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By Mariane Wray, Former WBC Coach
I was lucky enough to find Warrior Fitness & Adventure in 2013 within the first few months of my three years in Penang. I was even luckier that Conor, Chinlee & Jee took me on as an apprentice coach. The experience, support and training I received from Warrior was invaluable, and something I will always be grateful for.
As a Warrior coach, I took advantage of participating regularly in the workouts, and found them to be high quality, professional, and fun. I found that when I left Penang, I was fitter, faster, tougher and stronger than I had been before I arrived.
I left Penang in January 2016, to return to New Zealand. Being away from Penang for several months has allowed me time to reflect upon my time with Warrior, and I thought I would share my thoughts with you – so preset Warriors can appreciate what you have a little more, and past Warriors can reflect upon what you carry with you from your own experiences.
The Warrior training objectives are Fitness, Resilience and Teamwork. These three factors underlie the training philosophy of every Warrior session, event and competition. These complement each other, and relate to various aspects of everyday life, including physical fitness, mental health, social relationships and community connections.
Fitness: My first Warrior session was at Straits Green and Conor was the Coach. I remember battle ropes, kettle bells, and 400m sprints. I hate 400m sprints, but not only do they build physical fitness and beneficial cardiovascular adaptations, they also build mental toughness, as you really need to push yourself to run this distance fast. The 400m sprint keeps you honest more than any other distance under 1 mile. The session was hot, humid and sweaty. It was physically tough, and I was pushed to work hard, not only by Conor, but also by the other Warriors in the group. By the time the class had finished, I was hot, tired, thirsty, smelly and hooked on Warrior workouts.
Physically, Warrior provides great overall training. With a focus on agility, strength and speed, as well as endurance and competitiveness, the sessions provide excellent overall training and general conditioning, with an emphasis on general health and wellbeing. The outdoor settings of Warrior also promote the health of internal systems, bodily functions, and mental health.
I have two stand out memories of physical ability directly attributable to my Warrior training. The first is the annual Round the Island Relay, which I participated in twice. In both years, I completed the second leg; 7.72 kilometres. In 2014, I completed this leg in 42 minutes, a year later, I ran it in 37 minutes – 5 minutes faster! And my first kilometre was the fastest split I have ever recorded at 4 minutes 11 seconds. I know this because I still have it recorded on my Garmin as a personal record.
My other memory is of all the squats Jee made us do. Whenever Jee turned up on a Wednesday, we all knew we were in for killer squats, and that many of us would have difficulty standing up from the loo the next day. However, when I was skiing in Hokkaido last Christmas, my thighs and glutes were so strong that I could spend many hours each day skiing competently through thick powder snow. Every time Jee gives you squats, thank him!
Resilience: As a psychologist, I regularly talk to people about resilience and their ability to cope with demands. For me, resilience is a core component of overall health, contributing to both physical and mental health. I am a firm believer that the body and mind are connected, integral to one another, and deeply influence each other. Resilience is a way to connect the body and mind, and challenging ourselves physically, pushing through when things are tough, and attempting challenges we never thought possible is the best way to build individual resilience.
I have many memories of demonstrated resilience at Warrior events, and I bet you can all think of your own. I have a lovely memory of Per completing the 10km Warrior event last year, when he thought he was only going to make 5km, I have a similar memory of another Warrior completing the 5km time trial, and being so elated at the end of it as they had never run that far before. My own experiences saw me push to complete sets and reps, even when my thighs were burning, my lungs were exploding and my arms had fallen off my body. This is resilience, and Warrior provides the ideal space to develop it, to give you the inner strength and physical ability to attempt things you thought were impossible.
Of course, much of this resilience, and the dedication to continue when you feel like giving up, comes from the power of team.
Teamwork: This for me is the most important element of the Warrior philosophy. With effective teamwork, we can push ourselves further physically and develop our resilience. The team carries us when we think we have nothing left to give, and supporting others through their own challenges also gives us strength.
Despite the fact that running events in Penang are generally not well supported by spectators, and support between participants is not common, Warriors always supported one another, even if they did not know each other. My example of this is the Penang Bridge International Marathon. Spotting the easily recognisable bright red shirt always gave me a boost and I would make it my goal to catch up to the Warrior and share some words of encouragement. The out and back course made it easy to shout out across the way to Warriors heading in the other direction, and finding Warriors in the crowd before and after the race was also always a buzz.
Whilst I miss Penang, and Warrior in particular, my Warrior experiences have come back with me to New Zealand, and help to guide my health and fitness behaviours here. Whenever I hit a wall or an obstacle in life, I can call upon my Warrior spirit to help me through and succeed. I know I am not the only one who has left Penang with a little bit of Warrior, and this spirit is now spread out around the world and continues to influence lives and experiences in many different places, making Warriors stronger, faster, fitter, tougher and happier.
Mariane Wray is a a fitness enthusiast and Registered Psychologist in the Royal New Zealand Navy. In her previous life, she was a coach with Warrior Fitness, Penang, and here reflects upon her time with Warrior Fitness & Adventure.