Where fitness fits in the midst of all of this…
This was supposed to be a blog post about a handy fitness tip. But, as I sat down to write it, something felt off. I kept sitting down and struggling with it and, of course, getting frustrated with the struggle.
And then it hit me: the whole reason I’ve been struggling to write a regular ol’ fitness tip is because doing so felt insensitive to the realities that people are facing right now.
How can I write about fitness when the world—and by “the world”, I might just really mean “our country”—is such a mess?
What I realized—or rather, remembered—is that there is another way to look at the importance of fitness and the role it can play for us at this time in history.
To be honest, there is a part of me that would really love to just write about fitness things…but that’s the same part of me that is mourning the loss of my privileged ignorance.
And, as a new business owner, there’s a part of me that worries about what might happen if I stray beyond “my lane”. I’ve been to several continuing education seminars for fitness business owners where the speakers have cautioned against discussing anything remotely “political” with your clients and members…
…The thing is, avoiding talking about such things is an exceptionally privileged stance to take. And since I benefit from several types of privilege, I am going to disregard that advice here. Besides, I’ve never been very good at steering clear of “taboo” topics of conversation in between exercises during training sessions…
So, let’s talk about fitness in a different sort of way. Let’s talk about fitness as an act of resistance and an act of liberation.
To explain, I would like to discuss the concept of “deep health”—a term we have borrowed from our friends at Precision Nutrition.
Deep Health represents a hopeful vision for people’s capacity for change and involves considering “health” on a number of levels. All the levels, really.
For example, here, in the studio—or wherever your workouts happen—we are obviously addressing mainly the physical part of health. We also touch on the mental/psychological side of things. Mindset, if you will.
Making it through a challenging workout, intervals on the bike, for example, can be just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. This is an example of how exercise builds resilience to stress—both physical and mental. This resilience translates into other areas of life and that’s really cool.
There’s yet more to health than just the physical and mental aspects. Or, perhaps a more accurate way to say this is that your health is influenced and determined by more than just what you do in the gym (or, in our case, studio).
Nutrition plays a significant role in influencing your overall health, as does sleep.
You might even say that deep health happens at the intersections of all of the different determinants of health: physical fitness, mental health, social health…
The social element deserves some attention here:
Community and the support and sense of connection it brings is a big deal. Simply put, it’s nice to be around other people—especially when those people are there to cheer you on when things get tough. We’ve long believed that challenging yourself and making changes requires the support of other people.
It’s so much more than that, though: community can provide a space where you remember that you’re not alone and that we’re all in this together.
One at-times paralyzing aspect of this pandemic experience has been that the imperative to minimize unnecessary in-person social interactions has made it easy for fitness as a priority to slide down from the top of the list. Add social justice to the list of things that demand attention, and it’s no wonder that fitness can begin to seem like something we’ll get to later.
But this is where I’ll argue that fitness and health have become even more important. Essential, even. And here’s why:
One reason why fitness is so important and vital is that we need our bodies to be healthy and strong because it can literally improve your chances of either staying healthy or recovering if you do get sick.
Going deeper, this past weekend, we went to a rally for racial equity in Medford Public Schools. Originally the brainchild of a 12-year old student, the event was co-sponsored by the Mystic Valley branch of the NAACP and Mobilize Medford. The speakers shared their experiences with racism in Medford schools—from racist interactions with teachers and administrators to clear examples of the school-to-prison pipeline in action. The goal was to raise awareness around a number of changes that need to be made and to rally the community—because, again, significant change requires community support.
The next day, we finished a 12-week course (Foundations of Social Justice with Dr. Tee) and during the last class, our teacher/mentor posed the question: What is your work in this world?
I can tell you that, for me, I know that my work is tied to fitness and I’d like to offer you a different frame for the importance and purpose of fitness—particularly at this time in history.
It’s probably obvious to say, but listening to the speakers at the rally—which included a man who had only recently been exonerated after spending over a decade in prison for a crime he didn’t commit—it was more clear than ever that this fight needs us all to be at our best.
Our goal at Redefine Strength and Fitness is to help people to move more freely and to become stronger. We know from experience that this can have a big impact on how your show up in the world outside of the studio.
Oppression doesn’t want you to feel better in your body, especially if you feel good regardless of the shape or size of your body. With this in mind, fitness can be viewed as an act of resistance.
Working out not only nourishes your body, but it refreshes and clears your mind. It can make you feel energized and centered.
Oppression doesn’t want you to have energy for the fight, nor does it want you thinking clearly or creatively. Oppression wants you to feel overwhelmed and alone. All oppression wants of you is for you to live your life and maintain the status quo.
Fitness and physical activity can be your respite from the fight. A place where you take some time to just enjoy the process of moving your body. Even rest and recovery can be a radical act of liberation.Speaking of liberation…yes, we are in a fight against oppression (racism, classism, heterosexism, patriarchy, ageism…), but it’s also important for us to have a clear vision of what we’re fighting for. What does liberation from oppression look like? It’s not for me to tell you what your liberation looks like, but I know that our collective liberation is tied together and I believe that fitness can create a space that can facilitate envisioning it. Moving more freely—in your body and through space—and feeling strong—physically and mentally—and surrounded by community represents the start… imagine where we could go from there.