Sunday is typically a day of rest. I often melt into the couch to vegetate, ignoring text messages and phone calls, and making no plans to spend the day with anyone anywhere. Yesterday was an exception. A remarkable exception at that.
I spent the morning at Westwood athletic club as a buddy to Al and a few other triathletes living with multiple sclerosis. Al who I had met earlier this year after a referral from his neurologist was diagnosed seven years ago which triggered a long stretch of his own vegetating on the couch. Not just on Sundays but nearly every day as he struggled with the diagnosis.
In the months since joining the gym he will tell you that it has brought him back to life. I was fortunate to witness it on his first day with us. Connecting with other athletes and dabbling in his first few exercises, he was moved to tears as he was encouraged to do more. He didn't believe he could but the wisdom of the group who had started on this journey months before him knew otherwise.
For many people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it robs them of a piece of their spirit as it compromises or promises to compromise their bodies. Whether it is depression from learning they have this debilitating disease or the secondary ramifications of seeing their deterioration and perhaps having to step away from their purpose. The most important thing the workouts can offer an athlete is community. Community enlivens the spirit, removes the loneliness and alienation and can serve as a model of what LIVING with MS is really about.
In the workouts, athletes participate in SMR or trigger point therapy to reduce muscle spasticity, a common side effect of MS. They stretch, practice balance or agility exercises, and work through a series of exercises that build strength, power, and endurance all of which are capacities that MS will take away from them if they allow it to. Al and others train 5 to 7 days per week for up to two hours per day. And I share this with you to understand the effort and struggle that went into the victory I saw yesterday.
Al and the rest of the team completed a triathlon amidst cheering family, friends and gym goers. Athletes pulled themselves out of wheelchairs or from their walking sticks or walkers to complete 10 minutes of swimming, 20 minutes of spinning, and 15 minutes walking or running as they were able. They pushed harder than I've seen before and explored their limits as their bodies overheated and shut down in the effort. Their perseverance inspired the masses who watched on reminding us all of our capabilities rather than our limitations and sharing with us the true definition of perseverance.
Today marks the second week of my triathlon training and I know that I will train harder because of their example. As I explore my own limitations throughout my training season, I am committed to honor their courage and to persevere as they have for my own cause of Crohns/colitis as well as for those living with MS and the campaign of exercise is medicine as a whole. But talk is cheap. I must now go put in the work as Al and others do each day.
You are beautiful and perfect just the way you are. That is how we at Balance Fitness see every client. As Michelangelo once said "I see an angel in the stone and carve to set it free".
I believe this is an essential element at Balance Fitness and what you should be looking for in any trainer or coach you choose to work with. Do they see you as damaged and flawed, in need of repair? Or do they see you as whole and amazing, only needing to chip away at that which keeps you and the world from seeing it.
As we go through life our bodies and our psyches are shaped by every person who touches our lives and every experience we share with them. Some of the people or moments leave damage that permanently alter us, or scars which may only be visible at close inspection (even if only by us) but may remind us of those painful moments long ago. Either way, we are not flawed but refined. We are adapted. Our innate will to survive and the "why's" for which we live inspire us to persevere and to grow as a result of our damage.
Can you think of a moment that has changed you? Is there a capacity in you that has been limited by an injury that you've suffered? I can. Many of them.
There are days where I cannot see my perfection. There are days when the broken bones have not mended straight and the scars are too deep or two profound to see past. There are days where I forget that my potential is limited by my own perception not my reality. Today is not that day for either of us.
How will you act today in the reflection of your beauty and greatness? Will you honor the scars while working to repair the damage or will you hide them and let them close you off from your potential? I know which one I hope for you.
At what point does it become arrogant or boastful to celebrate our victories? When were we taught that to discuss our strengths was inappropriate or even a sign of weakness?
At this time of the year my clients and I are looking over our progress and celebrating, truly celebrating our victories. Some of lost weight. Some have grown businesses. Some have reduced health risks or taken bucket list vacations. All are moving closer to Living Balance Fit.
Everyone has their “Why” and we spend our hours, weeks, months, and years working in the service of that why. What is so wrong about pausing to reflect on the progress we have made? I say nothing at all! Share it with your social network; share it with the world; or simply reflect on it in silence and solitude. Either way allow yourself the time to connect emotionally with the fruits of your labor. You deserve it and you've earned it.
On the other hand struggles and "failures" seem to linger. We have no problem dwelling on them. We may not be so enthused about sharing them but we do wear them on our hearts for long after we've experienced them. Why? Is it more noble to carry our sufferings?
Rather than continually abuse ourselves replaying our struggles...find the lesson in it? What can you learn from it? The lesson is there and it is up to you to find it. If you do, it will lead you to the next victory. If you do not, it will continue to batter you quietly from the inside like an unrelenting bully. Except that in this instance, the bully is you.
Every year brings both victories and struggles. In the stolen moments between the holidays or in the first weeks of the new year, take some time to reflect on yours. Neither one can stick with you in the new year but they can serve to inspire and inform your next victory and alleviate the pain and trauma of the struggles past, present, and future.
May is exercise is medicine month. What does that mean? What it means is we as a society have grown soft, week, and as a result ill. Exercise has been proven to be a part of the solution if we're doing it right.
