Finding your fit

Recently, I’ve been asked by a number of people, about my process on making the decision to change gyms, or cities, or how I go about making big life calls in general.  It may seem like a lie when I say I am a really private person, but in reality, I am.  I try to not make half statements or bitchy posts on social media and I find that when I do finally announce the big things, people are often surprised.  So I am here to share my own internal monologue and process when it comes to making the “big calls”.

I live my life by a pretty simple motto.  “Be happy”.  As long as I am not deliberately hurting others in my pursuit of happiness, I will continue to search for the things and places that fill me with joy.  When I feel unhappy, I look to make changes within my own means and power.  It’s the basis for all my major life choices in the last 5 years.

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It’s not always as simple as identifying that a certain something is making me unhappy and then the next day I make a change and it’s all better.  It’s seldom ever that easy.

One of the biggest things that I think people can relate to is the want or need to change gyms.  I think I have gone against the grain here a little as people tend to really stick with their crew for years and years.  There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.  If you are happy and you are getting what you need, why would you want to look for something else.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Changing gyms has always been out of necessity for me.  Usually it is because I can’t get something that I need in terms of fight matches or coaching, or I am not a good fit for the team that is already there.  It happens.  You can be the greatest person in the world but you probably still won’t get along with everyone.

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I try my best to not gym hop.  I like rhythm and routine.  And you build a bond with your coaches and mentors that only develops over time.  If you move gyms frequently, you’re less likely to build these critical, yet beautiful bonds.

At the end of the day, sometimes you just outgrow your gym.  Maybe you have exceeded your training partners and feel like you are not being challenged.  Maybe you feel like you are not being coached correctly.  Maybe you are sitting at home looking at the gym crews Facebook photos of a group dinner you weren’t invited to… again.  There’s always something that creates that need for change.

I personally, try to rectify issues in house.  I pick the best person to talk to, whether it’s a coach, management, or another senior team member who could possibly advise me.  I talk it out, calmly.  Express my concerns and where I am at.  If there is no room for change, and sometimes there isn’t, I know then in that moment that it’s time to move on.

The best case scenario here is that the team bands together to try to deal with the issues at  hand.  I have found that clear, constructive communication goes a very long way.  The thing we need to remember is that, for the most part, coaches, team members and gym owners want their athletes to be happy.  They don’t sponsor you and hope you fall behind.  Chances are if there is something that isn’t working, they want to work with you to fix it.

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Then there is a waiting period.  A re-trial if you will.  I try to take a day to chill and re focus and head back to the gym like it’s my first day there.  I try to put my past grievances behind me and see how things develop.

Sometimes, things improve almost immediately – problem solved.  Sometimes things improve and slide back to their original state.  I try to keep communicating and keep putting in the hard work on my end and hope that things find their way to a good consistency.  Maintaining a level of optimism is key here otherwise you just end up being the cranky person in the room that no one wants to work with.

If or when things just don’t improve and I can see that I won’t get what I need, then I know it’s the right call to move on.

I’m pretty confident that I have never willingly walked away from a gym under negative circumstances.  My policy on this is that it’s better to not burn bridges, even if you do want to leave the place screaming and flipping everyone off.  It’s not constructive and you almost never feel better for it.  Thank them for the services they did provide you with and respect yourself enough to know that at the end of the day, they have lost you as an asset.  End of story.

So how do I pick my new gym?

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Again – this is a bit of a process, but a much simpler one than having to leave.

First and foremost. Research.  I figure out exactly what I want and need from a gym and research.  When I was looking to make the move from Phuket I spent many weeks on end, researching cities, cost of living, location, access to fights and reputations of gyms.  Granted, this was a little outside the scope of simply finding a new gym, but still applicable.  Location and travel time can really eat into your day, so unless you have the time (and willingness) you will always be looking for something easy to get to.

When I went on my scouting trip around Europe I had a fair idea that I was looking between Italy, Berlin and the UK.  For me these were desirable places for me to live.  Then it boiled down to the gyms and access to fights.  Italy was ruled out quickly simply because of quality and access.  It seemed low.  And I don’t know if I could move to Italy and not get fat (pizza, pasta, gelato – breakfast, lunch and dinner right??).

Berlin and the UK were up there in terms of training styles that I was in need of and access to fights.  While the German WMMA scene is not so developed, it was still an ideal stepping stone for me and I had access to a lot of K1 promotions.

I was in touch with a few gyms in the UK, some failed to get back to me completely which automatically ruled them out for me.  Then I talked to friends.  Reached out to reliable sources for referrals and continued to narrow down my list.

I ruled out the UK mostly due to cost of living and weather.  I enjoyed it there, but the locations of the gyms just weren’t really for me.  Connection wise, they were right up there.

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It came down to Berlin.  And I had looked at a number of gyms.  I researched potential areas for me to live in, where I might want to live, what gyms offered what.  Spitfire came up a few times and was recommended to me so I decided to give them a go.

I always try out a new gym first.  This seems like a no brainer, but you would be shocked to hear of the amount of people that get memberships to places they haven’t tried.  Now when I say try, I don’t mean try a single class and see if it’s good.  Try a few.  With different coaches.  For me, I really wanted to see the level and style of grappling at Spitfire, as this is where I need the most work.  I always needed a place that had boxing and K1 style drilling so I can continue to work on my striking. Spitfire offers both.  I got extremely lucky with Spitfire that both of my striking coaches spent time in Chang Mai, living and fighting.  They both understand my background and know why I have the flaws I have, and the strengths I have.  This was a draw card for me.

Did I get what I need?  Is the quality good?  Do I feel safe?  Do I feel like I will be coached sufficiently?  Do I vibe with the crew? Do I feel at home?

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This final one is my most absolute.  And I think about it every day when I am at Spitfire or Black Sheep Athletics.  With both of these gyms, I felt at home and myself almost instantly.  Call it luck – I certainly do! – but it matters.

If you are a bit loud and crazy and laugh like a hyena (like me), then finding a place that embraces your type of crazy is so important.  At the end of the day, we should be free to be ourselves and be with those who welcome that.  Both of these gyms have exceeded this for me.

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This matters for so many reasons.  I spend a lot of my time in these two gyms.  Training, socializing, harassing the staff so they can’t get any work done, playing with puppies and stuff.  The usual.  So why would I choose to be somewhere I don’t feel at home, with people I don’t get along with?

When I am somewhere I feel respected and valued, as a part of the team or the community in general, I want to give them my absolute all.  In fights, in training, in the way I represent them.  I want to do right by the people who look after me.  I want to get out of bed and go to the gym (even when it’s dark and snowing).  Because I am a part of something.  And when you are this far away from home, these people become your family.  THAT matters.

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At the end of the day, choosing a gym, a city, a partner in crime – it’s all each to their own.  Don’t expect that what works for your bestie, will necessarily work for you.  Talk to people.  Do your research.  Reach out to people whose opinions you value and respect.  Talk. Talk.  Research and talk.  Find the place where you get what you need, where you feel valued – find the gym that feels like home with the crew that embraces your crazy.

To all those embarking on change – good luck!  And keep trying.  You might not get it the first gym you go to – remember – that’s ok!  You’ll find it!!!

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