During his lunch hour on most work days, Morris Solomon can be found walking around the compound of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) at Mon Repos, on the East Coast of Demerara.
The midday walks were a practical solution for Solomon, a Chemist employed by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, who had been trying to balance his commitments to his family with the full-time job, family and multitude of other hobbies, while trying to get fit.
With a newborn changing his family dynamics, Solomon found that he couldn’t make it to gym as often as before, which inadvertently led him to start what is now “#workfit.”
“I decided to challenge everybody to brave the sun and walk. I know it’s hot [but] I had a friend of mine who said she would come. So, it was her, her boyfriend and me; the three of us started. I would take photos and hashtag stuff, like #workfit, and it started to catch on,” he told Sunday Stabroek.
“It was me alone walking around NAREI in the midday sun, in office clothes, just walking. It’s been a month or two now and it has become a regular thing,” he shared, while noting that his colleagues have taken it upon themselves to be active even when he is absent.
“That’s the thing with #workfit and some of the colleagues want to do longer walks and I’m like, ‘Midday though?’ I became the negative one. But I couldn’t do that to them so we decided to do a different route and it’s exciting for me because people are looking at it differently—how they can benefit from it more…. It’s real nice, getting workers out and being active. Sometimes you’re sitting there all day but if you come out for 13 or 15 minutes and you power walk, come back, you’re good to go, you feel better. I have friends at other workplaces who are trying to organise their own thing and that’s from seeing my posts,” Solomon said, referring to his chronicling of his exploits on social media.
Things were not always like this, however, as he, like so many others, had issues “finding the time” to focus on his fitness.
Solomon explained that though he has always had a passion for exercising, he never quite had the time as he was balancing his work and teaching part time.
However, he ended up putting some more thought into it after participating in a hike to Schomburgk’s Peak, one of the highest mountains in the Kunuku Mountain range in the Rupununi.
“I went on a mountain climb with some friends and it was one of the toughest things I have ever done in my life. I reached a point where I wanted to give up… I ended up telling the guys I was with to go ahead of me because I felt like I was hold[ing] everyone back. I was so unfit that I had to literally lift a leg and put it in front of the other one just to move. Eventually made it to the top, enjoyed the view, had a good time and came down back but I said to myself this nonsense has to stop,” Solomon said.
And while a promotion over the years afforded him more time, he admitted that
staying committed posed a challenge for him and his fitness ventures were often short-lived.
As time passed, Solomon got another wake-up call in the months leading up to his wedding, when he felt unsatisfied with his appearance in the suit he had fallen in love with.
“I put on the suit and the pants fit well. The jacket when I pull it on fit, but my belly was like right up there and I was like nah man I got to fix this,” he recounted.
It was at that point that he decided to re-commit himself to gym. “I went all out, went four days in the gym and my off days wasn’t even much of an off day. I started to eat better, eat cleaner. It was from work to gym, I had a colleague who was always pushing me to do better. After two weeks, I started to feel differently… I started to see the results and the trainer at the gym used to push me, saying I can do more; this time I wanted to dead. But lo and below, I fit in my suit and I felt good,” Solomon related.
“I stopped for about a month but I was still trying to eat clean but even with that the food was just good. I went back to gym [and] I realised I didn’t lose that much in terms of stamina. One morning I went to the park early and I started to run and I wasn’t stopping, I use [to] run and stop like every 10 seconds but I was running and not stopping and I made one lap without stopping. I was in the parking lot ecstatic,” he added.
A good path
In addition to his #workfit activities, Solomon enjoys hiking, which he said not only challenges him and others physically but also allows them to get out of their comfort zones.
While organising hikes is nothing new for Solomon, he only recently started posting images on his Facebook, arousing the interest of quite a few.
This saw a hike in September attracting the support of 20 persons, mostly newcomers, who hiked from Kuru Kururu to Camp Kabouyak, a private camping ground behind the community. Solomon said he now tries to organise hikes once a month at a very low cost for anyone who is interested.
“It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and sometimes even branch off from your friends because sometimes you find that your friends can keep you back from something better. If you come and hike with us without your friends it’s better for you, you can learn so much about yourself, about people, about the environment. If you come with friends, you might be distracted by them,” he added.
According to Solomon he had to get out of his own comfort zone by eating cleaner and cutting his alcohol intake, all with the support of his wife, Cassandra. “We have stopped drinking aerated drinks, it’s been about two months now since I’ve had aerated drink, we buy a lot of fruits and we work with that. Fast food and beers is another thing; I love KFC but I would eat it once a month or once every two months, but it’s all a commitment for us,” he said.
“Moving away from so much of heavy drinking to literally none now, it takes a lot; drinking for me now is not like sitting at a bar and drinking. If I do a bar scene, I just do a beer or two and stop. Two years ago, the old me was something different but now I am much fitter now, I am much cleaner on the inside. There is still some weight I want to push off, this isn’t my ultimate goal but I still want to learn new techniques…I’m not the best hiker out there or the best nutritionist or fitness person but I think I’m on a good path,” he added.
Looking to the immediate future, Solomon said he is working to organise a hike in the Rupununi.
“We will be going to Rupununi Expo in Lethem and I want this to reach other places so while I’m there I want to try to organise a walk or a hike to one of the villages, maybe to Kumu from Lethem. If I get three or even one person, I am still going. I have it planned in my head but I just have to look at the logistics now,” he said.
“Another thing I want to do is walk from one end of the town to the other end…so for Georgetown it would be walking from the Agricola Arch to Cummings Lodge at the Arch; the same thing for Anna Regina, Mabaruma, New Amsterdam, Lethem and other places. I don’t think anybody has done all but if I’m the first then yay for me,” he added.