Most of the leading causes of death in America from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are attributable to lifestyle. Moreover a significant body of evidence points to a lack of activity at the root of our metabolic problems and frailty. Both of which have direct ties into these diseases.
Does that sound like propaganda? Are you one of the people who would respond by saying I don't want to live the last couple of years anyway. The reality is that exercise does not significantly extend one's life. It is however capable of improving the quality of it. While exercising in and of itself may suck...it reduces inflammation, uses the excess sugars we consume each day and makes us more sensitive to insulin, reducing the need for it. It also released natural pain killers and mood enhancers. All of which will prevent or delay the laundry list of conditions Americans suffer needlessly from. In short, it will enable you to do more with the years that you do have and no one ever regrets a workout once they've finished it.
What exercise is right for you is relative to what your current fitness level is, what injuries or conditions you are dealing with, and even what lurks in your family history. As far as general guidelines go, the current recommendation is 150 or more minutes of exercise above and beyond your activities of daily living per week. If you are dealing with weight issues as well, boost that number to 60 minutes per day 5-7 days per week. If you aren't currently doing any exercise, start slowly and build to those recommendations. Something is far better than nothing but I'd like to see everyone get to that 60 minutes per day eventually.
What are you waiting for? Get up, get out, and get moving. Your life depends on it. In the words of Arthur Ashe..."Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
Spring time marks the time where energy comes back up to the surface and new growth surges. This is no more true than in Wisconsin where we will be come out of hibernation to soak up the first sunny day and everyone there after. It amazes me how good the first 40° day feels in Spring when it nearly shuts me down in the Fall.
Today as I look around it is nearly 50° and the lakefront is filled with joggers, walkers, cyclists, and anyone else looking for an excuse to be outside. The next few days are predicted to be more of the same. Don't let the crowds disuade you. There is still plenty of room for you. I could have stayed inside to catch my workout but I've chosen instead to take my own advice and find a place outdoors to climb rocks. There's a ton of research to support our connection with the outdoors but none of it speaks louder then the stir of your soul when the sun touches your skin and the first few deep breaths of fresh air fill your lungs. As little as 5 minutes of activity outdoors can decrease depression and anxiety symptoms as well as any pharmaceutical and without the side effects, not to mention deliver a boost of caffine free energy. So get a dose for yourself. Your senses will awaken and your hibernation will officially come to an end. Get outside and see for yourself. In Wisconsin, there is no telling how long it will last.
What seems like a lifetime ago already, I served as a Montessori teacher for adolescents. In my Montessori orientation I heard the phrase repeatedly "Grace and courtesy". While this was not specifically a Montessori teaching, it was a philosophy adopted by Montessori educators because of the way it honored ones place in the larger community. Grace referred to a peace and respect towards yourself. Courtesy referred to that same peace and respect towards others. Since those days long past as a Montessori educator, I have returned to my original classroom...the gym. Here I find myself urging gym goers to find the grace in their pursuit of personal development. While the very application of exercise is most often to stimulate change that does not imply that what we are changing from was anything less than magnificent. By our very nature, we continuously yearn for a little (or a lot) more. Today, as you choose to exercise...whether to trim your waistline, tighten your butt or just to feel better, begin by celebrating the choice to do it. Take action today on that choice. Get in the gym or get outside but take action today. Once you've begun, the most difficult part is already over. I say that again...once you've begun, the most difficult part is already over. Celebrate your victory and keep going. Be graceful. No matter what struggles you find in today's workout embrace them and keep going. Don't stop to beat yourself up. Celebrate the victory, embrace the struggle and keep going. Above all be graceful. You deserve it!
Every so often, I get a great idea! Or at least I think it's a great idea. As I often do, I bounce it off reasonable people (yes, Heather, I am referring to you as reasonable) to see if she agrees. Typically, she doesn't agree and rather than humor me, she rollls her eyes and scoffs at the idea to make sure that I know just how bad the idea is.
In Decemver when I told her that the Orange Shoe Personal Fitness location that I was managing was slated to close before Christmas eve, I told her that I wanted to try to keep the clients and trainers and the community together. I had proposed a cooperative model where like minded professionals could leverage their talents for the collective good of a community that needs to live a fitter and healthier life. I was tremendously surprised when instead of weighing my past gym closings, she replied with encouragement and an enthusiastic "you should buy it".
Three months later, I am coming up for air thanks to the consistent efforts of Rachel, the new energy of Kevin, and the continued love and support of all of you who have embraced our transition with grace and courtesy. Our new brand is born and is an evolution of my philosophy which began in my first gym in 2001 by the same name. Balance Fitness and now the Live Balance Fit maxim serves as a reminder to me, my team, and those we serve to maintain Balance in our life. We are not a gym, but a health and performance coaching service commited to helping you live a healthier, fitter life through a wholistic and sustainable approach.
Over the next few months, we will challenge you to identify priorities while carving out the time and energy to honor them. We will help you set goals and devise a realistic plan to pursue them. We will promote health education around plant based nutrition, purposeful movement, healthy habits, adventure, and love. We will partner with organizations and charities that embody our same principles and we will share all that we have to offer with you. As importantly, we will continue to strike our own balance between purpose and obligation; work and play; time and money; care for ourselves and caring for othes, so that our service will be sustainable and our lives fulfilling.
Balance Fitness is the home to these ideals and your partner in Living Balance Fit.