Your Relationship With Fitness
April 01, 2020
April 01, 2020
As active people, fitness plays a significant role in our daily lives. For many, it’s how we start our mornings or end our day, relieve stress and spend time with community. We enjoy the incredible health benefits and the unique feeling of satisfaction that comes only after completing a grueling workout. There’s no question—fitness is and should be a central component of a functional lifestyle.
But for many, the relationship between fitness and function has become unhealthy and disconnected. The intensity of our training sessions has escaped the gym, into our daily lives and become a stressor causing dysfunction, both physically and mentally.
If you’re here, you likely know that creating a functional lifestyle requires placing function at the center of our lives and removing the stressors that result in negative physiological responses (if you don’t, learn more about it here)—this must characterize our fitness practice as well.
Consider for a moment your own relationship with fitness—are there times where your training or performance creates stress? Does the idea of missing a workout prompt anxiety? Are you continually sore without relief? These are signs that it may be time to rethink the role fitness plays in your life.
Reframing our perspective on fitness requires first defining the role it should play in our lives and functional health.
Fitness is a tool to enhance our lives and should never take away from our functional health. More importantly, fitness goes beyond our time and performance in the gym—it represents how we incorporate movement and recovery into all hours of the day for improved health and wellness at the cellular level. Anything less is not optimal.
A fitness routine that causes stress mentally or physically does not achieve this goal nor is it sustainable long-term. The objective of exercise is to purposefully break the body down, which is advantageous only when paired with the recovery needed to rebuild—the reality is that many only have one half of the equation. Day after day, individuals are engaging in intense exercise combined with a lack of sleep, poor diet and minimal exposure to natural light; this is all in addition to unrealistic personal expectations that create further stress. The result: bodies broken at the cellular level, performance plateaus, exhaustion, a lack of motivation and chronic parasympathetic imbalance. The sad truth is that the community most focused on health may actually be creating dysfunction as a result.
The solution lies in a reconnection with nature and our physiology—this must occur at the cellular level and requires fueling our mitochondria for optimal function. Fitness is just one aspect of our functional ecosystem, but can be detrimental if not aligned with the needs of our active body—most importantly, recovery. Day in and day out, function must be our focus so we can feel our best and do all things well, all the time. Understanding your specific needs can be achieved through continued self-experimentation, professional guidance and actively tuning into what your body is communicating. For instance, if you feel sore after every workout, this may be an indicator that your intensity is not proportional to recovery—it may be time to dial it back or be more conscious of recovery. If the thought of missing a workout creates anxiety or disrupts your day, it could mean you are prioritizing fitness over other pieces of your functional lifestyle—reevaluating its role is likely the answer. Honest, introspective reflection must be conducted to determine what areas of our fitness practice could be inhibiting function and the potential solutions to promote health. This is the surest way to a fitness practice that works for you, not against you.
While fitness certainly plays an important role in overall function, it can be both positive and negative. When connected with function, fitness can enhance mitochondrial efficiency, increase skeletal muscle mass, and improve mental wellbeing. But, when separated from function, it can result in broken, dysfunctional mitochondria begging for recovery. As active people looking to do all things well, all the time, making sure our relationship with fitness is advantageous to our function is key to cultivating wellness. We must practice constant reevaluation and have an open mind to ensure our fitness routine supports us day in and day out as this is the surest way to long-term health.
And, of course, don’t forget to make it fun and surround yourself with community!