After coaching three hours of CrossFit On Monday night, I walked past a new Brazilian jiu jitsu- or BJJ- dōjō near my apartment in Santa Catalina. The big windows let me watch partners grapple each other; each pair rolling around on the floor in a series of calculated embraces. Jack, the English coach, came to the door and told me that BJJ- like CrossFit- is a great cardio and strength workout. But BJJ is also known as ‘body chess’- it’s a workout for your brain, too.
Each match came to an end and each student bowed toward their opponent. Their flushed cheeks indicated that their hearts were still pounding, but their calm eyes were a window into a soul that was centred and serene. It gave me a humbling respect for tradition. If CrossFit is the new science of fitness, I thought, then martial arts are the religion. I told Jack he’d see me in the morning.
That’s what I love about this island where I grew up: it is rich with opportunities to use my body and stay physically active. The Tramuntana Mountains cater hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking. In the clear waters of our western Mediterranean, we can swim, free dive, kite surf, water-ski, windsurf, kayak, paddleboard and wakeboard. Cyclists from around the world descend here to ride along the undulating coasts and back across the plains of Sineu, through vineyards littered with rustic windmills. There is so much on offer. Even here in urban Santa Catalina, I am surrounded by yoga studios and now, a BJJ dōjō.
All that and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
How about a round of golf up in Son Quint? A spot of tennis at the Palma Tennis Club? Volleyball on the beach? Five-a-side football at the local pitches? Or a game of paddle to sharpen the reflexes? If traditional sports aren’t to your liking, you could practice a kick-flip at the skateboarding mecca of Sa Faxina, pass a puck playing in-line hockey at Plaza de los Patines, go trampolining at Palma Jump, wind the winches in a sailing regatta, or waltz, cha-cha and salsa yourself dizzy at one of Palma’s dance academies. I am out of breath just writing about it. Think I’d best head out for a morning stroll along the Paseo Marítimo and clear my head.
When I say ‘clear my head’ what I really mean is think up the next article. Why should we exercise? How can we do more of it? In answering these questions, there is much to learn and discuss. As a student of philosophy, I like to think about things critically but consider all the angles, too. My feet walk in a straight line but my mind meanders like the River Severn. With so many ways to stay active on this island, I doubt I’ll ever be short of good words for my new biweekly column in the Majorca Daily Bulletin.
With my writing, I hope to entertain. But I have a second goal. It aligns with my goal as a fitness consultant and coach: I want to help people be more physically active and stay that way. It’s not so much that I care about people (I do). It’s that I care about myself. I believe that other people staying active benefits me because it benefits the community at large in which my family and I live.
An active lifestyle is part of a long healthy life. With physical health comes improved mental health. As healthier individuals, we maintain our autonomy. We are better able to work and help our friends and family, but also our communities- both local and global. Just five minutes of exercise a day can be the difference between being a burden, to being the support.
I do not preach excess. Too much of anything is usually a bad thing. In this article, I hope to explore the myriad of ways we can use our bodies and make the most of our bountiful island. My goal is to help anyone go from sedentary to active, not active to fitness fanatic. If anything, I will, on occasion, discuss the downside of excess. Fitness and health are not one and the same. Like two paths they run parallel for a distance only to diverge sharply further on down the road. As Rob Martin- owner of CrossFit Mallorca in Son Bugadelles, and once crowned the fittest man in Spain- told me, ‘the only place ‘fitness’ comes before ‘health’ is in the dictionary.’
I also acknowledge that many readers will be suffering from some ailment or disability. Often, these physical handicaps were down to ill fate, not reckless choices. However, no matter how bad things are, bad decisions can always make things worse. This is true of any pillar of our lives- whether it is our career, family, relationships or health. No matter what our current physical state; no matter how sick or disabled, if the way we treat our bodies is still our choice, then we have the choice to do things better.
A little exercise is good for us
In short, a little exercise is good for us. But exercise is not the only way to stay physically active. Exercises are just the vowels in an alphabet of ways we can move and use our bodies. In upcoming articles, I hope to string together words, sentences and paragraphs of ways to lift our limbs, flex our joints, fill our lungs, strengthen our muscles and race our beating hearts. All the while keeping us free from illness and injury.
In this island buffet of fitness treats, there is something to suit every age, ability and palate. With so much choice, decisions can be tough. To avoid the paralysis of analysis, I will discuss the pros and cons of every activity I can find. How dangerous is rock climbing? How physically demanding is CrossFit? How healthy is cycling? Where can I join an activity with a strong community that will teach, guide and motivate? What activity is best for those of us who prefer to go it alone?
When it comes to making a habit out of exercise, the importance of convenience should not be overlooked. How affordable is horse riding? How practical is kite surfing? How’s the parking at this yoga studio or that? What is the class scheduling like at that gym or this? By providing locations, prices, scheduling and details of accessibility, I hope that you can find an activity that isn’t just exhilarating but convenient, too.
As I said, there is so much to learn and write about. Like the BJJ dōjō next door to my apartment, I’m sure that a little digging will unearth many more island fitness gems.
For any requests for me to write about a specific sporting event or activity; or if anyone has an entertaining fitness story to share, please don’t hesitate to make an enquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org.