Hi, hallo, bonjour, hola! I’m Alice. You may recognise me from the Urban Sports Club Instagram, Facebook and blog posts. I’m the one who tries out a new activity in the USC offering each week. This week is super special because it’s been exactly one year since my first activity.
As you can imagine the last 365 days have been a journey. I’ve been lamped round the head and called “grandma” by Muhammad Ali’s ex-bodyguard. I’ve been frozen at -150 degrees Celcius in a sealed box. I’ve been electrocuted, suspended from top ropes 20 meters in the air, flipped over backwards, steamed in saunas. I’ve danced Tango, Zouk, Oriental, Pole, Zumba, Barre.
I’ve golfed in Munich, canoed in Hamburg, bouldered in Berlin, danced in Düsseldorf and ice skated in Cologne. I’ve come to terms with my own mortality after an ex-military functional fitness coach pushed me so hard I thought my time on earth was up. I said an emotional goodbye to my family in my own head and envisioned the words “Alice Austin: death by burpee” on my grave stone.
I’ve done a lot of activities this year but there are still loads more to try. Even so I’ve learnt lessons about myself, about life and about the people behind the USC partners who make our offering so special.
So to celebrate this special anniversary here are some key takeaways from my year doing the Urban Sport of the Week:
Everybody has a story
Here’s a sentence you probably haven’t heard before: “Joe is the Guinness World Record holder for catching the most marshmallows with chopsticks.”
When I walked into Mit Pfeil und Bogen in Hamburg for my first archery lesson I wasn’t expecting to hear that sentence. But, because I interview the trainer after every activity to find out a little more about their story, I find out some amazing nuggets of information.
When I walked into Fenriz Trainingzentrum in Kreuzberg I wasn’t expecting to hear that the founder, Ulf, was a bouncer in Berlin in the ‘90s: “The wall had just fallen. I started in the outskirts of Berlin at a club called Flora Park. It was for very right-wing people. It was not a nice club.”
And I also wasn’t expecting to feel so inspired when I met Maïmouna, the fierce founder of Booty Therapy. “I want to teach women to really use their power – because we are really powerful and we need to realise this.”
So after a year of speaking to some incredible trainers and coaches in the USC family I’ve learnt that everyone has a story to tell.
The magic happens outside your comfort zone
I really, truly didn’t want to go to my first trampolining lesson. Not because I hate trampolining but because I knew that I was going to have to do a backflip. It was January 2019 and our #HappyNewFear campaign had just launched.
Before I got to the session every part of my brain was screaming don’t go, don’t go, don’t go. I was convinced I was going to break my neck. I had a knot in my stomach for the entire day.
But as soon as I got to SprungRaum and met our awesome trainer Arthur I felt instantly more comfortable (and slightly less scared… but still scared). We trained for an hour and it was time to do my first backflip. I felt physically sick but I had to go for it. And with the help of Arthur and the support of my colleagues I did it. I was bursting with pride.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get the motivation to try something new and scary but this year I’ve learnt that every time I try something different, however nervous I am, I always have an amazing experience and am grateful that I went.
The secret to happiness is team sports
It’s May, I’m in the centre of Munich’s English Garden and I’m about to play my first game of beach volleyball. This is my first time trying one of USC’s community events and I’m actively nervous. Why? Because it’s okay to be bad at something when it only impacts me – but my lack of beach volleyball skills will affect the entire team.
As soon as I met the people I felt at ease. Everybody smiled, introduced themselves and told me not to worry. They said things like “Everyone has to start somewhere,” “We were all beginners at one point” and “Just have fun!”
Halfway through the first game of beach volleyball I realised the secret to happiness is team sports. There aren’t many other scenarios in life where you act as part of a team, support each other and work towards a common goal. Every time I hit the ball my teammates said “Well done!” ‘Nice!” “Good work!” Every time I missed the ball they said things like “No worries!” “Next time!” and “You’ve got this!”
After 30 minutes my teammate hit the ball to me and I slammed it over the net, securing the match point. The hugs and high fives and feeling of elation that followed made me realise that not only am I building friendships, making connections and achieving goals but I’m doing exercise at the same time. No matter how tough your week has been, it’s impossible to be down in the dumps after you play sports with your friends.
You learn a lot about a person through the sport they do
I learnt that boulderers and rock-climbers are typically left-wing, open-minded and liberal. Perhaps because bouldering is a sport for the thinker, the problem-solver, for people who have the patience to try something over and over again until they get the hang of it.
I learnt that dancers and acrobats have very high standards for themselves, strive for perfection and never give up.
I learnt that CrossFitters are absolutely mad. They never stop going after their goals and won’t take no for an answer (especially from their own bodies).
I learnt that martial artists are masters of their own minds. Their training isn’t about exercise but about defeating their own ego, their own laziness, perfecting their technique through discipline and hard work.
I learnt that skaters are laid-back and kind and that skateboarding is a hobby that gives you a community wherever you are in the world. A skateboarder from Cologne can rock up to a skate park in Bogota and immediately make friends.
I learnt that golf is not just a sport for rich old men. It’s a fantastic way to bond with someone, to get to know them as you spend two hours together on a golf course, discussing your shots and walking between holes. After my golf lesson in Munich with USC I played a round of golf with my uncle and we had a lovely afternoon together, chatting away and spending quality time together that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
And perhaps the most important lesson I learnt is that Germans are the world masters of relaxation. On my adventures I’ve been to jaw-droppingly beautiful spas and saunas, including Claudius Therme and Neptunbad in Cologne which were so nice I considered never leaving.
I learnt how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable
Every week I’ve stood in a room and been a total beginner at something. Although I still find it difficult trying new things, I’ve learnt how to manage those feelings and to be okay with it.
Trying new stuff builds confidence which has helped me a lot in other ways too. Life is full of uncomfortable situations, whether you’re travelling alone or asking for a promotion or looking for a new flat. My year with USC has taught me to be okay with being in challenging situations and to meet them head on.
It’s been an incredible year of pushing myself and my body to the limit and there’s still so much more to try. Parkour, wakeboarding, skiing, even hypnosis. And with the USC partner community growing bigger by the day I know there’ll be tons more weird and wonderful sports to try in 2019. Bring it on!
What lessons have you learnt from trying new activities with USC? Which did you love and which not so much? Share what you learnt in the comments below. And if you’re yet to join USC and want to experience everything we have to offer, sign up here.