At the beginning of 2014 I accidentally started to do a new sport called Cross Fit, and with it came the need to learn a new language: AMRAP, CFWU, KB, OHS, WOD ….. mysterious acronyms for things I had no idea about. “Have you done the WOD? How did you do?” “I’ve bust my PB on the AMRAP WO” “You’ve got to do 21, 15, 9 OHS then KB swings”… WTF? Well, if you have ever taken part in a CFWO (Cross Fit Work Out) then you would probably have heard of them: As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP), Cross Fit Warm Up (CFWU), Kettle Bell, (KB), Overhead Squat (OHS) and the big one, Workout of the Day (WOD). Why was it accidental? Because I had signed up for the online world wide game, the “Whole Life Challenge” (more below) which takes many of its ideas from the culture of Cross Fit. But what is that? Cross Fit? Being angry whilst doing aerobics? No, it’s a major life changing activity with added happiness benefits, but I can’t take the credit for getting myself into exercise, that’s got to go to the amazing, and inspirational physical trainer Lidia Villalonga.
There are some people born to empower others, and in my opinion Lidia is one. She is a proud, modern Majorcan born and bred and she lives what she preaches. She trains early in the morning before the sun comes up so that she is fit and ready, and then she goes to work at the Sporting Fitness gym at the Country Club in Santa Ponca and spends her day helping a huge range of people to reach and exceed their goals. I am in awe of her determination, patience, intelligence and person-ability, because you’d think that someone who makes you do push ups may not be so popular? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Even when we’re struggling to finish a punishing set of Kettle Bell Swings we still love her. Why? Because she’s always honest, she respects her clients, she has a fabulous work ethic, and she genuinely encourages every body to get better. She’s also incredibly busy so we have to do our interview over a salad in the club where she tells me about her childhood and background.
When Lidia was a little girl she loved to go to her father’s shop and play but she knew from quite a young age that she would not go into the family business as she was drawn to a completely different life. “Although I loved it, I told my parents that I did not want to work for them when I was a grown up, I wanted to be a sports teacher. I loved”, she corrects herself, “Love all sports. I play them all. I love them. My dad said to me, “Are you sure?” because a sports degree was normally taken by a man. But I was sure.” She convinced them, and at the tender age of just seventeen moved from Majorca to Barcelona to take a degree in sport. “I left my mum crying like crazy in the airport, and me too, claro! But they were fantastic years. I loved studying.” Lidia stayed for six years, five for her degree and a further one to gain her masters. Although she adored living in Barcelona it was never on her agenda to stay longer than her course. “I love Majorca and my family is here. I couldn’t be anywhere else. Of course I want to travel and to explore the world, but I will always need to come home as well.
“My dad didn’t get the same chances as I did, when he was nine he had to go to work, and he built his business out of nothing, from a market stall to having clothes shops. He always said that you have to give the best to your client if you want to have business. I have learnt everything from the example of my parents. I owe them everything, I don’t think I will ever be able to say thank you enough”.
As we know, that old saying “The cream will always rise” still stands true, and soon after arriving back on the island Lidia found herself with the opportunity to work for Sporting Fitness at the Country Club in Santa Ponsa. “I started off part time, I was very happy because I was helping people who need help with their training. I was, and am, very motivated to help people improve their health; it makes a big change in their lives. And as the people got to know me I started to make my way in the club. To me my bosses are my clients in the gym, they are the people I work for”.
It was at this gym, four years ago, that she discovered a brand new sport, Cross Fit, via “Another personal trainer, Rob, who was, and is, very passionate about it. It was completely new to me, but I liked it, I liked the philosophy and the ideas behind it, and very soon I was studying and then qualifying to teach Cross Training”.
