Friday, May 9, 2014

A year of Form

A year ago I walked into this place for the first time
It was a year ago today that for the first time I set foot in Form träning och hälsa. David had asked me earlier in the year if I wanted to participate in Åre Extreme Challenge 2013, a competition that he had done 10 years prior but something which was far beyond anything I'd ever done before. In fact, prior to 2013 I'd not participated in many competitions at all, other than six years earlier in 2007 when I rode in the Harpoon Brewery-to-Brewery ride with a couple of fellow cycling-commuters. A year after that competition I'd torn the meniscus in my right knee, not doing anything extreme but just kind of randomly, and after that I had surgery and then spent 12 weeks on crutches and another 16 weeks in physical therapy. If you'd asked me then, I'd probably never dreamed of doing something like Åre. But since moving to Sweden I'd started running again, and as I wrote earlier this year, Swedish lifestyle sort of naturally improves one's physical health.

Nonetheless, Åre was still a big step, but Niki at Form had offered to help with a training plan and encouragement, after an hour of discussions with him and David, I was feeling both motivated and relieved, mainly because Niki had set some realistic training goals for us that I felt I could achieve and fit in around my work and home schedules. And this turned out to be reality, as we trained through the spring and I rediscovered the joy of kayaking (something I'd done only recreationally before), learned how to mountain bike (I'd only road cycled before) and seriously increased my running distances (10 km was my previous longest run). By the time June 28th rolled around, we were ready to go (as ready as we were going to be!) and the experience was really incredible, as David chronicled so well in his race report. But oddly enough, what started as a goal became a starting point, and from there we continued on throughout last year, training regularly and competing in some other really fun events, including our season closer, RAID Uppsala. This year, we've got a full schedule with lots of events, and we've already competed in Premiermilen, where we both finished with personal bests, and most recently in Lidingö MTB--where I didn't exactly have a personal best but probably performed some of my most creative mechanical repairs on a bike.

Training and competing is fun, but the best part of this past year has actually been the feeling of real achievement that I've experienced, and the sort of harmony that exercising regularly has brought about in my life. A lot of people who train like to post before and after pictures to show their progress, but I'll spare you that. I am certainly leaner, stronger and faster than I've ever been in my life, but honestly the physical improvements I've experienced over the past year are not really that important compared to the mental benefits that I've gained. I am calmer, less stressed, keep things in perspective easier, have increased patience and feel more focused. I've also experienced all kinds of things that I've never done before. Just look at this list:

  • Ran my first 20 km
  • Learned how to mountain bike
  • Started taking spinning classes
  • Participated in my first mountain bike competition
  • Participated in my first orienteering competition
  • Rediscovered the joy of kayaking
  • Took a crawl course for adults
  • Learned a ton about blogging, social media and how to attract sponsors (good skills for someone who works in marketing)
  • Ran my fastest 10 km ever (40 min 31 sec)

What else will 2014 bring? Of course Åre again, and there I really think we can achieve something much better than last year. But also I'm planning to run my first half marathon and do my first triathlon. Who knows what else might come?

All of this aside, the title of this post is "A year of Form" and while not much of this has been about Knivsta's little gem of a gym, it is in large part because of this place that I've been able to achieve and experience everything that I have in the past year. Starting with Niki's belief and encouragement that 7 weeks was plenty of time for a couple of regular guys to get in shape for an all-day multiport event, followed by the fact that the sense of community that exists at Form just makes you happy to go back. Members of Form really encourage (even challenge) each other to improve, without any sense of pretentiousness. That is a fantastic combination that can be really hard to find. Everyone there has their own goals and motivations, but it doesn't really matter why you're there. It just matters that you show up and make a small step forward towards achieving what it is that you set out to do.

What are you setting out to do?



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