Paris. November 13, 2015.
Fortunately, I was home after an early dinner out with a friend when the terrorist attacks took place. Along with the entire world, I watched in horror as the events unfolded, finally retiring to bed at 5 a.m. I woke up the next morning to the reality of how Paris (and the world) had changed forever. But this time, different from the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I decided to wander out, both to visit several of the attack sites and pay homage to the victims, but also to demonstrate to myself and to the terrorists that I refused to be a prisoner in my own home. I decided to go about my normal routine that day, although nothing was at all normal.
Strangely, that weekend was one of my first free weekends in Paris since the summer. I had already planned what I was going to do, which of course included a workout at my club. As I walked through the door and saw familiar faces at the front desk, I immediately felt a sense of normalcy and relief and a feeling of home and family. Once I confirmed that no one amongst the staff or membership (that we knew of at the moment) had been directly affected, I headed to the changing rooms and on to my workout where I was able to take some time for myself, to physically and mentally work through what had taken place the previous evening.
People often use fitness activities to blow off steam or sort things out, as I did that day. But I realized then and even more so now, that fitness centres, health clubs gyms and studios serve as so much more than just a place to work out. They become a safe haven during times of adversity; a place where we feel can feel at home, welcome and secure and have both verbal and non-verbal exchanges with others who are experiencing and feeling the same things. And there is often a sense of community that surfaces when events take place that affect a large number of people.
My belief is that as fitness professionals we often take the benefits of fitness for granted. But we shouldn’t, as we play a very important role in people’s wellbeing. And with the increasing threat of terrorism lurking, we should encourage and commend our industry, on a global scale, for creating community and for providing safe havens that provide physical and mental comfort for members in need during difficult times.