What is Cross Fit? How to define it? In the interests of this article I nipped over to crossfit.com for this definition: “CrossFit is many things. Primarily, it’s a fitness regimen developed by Coach Greg Glassman over several decades. He was the first person in history to define fitness in a meaningful, measurable way (increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains). (VM: by that they mean improving on your personal best records, for example). CrossFit itself is defined as that which optimizes fitness (constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity). CrossFit is also the community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together. In fact, the communal aspect of CrossFit is a key component of why it’s so effective”.
So, why is it good for us? Lidia answers, “You have to work all of your body together, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing it, it’s intense and you use functional movements like squats, push ups, sit ups. They are essential to your life. It is the best metabolic exercise EVER”.
It’s also a lifestyle as it’s not just about what you do with your body that counts, it’s also about what you put into your body that makes the difference. If you know someone who is attending Cross Fit sessions then it is quite possible that they also know about a “Paleo” diet. The theory behind it is that our bodies have not evolved at the same rate as farming techniques and we simply can’t digest grains (e.g. pasta, and bread) or dairy products. Think “caveman” and you’re more or less there. “There comes a point where you are working really hard in the gym and you won’t want to spoil that by putting food into your body which is not good for you, and that’s when you really start to make a change. People make their own minds up, and when they do that this is when it really works. You won’t want to go back”.
That’s how I found myself eschewing carbs and dairy for a good chunk of this year in favour of higher protein and generous portions of vegetables. It’s also how I found myself competing (ha! Me!) against much fitter people (I lost, of course, but they still clapped because they are nice team types who want everyone to have a great time) and seriously growing to love the idea of being fit. It’s also how I found myself engaging in the Whole Life Challenge which encourages you to win points for good lifestyle choices including daily exercises (Cross Fit inspired exercises or as you wish, from playing Football to dancing Zumba, up to you) and stretches, nutritional goals and lifestyle changes. The interaction with the other people playing the game is a vital component as well, as Lidia knows. “If you feel part of something then you are more likely to keep taking part. The Whole Life Challenge was a very good way to build a community in the gym with people of all walks of life and fitness levels coming together. People get to know each other, go through some tough workouts together bond and become friends”.
The down side is outside of the Challenge you have to try to keep it going, and I am lucky enough to have some friends at the gym now that want to keep training outside of the game days. I tell Lidia that I was in the gym recently and voluntarily did a WOD (see above) without her egging me on which involved 45 “burpees” (sadistically difficult squat, jump, and press up combinations) and I felt proud about feeling sore in my legs. She grins from ear to ear. “You! …People who hated sports and now love to go to the gym, who can feel the power and strength and confidence in their own bodies, those are the best for me. It’s the biggest reward a trainer can have”.
As we approach Christmas and then the New Year it’s always a time for indulgence and then reflection. We may well set out to change things in our lives, but what prevents us from achieving these goals? Lidia knows, “People want everything without changing anything. That’s the sort of person who will fail. They want to lose weight or get fit without making any effort. But when you want to change you have to be outside of your comfort zone. If it doesn’t CHALLENGE you it won’t CHANGE you”.
I have never before, ever, in my life, ever had the experience of feeling strong and fit and full of potential the way that I have felt this year. Even though I remain the slowest person in my group, I really don’t care as I am still a winner as far as I am concerned because I am there. Imagine being the person who finishes the WOD last and still getting a round of applause, not because you’re last or because you are in some way deserving, but because you’re part of a team and that means that everyone encourages and looks out for everyone else. It’s a remarkable and addictive experience, and I can highly recommend it, and it’s entirely down to Lidia. As I interview her and learn about her background her own ethos and her love and respect for her own parents, as a parent myself, it just makes me love her more.
I can hardly wait for the next challenge which starts in 2015 on January 17th. Join in. Don’t be scared, it could be the most exciting day of the year, and possibly the first one of many brand new achievements for you, if you want it to be. To enquire about the gym and the WLC go via www.spcountryclub.com. For more articles about people on the island visit www.mallorcastories.com.
Words and pictures by Vicki McLeod