Why Jolien Boumkwo is the Ultimate Gym Inspiration

YoIf you’ve ever approached a rack squat, assisted pull-up machine, battle ropes, or other heavy gym equipment with any trepidation, this is your cue to do so.

Because imagine if what you were facing wasn’t a piece of fitness equipment, but a series of literal obstacles that world-class runners leap at incredible speed all over the place.

That’s what Belgian shot putter Jolien Boumkwo experienced Saturday at the European Team Championships athletics meet in Krakow, Poland. Boumkwo is a member of the Belgian track and field team who competes in strength events, including shot put, hammer throw, and discus, not sprints or hurdles.

But the Belgian team found itself without a hurdler to compete in the 100m hurdles due to injuries, which meant the team would lose the two points earned from competing in the event. In an athletics competition, every point counts towards the total, and Belgium hoped to do well enough in terms of total points to maintain their position as a Division 1 team at the European Team Championships.

Then, faced with the disqualification from the event and the loss of points, Boumkwo raised his hand to intervene. He would run the 100m hurdles, even though that’s definitely not his sport.

As seen in a event video, the hurdlers take off like racehorses out of the gate. Hurdlers maintain their speed and do amazing mid-air split jumps to get over obstacles. And overcoming those obstacles is no easy task. They clock in at two feet nine inches, making them a challenge to clear at any speed.

Boumkwo also begins to run towards the starting gun, but when he reaches the first hurdle, he jumps over it one leg bent at a time. She immediately falls behind, but keeps going, obstacle after obstacle, until she crosses the finish line, and her running mates give her a high-five.

Unfortunately, the two points Boumkwo earned for competing were not enough for Team Belgium to maintain their divisional status. However, the story has captured the world’s attention and has gone viral. Seeing someone step up for the good of their team, do something outside of their experience and comfort zone, and not do it perfectly, but still finish it, on a world stage, no less, could resonate with anyone. You may have volunteered to help cover for a coworker who is away, took on a new assignment for the PTA, or served as an outfielder in a recreational kickball league.

For those who raise their hands, it may be necessary to set limits with their time and availability to maintain mental health and well-being. But from time to time, perhaps we can enjoy the heartwarming spirit of teamwork and sportsmanship on display.

Your solo gym time may not be about contributing to the good of the team, but about feeling good and pushing yourself, without worrying about how you look in the outside world. That’s why Boumkwo could serve as an apt role model for your fitness goals and gym inspiration. Trying something new at the gym, in the gym, or on a walk or run around the block isn’t about doing it perfectly. It’s about giving your best effort.

So the next time you’re wondering if you can take on that new exercise, piece of equipment, or rep or weight goal, let Jolien Boumkwo be your gym inspiration. Think of her looking at those obstacles and prove it.

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