When I was young, once a year at school the dreaded announcement would be made in gym class: Fitness Test day was coming up.
This was the infamous Canada Fitness Test that was once a rite of passage for Canadian school-aged kids. Everyone would practice, everyone would be subject to the timed testing, and in the end we would all get a badge: Gold, Silver, Bronze. Or Participation.
The level of satisfaction and enjoyment that was experienced by each child usually corresponded to the level of badge that was likely to be received. The Gold people LOVED this fitness test, while the mere Participants could be found hiding in the changing room with dread and sheer panic.
Evidently, I was a Participant most years. I think one year I somehow managed a Bronze status. The Participant badge was a token recognition that screamed “thanks for trying, but you do not meet the standard of FITNESS”.
And that’s what I believed about myself into adulthood. My idea of being “fit” or being into “fitness” was narrowed by the expectations set before me in those tests: Sit-ups, push-ups….honestly I can’t even remember what else was involved other than I couldn’t do it very well, nor did I see pushing myself in that high-stakes environment to be at all pleasant. It was a once a year thing that I failed at miserably in body and spirit.
Somehow into my mid-thirties, things changed for me. Fitness held a new meaning for me, and I set out to understand both the physical and mental components of what effective, healthy fitness looked like. The little girl who was scared to death of push-ups is now a Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach – and through my own transformation of mind and body, and working with many women who have shared similar struggles, I have completely re-framed and re-defined what it means to practice fitness in one’s life.
But still, I find that many people hold on to certain ideas about fitness that don’t encompass its true intent or effectiveness for our lives. We tend to keep fitness in the box of certain qualifications or achievements. We see it as an activity that requires special tools, programs, or outfits. It is incorporated only if and when we have the time or money or motivation or energy to stay committed. Unfortunately, those standards sell us short on the actual potential we have for living a more healthy life.
Fitness is more simple than that, but it also has more breadth in terms of how we incorporate it into our lives. Fitness is how I nurture my body into optimal health.
Here’s how we do that – it’s a three-pronged practice:
.:. Daily movement
.:. Strength-building & endurance activity
.:. Periods of rest
Daily movement is what we do all day long – walking, light exercise-type activities, up & down stairs, fidgeting, etc. This is a necessary part of our basic, daily, required fitness. One should be able to maintain adequate, regular daily movement as the foundation to build increased intensity on. Walking should be a priority every day, as that is the basic form of necessary movement for our bodies.
Strength-building & endurance activity is anything that creates bursts of intensity – resulting in increased heart rate and sweat, as well some form of resistance or challenge. Running, weight training, cycling, hiking, yard work – and even smaller bursts of intense activity, like carrying heavy boxes or moving furniture – are activities that have the potential to challenge our physiology. This intensity is vital, as this will illicit a hormonal response that assists in optimal function and growth in our body, so that we can build muscle, keep a healthy heart, strengthen bones and joints, burn fat, etc.
Periods of rest are the necessary third leg on the stool: without this element, the other two don’t function effectively. So, yes this is part of the equation in effective, health-building fitness. Rest is not just an insignificant, optional after-thought – but it is more of the foundation that the other two prongs are sustained by. Rest is not just “taking a day off” – it’s more about promoting restoration, providing adequate recovery, and the building up of the body and mind – which is the antithesis of the breaking down that happens with too much intense exercise or extended period of a go-go-go lifestyle. Rest is not the same as a lifestyle of sedentary habits – often I hear busy, stressed out women tell me that they never exercise and sit all day – so they think they ought to join a bootcamp as their solution to their fitness needs. But I usually shock them when I instead recommend starting their fitness pursuits by incorporating good, quality rest into their lives as first step to a healthy, more fit body. A little rest goes a long way when it comes to endurance, sustainability, and effectiveness when it does come time to add in more intense exercise and daily movement into your life.
:: excerpt from my LEAP program ::
(L)ive (E)xtraordinarily (A)nd (P)uposefully
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