Fitness and Faith
Simply for the sake of inclusion, let me, at the outset, be clear about my views on spirituality:
We are One.
Me, my family, my friends, yours, Trump, the Democrats, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and people of every religion, philosophy, thought system, and belief structure. It doesn’t matter to me.
I’m not making a commentary on who is good, bad, right or wrong. I’m sharing my view about a deep sense that every individual is a product of their influences, their capacities, their fears and their closely held values, whether or not I agree with them. I exclude no one for the purposes of this piece. Not a single person.
Now that I’ve alienated everyone who disagrees with me, let me get onto the next tenant from which I’m operating. I don’t care if you call “It” God, Jehovah, Allah, Deus, Mother Nature, a deeper wisdom or Ralph. But let’s agree that there is something greater than our little bodies and personal dramas that binds us, guides us (when we’re not feeling crazy or frightened) and elevates us to think, speak and act with honor, compassion and conviction when we believe we are helping one another or ourselves in some way. Can we do that?
Great. Now what about fitness?
I have been so fortunate to find my calling. After a 15-year career in corporate finance, I’ve spent the last 20 teaching people in my community (and beyond through these articles and videos) about practical ways to feel better and be healthier. And many have taken me into their confidence, giving me a window into their motivations for exercising and eating healthfully. I can tell you with absolute certainty, if you want to enjoy the lifelong benefits of taking good care of yourself, your motivation has to be bigger than “fixing” the “you” in your Facebook pictures or the one squeezing into your jeans.
The “You” you’re serving has to be an extension of who you believe yourself to be already, not an attempt to project an image of who you want others to think you are. In fact, the clients I’ve had who are most committed to a healthful lifestyle are not only largely unmoved by the opinions of others about the relative importance of living a healthful lifestyle, they would continue their practices even if no one else existed.
I get it. You’re nowhere near that state of mind yet and doubt you’ll ever get there. Aren’t you lucky I’m here to provide you with a shortcut?
Consider these three questions, and your honest answers to them. The answers that will move you (however slowly or erratically) in the direction of living a healthful lifestyle are the ones that will root your behavior as an expression of your self-identification as a “fit” person:
Do you consider your body your “self”, or something that you’re blessed with the stewardship of and have at your disposal to enjoy life more fully? If it’s the latter, you get it! None of us is entitled to legs, hair, a slamming set of abs or even a heartbeat. Recognize that and you’ll begin to appreciate the full value of this gift you’ve been granted (albeit temporarily).
Do you have any expectations of your body that are unrealistic or ignore the role of your decisions in its ability to “deliver the goods”? This is the most profound disconnect I see in clients that leads to their suffering from denial and frustration, two of your nastiest “frenemies”. If you accept the victim role you are both setting expectations and preparing yourself to blame yourself, others or circumstances for your anticipated failure even before you’ve put into effect a well-conceived and executed plan and patiently worked toward its outcome. Once you decide to be kind to your body, care for it and use it for what it was designed to do (to facilitate and greatly enhance your physical experience while on this Earth), instead of subjecting it to insecurity-driven evaluations and contempt, a whole new outlook will transform your attitude so you can permanently transform it.
Can you forgive everything that involves your body? Can you let judgment about your stiff back, muffin top, hip replacement, asthma, next door neighbor’s tennis body, “can’t run a mile as fast as I used to”, beautiful, magnificent, imperfect bag of miraculous wonders go, finally? When you can, or at least can notice when you are judging your body, and then be gentle with yourself while letting that fade (and it will if you actually look at the judgement with openness and compassion), you’ll begin to fall in love with this precious machine and then, actually want to treat it with the reverence it has always deserved.
Physical self-care and how we view the importance and nature of it really just comes down to the two lenses through which we can look at everything in our lives: Through fear or through Love.
Love waits patiently for your discovery, and return.
Dan Taylor, ACE, NASM-CPT, is owner and head trainer at Pleasanton-based Tri Valley Trainer. They offer personal training and small group fitness solutions and an innovative, medically endorsed web-based group healthy eating coaching program.