The last week has been exciting and invigorating with a lashing of stress but has made me sleep well! Hoorah! It has also left me thinking about what I class as community.

Often, I am so busy thinking about the larger community – Canterbury and Thanet as areas that we focus on for work and how we can do more for everyone living in those districts, that I’d forgotten that ‘community’ means so much more than that. Of course, there is the larger sense of the term, but what about our personal communities? Our networks? The ones that keep us going because the individuals in those networks show an interest in us on a personal level. To me, community is caring about the best interests of others and why shouldn’t we all be included in that? The knowledge that we are valued by others – not just our immediate family and friends.

I suppose the reason I’m looking at this is down to three main changes. The first saw me step (if I’m honest, it was more of an ungraceful falling) out of my comfort zone for a project at work. The support I received from colleagues, friends and business associates was so encouraging and it surprised me. I felt proud of myself.

The second change was beginning the challenge of completing the Aspire Channel Swim. Those of you who read the blogs regularly will know that I only really learnt to swim this year. Sure, before I could mess about in the water but I certainly could not swim properly. I’m still learning and it is a slow process with little milestones to mark my progress. I have taken on the challenge in aid of those with Spinal Cord Injury and I am proud to have completed my first three swims towards the overall distance which is the length of the Channel.

The third saw my return to exercise after a much longer break than I’d realised. Now the man is on the road to recovery and no longer reliant on me to play Parker (kids, check out Thunderbirds for that reference…) I can return to my favourite classes. Again, I was gobsmacked at the response from my fellow classmates. That they would be bothered about how I was, why I had been missing for some time and their genuine happiness to see me return.

The classes I go to are run by Leanne Hawker, you may recognise the name because Leanne is our resident Health & Wellness columnist. I have been attending Leanne’s Clubbercise classes (dancing in the dark, with glow sticks, UV lighting and feel-good music) for some time and am always amazed at how comfortable I feel – there are no airs and graces. People go to Leanne’s classes to exercise at their own fitness level, wearing clothes that are comfortable, make-up free and in a safe place without judgement (and there really isn’t judgement.) It’s quite bizarre to be in a fitness environment surrounded by people who are supportive and encouraging towards one another. It makes you wonder why you subjected yourself to the anxiety and self-loathing other classes and gym environments cause. Leanne whoops and cheers you on rather than shouting and discouraging you – if you can’t keep up you feel comfortable enough to do your own thing until you can but with humour. You aren’t laughed at, you find yourself chuckling to yourself instead because there is no pressure. How wonderful! How freeing! If you have a question about anything health related – exercise or nutrition you feel able to ask.

The other classes, although much smaller, are terrific workouts. This week I did Bounce It! Which is a cardio trampolining workout and is hard work but so gratifying (that arm track though!) but my absolute favourite is Tone It! Thirty minutes of exercises that do as they say on the tin, but in a format which is fun and encouraging. We enjoy being in one another’s company and seeing each other succeed. 

I guess that’s what’s settled it for me. That nurturing attitude – isn’t that the essence of community? Being there for one another with no agenda, no divides or insecurities. Wanting the best for your fellow man and wondering how they are getting on? Not interfering, but being the gentle nudge to carry on or having the belief in someone else until they have it for themselves. Those seemingly innocuous phrases from people you hadn’t realised care for you,

“We knew you could do it!”

“We’ve missed you”

“How are you?”

“Where have you been?”

They catch you even when you don’t realise that you’ve fallen anywhere and they bring you back to stable ground.

This knowledge is so encouraging for me. The Aspire Channel Swim feels daunting at times but I am very grateful for the support. If you would like to sponsor me or follow my progress I will pop the links in my next blog.

If you would like to find out more about any of the classes that I have mentioned, please go to Leanne’s Facebook Page – the first class is always free so you can try it and there are class passes available to keep costs down. Please also have a read of Leanne’s Health & Wellness articles here on our website.

Thank you for reading!