If you could do only one type of recreational activity what would it be? What’s the type of exercise or physical activity you always go back to and defines you? The one that follows after “I am”. I am a runner, I am a yogi, I am an MMA fighter, I am…


We asked 6 people about their chosen recreational activity. When and how they started and what it does for their mind, body and spirit.


I am a trail runner – Heloise Alexandra Hunter Marshall

 Recreational Activities That Define Us - Heloise Alexandra Hunter Marshal


How did you get into trail running?

I got a job at TRAIL magazine. No really, I’d always been a hiker since I was little and my mum would take my brother, sister, and I on hikes through Stainbank Nature Reserve. As an adult I got into mountain biking too, with my husband. I had never been a runner beyond sprints at school sports days. But, when I started working at TRAIL, I was flung into the community. They accepted me even though I can still barely crack a sub-30 minute 5k. Being on the trails and running is lighter and less complicated than hiking or biking them. And the downhills. The exhilaration of picking my way down a steep, tricky descent makes me feel so alive, focused, and happy.


How long have you been a trail running for?

I started working at TRAIL in 2014, so that makes it three years.


How does trail running make you feel 

Trail running gives me time to speed up my feet and slow down my mind. Sometimes when I’m on a trail my cheeks hurt because I’ve been smiling for over an hour without noticing… You have to pay attention to almost every footfall, or else you’ll eat dirt, so I tune out the rest of the world and just be one with the trail. Haven’t fallen yet! And if I need to take a break, I just slow down to a walk and admire the view. Running alone is my favourite, especially when I get lost. I feel so safe in the wilderness because on roads I am terrified of dogs and men and their angry voices and aggressive looks. I can spend hours in Palmiet, Kloof Gorge, or Stainbank, and hardly see another person. It gives my social anxiety a proper break.


How has trail running changed your body or your views towards your body?

My body takes me to the top of mountains and lets me float back down. The most incredible trail runners come in every shape, size, colour, and mood. It’s reassuring to have a sport where your body doesn’t have to fit a mould to work. Trail runners are hard-core: they will strap up the bits that don’t work and they will get out there. They will hobble over the line with a bloody knee, sweat streaming channels through the dust caked on their face, with a smile. In short, trail running has proved to me that my body can run, and what it can do is more important than what it looks like.


I am a Yogi – Nicole Jowett


Recreational Activities That Define Us - Nicole Jowett


How did you get into yoga?

I started Yoga long before it became cool on Instagram!  I had scoliosis as a teen and my Chiropractor suggested that I try Yoga to help my back pain and assist in straightening my spine.  I went to my first class and never looked back – I knew then and there that I needed Yoga in my life.  After a year of Yoga my spine had straightened out and I was free of back pain.   Even my Chiro was beyond amazed at the impact Yoga had on reversing my Scoliosis.


How long have you been practising yoga for?

I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years.  I started with Ashtanga Yoga. My instructor was pedantic about alignment and technique which was essential for my back and gave me a solid base as a starting point.   But in the last 4 years, I have been adding fun into my practice and choosing more alternative styles like Forrest Yoga, Budokon Yoga, and Acro Yoga.


How does yoga make you feel?

When I’m doing Yoga, nothing else matters and I can forget about everything that is worrying me that day, it’s impossible to do Yoga without being completely committed to each pose.   This escape is invaluable to me – and I can’t get it from any other workout.  Other workouts can feel like a punishment to me, but Yoga never does.


How has yoga changed your body or your views towards your body?

Yoga has improved my core strength more than any other exercise I’ve ever done, and to this day is an essential tool for managing back pain.  More than that, Yoga was life changing for me as someone that was never good at any sports.  Yoga was something I could do – and what that did for my self-confidence was invaluable.


A lot of people think that yoga isn’t a workout, and this is only because they haven’t tried the right kind of Yoga.  The right Yoga class can deliver an overall strength workout just like any other type of exercise.


In dealing with body image expectations, Yoga has taught me that what my body can do and how I feel while I’m doing it, is far more important than how my body looks.   I like to think that if the mind is in the right place the body will follow, and this mind-body connection is what makes Yoga so special to me.


I am a cyclist – Brandon Hinton


Recreational Activities That Define Us - Brandon Hinton


How did you get into cycling?

