Mikko Laitinen, Finland
Welcome again to Berlin Fitness Festival’s blog! We are very excited about our first athlete entry, not only because beginnings are always exciting, but because we managed to speak to Mikko Laitinen. He is a street workout (SW) trainer from Finland, who shared with us some useful lessons on fitness and this fairly new sport. Hopefully you can incorporate them in your own personal fitness journeys.
SW is a social-physical sport, a bodyweight based practice that results from the combination of gymnastics and parkour. It borrows the moves and techniques from gymnastics and the freedom from parkour. It is mostly practiced in open urban areas and in a freestyle manner, which means that you can create the practice that suits your needs and level.
BFF: When did you start practicing SW?
Mikko Laitinen: I started about one and a half years ago, but I have been practicing bodyweight training for over 5 years now.
BFF: What made you adopt a bodyweight based practice?
ML: I am not particularly keen on weight training, even though sometimes, when my body asks for it, I practice it. Bodyweight training is just more interesting, and it’s easy to combine with other practices.
BFF: How did you find SW?
ML: Literally on the street! Every summer, for the past three years, Barstarzz Finland has organized free trainings once a week. One and a half years ago, when the outdoor equipment was set up, I went to check it out, heard about the trainings and joined. I like it so much, I now work as a trainer for groups and individuals. It is a social-physical practice, which means I am part of a small but growing family here in Finland. Unfortunately Finland is too cold during the winter and we have to train inside and use public gyms. This year we have plans to build a SW indoor gym.
BFF: What is Barstarzz?
ML: It is the biggest SW organization in the world. It started in New York and has now spread over many countries, one of them being Finland.
BFF: Do you combine SW with other professional activities?
ML: Yes, I am a graduated physiotherapist and combine physiotherapy with my training sessions. That’s how things get really interesting! I think personal trainers know about training methods and moves, but lack anatomical and physiological knowledge that can allow their clients to get better results whilst taking better care of their bodies.
BFF: How did you decide to study physiotherapy?
ML: 5 years ago I injured my leg badly in a Taekwondo competition. I was faced with the situation of being unable to train. I went to many doctors, but my leg was not getting better. One day, a doctor recommended me to go to the physiotherapist. It was an amazing experience! After just two sessions my leg was capable of doing so much more.
BFF: Where do you find inspiration to train?
ML: I love sports! There is a fire in me that just wants to move! I have been practicing sports since the age of 6, everything from ice hockey to tennis, and break dance. At the age 7, I got to know Taekwondo, and it just felt good for me at the time. Five years ago, I started a bodyweight based practice and now I have discovered street workout. Another important source of motivation comes from the others, the people that I am training with, and the relationships we build together. In Finland we are now a street workout-family of 15-20 members. Being together is a big motivation to join the training.
BFF: How do you connect with people during the training?
ML: Well, you get to know a person very well through sports, not only by the fact that you spend time together regularly, but also from their actions and reactions to challenges. When you challenge people, you can see what goes through their mind when they are trying to achieve something. You get to see their true spirit through their reactions. In SW trainings you get to share a space and knowledge with people while you practice.
BFF: Do you combine SW with other fitness practices?
ML: I have a basic fitness toolkit made of social connections, meditation, which I practice individually, and of course, physical training. Social connections allow me to find a feeling of belonging and meditation helps me calm the mind from everyday stress. I do have to add that, if you wish to be the best, it will be wise to add nutrition to this package, but I have not incorporated that fully into my routine. I eat healthy, but I don’t stress too much about it. I mostly listen to my body and go with the feeling.
BFF: How did you develop an understanding of what your body needs?
ML: By using it, by training! When you test your physical limits you get to understand/ control your body and mind better. I have also taken part in competitions, both in Taekwondo and Street Workout. A big part of preparing for these competitions was listening to my body and understanding my limits.
BFF: Would you have any recommendations for someone who is interested in uplifting their fitness level, but lack the knowledge to do so?
ML: Start at your own capacity, don’t push your body further than it can go. With SW the starting line is that you must do the basic movements (push ups, dips, pull ups, etc) for 6 months to a year, before you start the advanced movements (human flag, single arm handstand, single arm lever, etc.,). Go to YouTube! Check the movements by yourself and practice! I would also recommend finding someone who is a little bit better than you, and can give you some guidance. If you want to start SW you can look for Barstarzz on Facebook and find a group that can help and guide you. Be patient, you will not get a hard movement right in a week or two!
BFF: What would be your personal fitness definition?
ML: To feel good. Practice a combination of disciplines that develop your body and mind. You are fit if you have a job you like and are good at, health, a fulfilling social life, and mostly, if you are feeling good in your current life situation. Being fit doesn’t mean you are a high level athlete. Fitness is not only about physical activities, it’s about finding the balance between all the things you do in life. It is about how you feel about yourself, not about how you look. Never listen to anybody talking about your body or your looks.
BFF: Where can we find you?
ML: For now, only in Finland. My Instagram account is @mikkosakke and if you are interested in joining the street workout family and train with us, you can find more information at Suomen Street Workout Yhdistys (Finnish Street Workout Association).
Written by Jessica Escobar