By Matty Maggiacomo, Barry's Bootcamp
In union there is strength -Aesop
When you consider how big this world of ours really is, it's easy to feel small — dare I say, insignificant? This sentiment is even more resonant when you live in a city like New York, surrounded by millions of people whose differences far outnumber their similarities. In the Big Apple where diversity is paramount, thousands of communities exist; some based on a specific country of origin, others by religious belief, and sometimes they exist merely because of a shared common interest (i.e. fitness.)
When the universe is so grand, there is something comforting in knowing that there are people out there like you, who share the same lifestyle or who understand your point of view. It helps with that whole feeling “small” thing. At some point in our lives we discover where we belong, and it's not always in that same little town where we were born or alongside our classmates at university. Sometimes it comes later and sometimes we get to choose the community where we want to belong. Belonging is primal, fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being, it is also a source of empowerment. Community is power.
Community is inherently stronger than the singular, so when you examine history it is evident that when an entire community stands to fight, things change. February is Black History Month, and nothing represents empowerment more than the struggle of African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. History repeated itself in a way, when the LGBT community stood up to fight for marriage equality across the United States. When communities rise up, the status quo is challenged.
This is no new idea, Aesop, the Greek storyteller of antiquity famous for his philosophical fables said: In union there is strength. Even at the birth of civilization it was clear to the great minds of Ancient Greece that though we are in this world as singular souls, when we come together, we can change society and change the world. It has happened thousands of times since.
It was my mother who first introduced me to the fitness community when I was a kid. Mom was always fit, and would regularly attend step aerobics or group spin classes at the local Gold's Gym. I remember spending countless hours at that gym in Rhode Island, generally pretty bored, watching these ladies move in synchronization, working out together in step. But one thing that I remember very vividly was the camaraderie of these women, from all walks of life, sharing their bond of fitness to better themselves and to challenge each other. Sitting outside the studio, I remember wondering what they were always hooting and hollering about. Not much has changed since the '80s.
Not surprisingly, today my attitude toward fitness is considerably less apathetic, and now I see why the fitness community is thriving more than ever, especially in New York City, where heart is at its core. When I first discovered Barry's almost five years ago, I recalled the memories of my time waiting for my mom in that gym. There before me was a community of people, empowered by an instructor, empowered by each other, and empowered by the challenge to be something greater together.
This is the magic of group fitness and the community that surrounds it. As with any community, the bond is the common thread, but our differences enhance the overall experience. At any given moment in my studio, I can have a Olympic gold medalist running next to a 65-year-old grandmother who is running next to a Victoria's Secret angel, running next to a cancer survivor. This is the beautiful thing about community. We pull from our experience to get us through the obstacles, and sometimes it helps to have people around us who have walked different paths to achieve greatness. That is what community is all about. I am empowered by my community.
Matt Maggiacomo, affectionately known as just “Matty” to those who know him, is a fitness instructor at Barry's Bootcamp and personal trainer in New York City. He describes his experience with the professional fitness world as “life changing” and considers the best part of working in the industry to be the people. A constant motivator, Matt applies his years of experience in the media to share knowledge about health and fitness with every client he teaches, and has a passion for telling stories about the people who changed their lives through fitness.