or someone who reads this blog...I hope it blesses you today.
Remember...No one belongs here more than you. - Brene Brown
Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. - Helen Keller
Brown Brené. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Random House, 2019.ElevationOnline.
“You Were Not Meant to Do This Alone | Holly Furtick | Elevation Church.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Aug. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=obdCU4P3Lw8.
McGonigal, Kelly. Joy of Movement. Penguin USA, 2021.