Jack Cross

“Being active is something naturally engrained in who I am. Even on the laziest of Sundays I will struggle to sit still. I’m not necessarily exercising, in fact I’ll actively avoid traditional exercise but I am probably finding some new way to get onto the sofa, jumping over it from behind or somersaulting onto it – generally just making my fiancé panic whenever she sees me leap across the room.

Growing up I always played a lot of sports, and have found being part of a team my safe space. Until the age of 19 I regularly played football and rugby and so they became my primary source of exercise and also my happy active place. At 19 I got into drama school which meant moving away from home and the teams I had been a part of for so long. I was now experiencing a very different form of exercise with long rehearsal hours and sometimes physically demanding acting roles – my training regime became a lot more about my solo flexibility and conditioning rather than kicking a ball around a field and having a laugh with mates whilst doing so. After a year of monotonous forced conditioning I travelled to Estonia for a 2 month placement where my training specialised in circus acrobatics, particularly group acrobatic work. I had finally found a form of exercise that allowed me to express my fearless physicality, the same I found diving into slide tackles or attempting to tackle the biggest lad on the rugby field, and I thrived doing so.

Fast forward to graduating and my pals who I trained so tirelessly with to create theatrical acrobatic routines have all moved to different parts of the country, taking me back to a place of having to train alone – and ultimately hating it. I was taking the first steps in career, signing an agent and getting professional work in theatre. We are constantly told in our industry to keep fit and forever be developing our skills, which meant, with my background in acrobatics I needed to stay physically fit – however this pressure came with huge constraints. I could no longer play football or rugby or anything that would present a risk of injury. No one wants to see Hamlet hobble across the stage on crutches!

This restriction in what I was ‘allowed’ to do physically really affected me mentally, to have to maintain something so crucial to your chances of getting work (with such a high possibility of rejection anyway) with no drive or love of doing it, made me question everything I’d worked to achieve because the combination of the industry and what I felt I was missing out on because of it was making me so sad.

I have been extremely fortunate to have performed many unique roles in my career, walking on stilts and performing aerial hoop and harness routines have allowed me to express the active nature engrained in me as well as doing what I love. The true crux of why I have enjoyed these jobs is because once again I was being physical as part of a team, working with likeminded actors just like when I played sports as a child and teenager with likeminded people.

As I am sure is the case with many people this lockdown has sapped me of any motivation to be physical, I am in a first floor flat with no garden, a cheesecake that needs eating and no team to exercise with.

This was until a very good friend of mine broke up the memes and general silliness of the group chat to suggest us joining him in his workouts. He put no pressure on ability or age or anything else for that matter just a safe space for anyone feeling too down or unmotivated to exercise alone. I logged in on the first session and only saw one familiar face, I set up my mat and took part in the 20 minute full body workout – as it ended the other (very sweaty) faces all came towards their screen and I felt a real sense of shared achievement, for those 20 minutes we all forgot about our employment issues, life struggles and general impeding fear of doom. We briefly chatted and went back to our lives until the next time where the unfamiliar faces from the last time had now become familiar, a community, a team to exercise with. We worked out again, some struggling, some thriving but all supporting each other with no pressure to lose weight or gain massive muscles but just to keep our bodies and minds fit and active. Finally out of this horrible pandemic I had re-found the drive to be active with a team. My team.”

 

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