We’ve all seen the hamsters—in their cages—running on the wheels. Going nowhere. We think to ourselves, “What a miserable existence. Looking out through the glass into the real world, while they go nowhere.” Then we look down at our own two feet. One in front of the other. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. Next to us are rows of other feet running the same race. Against no one except for the red LED lights on the screen that show the minutes and calories burned and, if we’re lucky, the oval shape simulating an actual track, as the blinking light flickers in and out—reminding us exactly how slowly we’re all actually running. Then we stare out the large glass window into the street or into a parking lot, or into a picturesque landscape that makes us wonder why we aren’t running out there, but are in this large human cage with all of these human treadmills. But why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we cage ourselves up like hamsters? We go to fitness gyms to stay in shape, but do we really want, to put it into East Bound and Down terms (referring to Cross Fit—watch the show if you’re unfamiliar), “Be the best at exercising?” Not the best runner who lifts to win races or the best fighter who implements a strength and conditioning routine to help his cardio in the cage or ring, but exercise just for the sake of lifting things only to put them down again, and then repeat the process…again and again?
The wheel might be the most exciting part of a hamster’s life, but as humans, we need mental stimulation—something to push us through to new adventures. Fortunately for us, we have options to blend our mental stimulation with our physical fitness routine. We can play tennis, or go for a hike through mountains, but, as humans, we’re also competitive and really like to interact with other people who share the same goals as us, and that’s why we have MMA gyms.
MMA? I know. You don’t want to be a fighter or compete in Jiu Jitsu competitions. Well, good news for you, neither do 95% of the people in MMA fitness gyms. Most MMA gyms are filled with moms and dads, college students, working professionals, and everyone else in between—even the occasional competitor. That’s right, most MMA gyms are filled with normal, working people, who want an alternative to the human hamster wheels at big-box fitness gyms.
First off, training various aspects of MMA, whether it be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, boxing or kick boxing, will get even the slovenliest couch potato in great shape. FAST. But more than just getting in shape, people come to MMA gyms to learn something—to learn a new skill, and that’s the fun part. Getting in shape is just a byproduct of the learning process, which makes it much more tolerable. I know when I’m tired, the thought of pushing weight up and down in order to reach my reps and sets numbers, or to raise the incline on the treadmill after 30 minutes, is a gargantuan task. But if someone’s trying to sweep me or arm bar me, I’ll fight till the end of days, regardless of how tired I am. Beyond the physical aspect, though, there’s just something satisfying about getting a boxing combo down and looking good while working mitts or hitting a heavy bag or shadow boxing and seeing yourself look like a functional athlete. I mean, nobody wants to look like a monkey swimming, arms flailing about while others look on and wonder if they should offer advice, or call an ambulance. Getting good at any of the components in MMA will bring a ton of personal satisfaction. But there’s more, I haven’t even gotten to the fun part yet. Yes, getting in shape and learning things are great, but the real difference that separates MMA gyms from other forms of exercise is the relationships built during training.
Walking into an MMA fitness gym is like walking into the Cheers bar: everybody knows your name. Before classes start, you’ll see people talking and laughing with one another and sharing their days, talking about work or kids or, whatever. Gym members regularly get together on weekends and eat lunch before or after a class. Many gyms have Saturday meet ups, where local hiking trails are traversed and mountains climbed. Every so often, we even have a “Burpees and Brews” day at our gym, where people come in for an intense Saturday afternoon workout and then go grab a beer at the brewery in the same plaza as the gym. People regularly come to Scottsdale MMA gyms for the workouts, but they stay for the friendships that are made throughout their journey.
So, get off that wheel. You’re not a hamster, though life might sometimes be easier that way. Give your local Scottsdale MMA gym a try. At the very least, you’ll get a great workout and learn self-defense and gain some confidence. At best, you may find yourself frequenting a positive place where everybody knows your name, even if they are trying to punch or choke you.