Cycling was for a very long time just another training tool when I was racing motocross. Somehow when I reached my late teens I felt the need to ditch the motor and became indulged in all things cycling. Weirdly, this all happened so organically. The culture, tactics, skills and of course the drama that seemed to follow the industry loured me in and before I knew it I was spending all my spare time on cycling blogs. There was actually never a moment when I made the conscious choice and signed the dotted line.


How long have you been cycling for?

As a side training tool, I’ve been cycling since I was about 15. But it became my number one focus as I hit my 20’s.


How does cycling make you feel?

Cycling has always been a form of meditation. I know there are a lot of people that can’t fathom spending hours on end on a narrow plastic seat, but the clarity you receive in this time is what makes cycling so addicting. It’s the place where I find myself getting some of my most inspiring ideas.


How has cycling changed your body or your views towards your body?

I quickly learnt that weight is equal to power. Put simply, the more you weigh the harder you have to work. This meant that I became conscious (not obsessive) over what I weighed and gave me a little extra motivation to drop the binge eating for more time in the saddle. Besides the skinny bod and tan lines, cycling is also great at teaching you to tune into your body, listening when to rest and knowing when to go hard. There are very few sports that can teach this with the same level of precision as what cycling does.


I am a road runner – Trad Cruickshank


Recreational Activities That Define Us - Trad Cruickshank


How did you get into road running?

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2007. A few years later someone asked me to train and run Comrades with them. My initial response was that I would never be able to run Comrades due to the complications from my Crohn’s. A few days later I thought, am I going to let my Crohn’s limit me for the rest of my life or am I going to live my life to the full? So I started running to overcome my preconceived self-limitations. Subsequently, my A-type competitive personality has kept me going to see how good I can become.


How long have you been running for?

I started running in May 2010, so have been running for 7 years. I’ve only been serious about my running for the past 3 years.


How does running make you feel?

Running gives me self-worth. It’s one area I think I excel in. I enjoy the health and stress benefits before having to sit in an office all day.


How has running changed your body or your views towards your body?

Running has shown me that the only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves in our minds. If we believe we can do something, our bodies can be trained and have no limitations. Being extremely fit is just a great side-effect.


I am an MMA athlete– Norman Wessels aka “Chef”


Recreational Activities That Define Us - Norman Wessels "Chef"


How did you get into MMA?

I found it creatively stimulating being submerged in a diverse martial arts environment on a daily basis. Contributing towards and being part of a tribe or community of like-minded intelligent people, athletes and family members, has challenged me emotionally, mentally and physically. It has shaped who I am today. I want to add value to my tribe, I want to grow and progress, I want to belong to something real. After that the sport of MMA was a natural evolution for me, a platform to express myself and challenge our methods.


How long have you been doing MMA?

I have been doing MMA for almost 18 years I haven’t stopped playing physical team sports since the age of 4years old.


How does MMA make you feel?

It’s a love-hate relationship with my personal martial arts journey, constantly walking a tight rope between mastery and failure. But overwhelmingly I feel gratitude, being able to wake up in the morning with purposeful intention is liberating.


How has MMA changed your body or your views towards your body?

I am a stranger than the memory of my younger self. I have learnt with experience that the mind and body are infinitely malleable, infinitely pliable. But the secret is that your tribe is king, you are the average of the people you surround yourself with whether you like it or not. Your tribe will shape your mentality and intentions, your body will evolve and adapt to the environment you create.


I am a climber – Jason Friedman


Recreational Activities That Define Us - Jason Friedman


How did you get into Climbing? 

I first started with climbing to improve my grip strength for Obstacle Course Racing – but then fell in love with the sport. I was lucky enough to also have Wonderwall Climbing Gym see potential in me and so they sponsored me. Through them I learnt a lot about climbing which I’m really grateful for.


How long have you been climbing for?

I’ve now been climbing for a year and it’s been one of the best years I’ve had in terms of training.


How does climbing make you feel?

I really love it! It’s just fun… every time I step into gym I’m excited. Partly because I’m just a monkey at heart.


How has climbing changed your body or your views towards your body?

My calisthenics (body weight training) has improved drastically; I could never do one arm pull-ups. I finally managed to do a full one the other day. Climbing also makes you realise how vital core strength and flexibility is, which has helped me a lot in terms of overall health. I’m a lot leaner than I was before too. When you first start you think it’s just strength – I work up a proper sweat and can burn anything from 500 to 1000 calories a session.


What follows “I am” for you?

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