I’m welcomed into SiSU with a smile. It’s 8.55 am, and my CrossFit class kicks off at 9. It will be my first taste of the fitness regimen I’ve only ever seen on Instagram, eagerly endorsed by tight bodies in tightly edited videos. I’m a little bit nervous.
Being summertime in Brisbane, the leafy suburb of Windsor where SiSU resides has been bathed in sunlight for hours. The equipment seems to gleam; shiny black bars, hoops, plyo boxes and ropes wait patiently, expectantly, for use. I squeeze past a row of exercise bikes pushed out onto the sunny forefront of the new fitness space to greet Agatha.
Agatha, or Agz as she likes to be known, is a co-owner of SiSU. After we exchange hellos, she asks about my fitness. I meekly mention Pilates and a rekindling of a love affair with soccer (it didn’t last). Any injuries? I say a pesky shoulder, the side-effect of an ergonomically challenged home office. She smiles, assures me we’ll watch the shoulder in our workout.
I then notice Alex, the other of SiSU’s founding duo, stretching with another member on the floor.
“Welcome to CrossFit at SiSU!” she says when she spots me; I’m offered another wide smile that shines from Alex’s eyes as much as her mouth.
My awkward stance betrays my own confident smile; I don’t know how to behave in a space like this anymore.
In recent years, the gym and its voluntary inhabitants have become foreign to me. I think, now, that avid gym-goers must have something I don’t – beyond the urge to wake before the sun to exercise – and I’m now too intimidated or lazy to join in. As I approach 30, however, the importance of a healthier routine weighs heavier on my (sore) shoulders than it did ten years ago. If I want a vibrant and more mobile future, I can’t keep telling myself exercise is definitely, most certainly, on tomorrow’s agenda.
As I find a space and pick up my practice barbell, a member greets me warmly, “Is this your first time?” she asks, her ponytail tight. I nod. “You’ll be fine. It was my first time just last week, and I’ve come back!” She laughs.
SiSU is Brisbane’s newest fitness community, which opened its doors in January this year. Bringing refreshing change to a fresh year, SiSU challenges the stereotype of gyms as exclusive “clubs” welcome only to the fitness-enthused who look as though they probably star-jumped from the womb in Lorna Jane.
In fact, when Agz and Alex started SiSU, they were adamant that it not become “only” anything – not only a CrossFit gym, not only a physical fitness gym, but rather an inclusive space that backs you through the whole and wholly unpredictable journey of health.
“I didn’t want to be a CrossFit-only gym, because I think CrossFit can be intimidating for people,” Agatha explained after we’d finished what was my first CrossFit workout. (I sat, immensely proud for surviving the hour.)
“I wanted a holistic health and fitness space.” She continued.
“And, fortunately, Alex was on the same page,” Agz looked to her founding partner, who was then perched across from me atop of her physiotherapy table. (Alex is a dual practicing physiotherapist and pharmacist.)
Alex nodded: “We want to be there for the whole health journey,” she said.
“From helping you recover, to getting you back to where you want to be and progressing. Whether that’s with group fitness, personal training, massage, or nutrition coaching… or a bit of everything.”
There were eight other people in my CrossFit class that morning. Conscious of the mysterious pain in my right shoulder and the fact that I hadn’t attempted any serious exercise for months, I approached the first exercise – deadlifts – cautiously.
As barbells laden with weights heavier than my own body were hoiked above heads, I was kindly directed to stick to the lighter barbell, sans weight, and given my own set of shoulder-friendly instructions. I wasn’t the only one following an adjusted routine, either.
As my heart rate increased, my self-consciousness melted away. I moved from feeling like a clown in a business meeting to relishing the way that my body worked muscles I’d almost forgotten I had.
However, I’m not the only one in whom merely the word ‘gym’ elicits these feelings.
“A lot of people will put off going to the gym because they don’t feel like they’re fit enough or good enough to start,” Alex said.
“But that’s like cleaning your house before the cleaner gets there,” she laughed. “You don’t have to be fit to join our space. This is where that happens. You just have to be ready to give it a go.”
In many of our lives, however, “giving it a go” is an expectation wedged tightly between school runs or assignments or demanding jobs, often the first to topple in the war of immediate necessities. As many Australians juggle 40-hour work weeks with parental duties, household chores and hopefully some time to relax, fitness can easily become lost under the pile of washing or the latest Netflix drama.
The key, it seems, is to prioritise, make plans, and be held accountable. Decide ahead of time what works with your own schedule and commit. And start small.
“A lot of people will put off going to the gym because they don’t feel like they’re fit enough or good enough to start. But that’s like cleaning your house before the cleaner gets there.”
“The saying that we’ve all got 24 hours a day is true,” Alex said. “It just depends on what’s most important to you.”
Agz agreed: “Many people will say that being healthy and well is important. But then they don’t take the time to prioritise their health, or they’re not exactly sure where to even start.”
SiSU strives to offer everyone, from first-timers to fitness aficionados, a comfortable and supportive environment where they can cultivate happier, healthier lives. Their classes are scalable, and small, so you can receive personal attention from your coaches.
Agz and Alex make incorporating fitness into your life as easy possible, too. Apart from their smiles and the friendly vibe their space inspires (you’ll forever be on a first-name basis), SiSU is opened from 5 am to 7 pm every weekday and on Saturdays.
“You’re not just a number at SiSU,” Agatha said.
“We take the time to know everyone, particularly where they’re at on their health and fitness journey and with any injuries.
“Whether you’re in your 60s and haven’t exercised in 10 years, or a CrossFitter in your 20s, you’ll feel just as supported and included,” she said. “This is your place.”
“Our dream is to help people change their lives for the better.”
Until next time,