Wellness Versus Fitness

I think of fitness as the physical aspects of keeping one’s body strong and healthy through active exercise, and good nutrition. Wellness, on the other hand, covers the essential areas of our life, which effects our overall health, because it includes the mind, the body and the spirit.
I have been in this business for almost ten years,  I have seen fit  people, crippled by personal trauma and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. People who suffer from low self-esteem, no matter how great their bodies look, they are not satisfied. I’ve meet people who lack spirituality, therefore making them feel isolated and alone. In one of my workshop,  the speaker asked everyone to anonymously write a question for him, someone wrote how do I like myself?
Being fit is a great endeavor. It’s the goal to take care of your body. It helps optimize your physical health, allowing you to enjoy life. It is essential to overall wellness. However, the same attention we give our bodies, we also need to give our mental and spiritual well-being, because they are integrally connected. A healthy part is necessary to create a healthy whole.
It is work most people don’t like to do. It’s hard to develop clarity, perspective, and dedication to the “whole” self. It takes commitment to make real changes in your thinking and lifestyle, in order to keep the triangle balanced. Nevertheless, it is important work!
Take time to evaluate these  areas of your life and develop a plan. It can be  as simple as outlining three goals in each area.  List three things that would help you feel better. You will create a map. You’d be surprised, even unconsciously, how you will start working in that direction.
Think of your health, your wellness, in broader terms. Connect mind, body and spirit. You will feel more alive, when all of the parts work together to support the whole.

Fitness or Torture?

In my profession I speak with a lot of people, especially in regards to their body and physical practices.  I hear the most incredible stories of injuries.  It is insane that people will push themselves to the point of injuring their bodies. One lady said she pushed herself so hard she passed kidney stones. One guy lived on Ibuprofen for so long, he develop a severe allergic reaction to it.  What?!?!  OMGOSH! Muscles have been torn, knees wrecked, rotator cuff muscles snapped, hips displaced, and the list goes on.  What’s going on?  Are you working out to be fit or disabled?  It reminds of the Catholic practice of flagellation, a tradition of suffering inflicted by oneself. It’s practiced by those feeling unworthy, whether you are catholic or not, that is a real thing.

So ask yourself: why am I exercising?  In my Febuary blog I talk about how important it is to have a goal in mind.  For example, I want a strong, fit body so I can continue practicing the activities that I love like SUP, boogie boarding, swimming, skating and dancing to name a few.  I want my body strong and healthy so I can do these things for as long as possible. In turn, a strong, healthy body makes me happy!  If you continuously beat yourself up, trust me, your body will say (not in words, but action) “…the heck with you!”  I know instructors who have worked their bodies so hard they live medicated and in chronic pain. The problem with being mediated is after a while you don’t know what symptoms are from the medicine or the aliment.  Is it worth it?

Take care of your body it is the only place you have to live!  Open your mind and realize that your body is incredibly intelligent. Imagine for a moment, all of the millions of transactions that happen simultaneously every day, without your input. Your body is intuitive, communicative and everything works together to keep itself healthy from the inside out. In the meantime you’re beating it up from the outside in. Huh? And then when your body decides it’s done, its boohoo..how come?  If you don’t take good care of your body, it will not take good care of you. Regrettably, my body has had its fair share of abuse in my younger days, I won’t lie, however it’s never too late to turn it around and give your body the love and respect it deserves, even when you’re working out. 

Work to your edge, stay tuned in to what works and what doesn’t, even when your instructor or trainer pushes you to work harder, work at your level.  After you establish your current level, then work gradually to increase, depending on your goal. You may be happy where you’re at.  You know your body better than anybody else. If you don’t, now is a good time to start.    

A Strong Core

 Most times when people think of a strong core, they think of the six-pack abs, otherwise known as the rectus abdominis muscle group. These illustrious group of muscles, denote strength in the fitness world and get all the praise for someone having a strong core.  However a strong core is much more than that, a strong core is a group of six muscle groups that comprise what we call the “powerhouse”.  It is comprised of the transverse abdominis, multifidus muscle, external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis and the erector spinae.

  *Picture from mycoreprogression.com

A strong core is essential to everything you do physically.  My Pilates instructor would say “… a strong core is like the trunk of the tree, it supports all of the limbs.”  Both in yoga and dance a strong core is essential.  Great dancers have incredibly strong cores.  Remember all those buff guys in Magic Mike?  If you watch closely, all of their fly moves stem from the core. What about all of the intermediate yoga poses like crow, headstand, and forearm stand?  You must have a strong core to achieve those poses, it’s what helps you get into to the pose and stay there.

A strong core even helps with certain physical alignments.  Ten years ago from a daily two-hour commute to and from Boston, carrying my laptop on one shoulder, I got the worse sciatic pain.  It was the first time in my life I had to go to physical therapy. One of the things the therapist told me was that I had to strengthen my core. I was on a mission after that. I built in a fifteen/twenty minute core workout every day as part of my gym workout for the next five years at least.  Guess what?  It worked.  I have long since diversified my workout due to all the classes I teach, however I’ve never had sciatic pain again.

Core strengthening is the most important work you should do.  You should include a few core strengthening exercises no matter what your fitness regime is. There is a variety of core strengthening exercises to choose from. There are also many exercise machines designed to target the core area.  Variety is good when it comes to strengthening your core.  My favorite exercises are the ones where you have to use your own body weight like high planks, low planks, side planks, form arm planks etc. Both yoga, and dance inherently strengthen your core, however if you can build in extra core strengthening to your fitness workout schedule, do it!  You can never do too much core work.

  *Side Plank Variation

The New Fitness Model

If you’ve been in fitness for a long time, you will know that trends come and go.  The fitness industry has been working to find the right combination of exercise for some time. Ultimately is starts with your personal fitness goals.  Are you exercising to lose weight?  Be strong? Compete? Stay active?  Stress relief?  There are many reasons people exercise, and being clear about what your goals are is very important.  My fitness goal is to keep my body healthy and strong, so I can live my life to the fullest. I also use exercise to help release stress and create endorphins, the body’s natural Prozac.
Decades ago the major focus was aerobic exercise, remember Jane Fonda & Richard Simmons. Gradually the focus shifted to strength training, and later it shifted to cross-training, a combination of aerobics and strength training.  The most recent trend is to add yoga to your fitness regime.  Many group fitness classes are adding “stretching’ at the end of the class, however it is not enough, at a minimum one yoga class a week should be part of your schedule. In yoga the work revolves around the six anatomical planes, each class creates umpteen combinations of the six directions, thus creating true flexibility and strength in your body.  You are not truly fit if your body is not flexible.
                       Body’s Anatomical Planes
I love the new fitness model.  It allows for a lot of variety!  Cardio comes in so many different forms; running, walking, dancing, cycling.  For strength training you can work on a myriad of fitness equipment, you can take group fitness classes or you can use free weights and kettlebells.  Yoga also has a wide variety of options, from gentle yoga to hot power yoga where the workout is more intense.   The fitness model is inspiring, because the combinations are endless, you don’t have to do the same thing all the time.  People seem to want to stick to only the things they enjoy or know.  However adding different and new exercises to your workouts, helps keep the body strong, the mind focused and the spirit inspired.

 

“I don’t workout to be skinny! I workout to be healthy and happy”.

Beto Perez, Zumba Founder