When we hear the word fitness we tend to think of gyms, exercise, sport and being able to do a lot of exercise without getting tired or puffed out. However fitness can mean much more than this and in fact it should encompass all of life not just one part of it.
As an ex-elite athlete I have known many highly trained, skilled and successful athletes who have struggled to deal with everyday life.
Anxiety, low self-esteem, multiple injuries and ailments and poor self image are very common in athletes not to mention eating disorders and drug abuse. So what is going on here?
Is it possible we can be very fit to do a certain physical activity or task but not be fit for life?
Fitness for life is a very important thing to consider because when we are truly fit for life we are able to handle and deal with ALL of life including its inevitable challenges without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted or demoralised.
Fitness for life of course does include physical fitness for if we do not maintain our bodies physically then our bodies are not strong enough or healthy enough to be able to perform all the daily physical tasks we ask them to carry out. For example a builder needs to have a certain amount of aerobic and anaerobic strength and fitness for their body to be able to get through a day’s work without fatiguing. This has obvious benefits in terms of injury prevention and health.
Physical Fitness involves having enough energy, physical strength and flexibility to do the job or the task. This can include looking at exercise plans, diet and sleep patterns to support the physical body to be able to function to do what it needs to do.
However fitness for life also includes other aspects that are of equal importance such as psychological and/or emotional health.
We can gain a deeper understanding of these by exploring how we are feeling within our bodies and being honest about these feelings. Do we feel stressed, anxious, mentally or emotionally exhausted? What is the quality of our relationships? How confident are we? These factors can all effect our ability to deal with the intensity of events and incidents during the day.
We may be physically strong but if we are not able to cope with what occurs in the day without emotionally reacting or feeling drained then this can exhaust us and even lead to a breakdown of physical health just as much as any physical over-exertion.
For example at the clinic we see many clients who end up with neck or back pain because they are going through their day with a background anxiety or nervous tension in their bodies, which of course affects how they move and the state of their soft tissue and nervous systems which can lead to injuries just as easily and quickly as any physical trauma or dysfunction.
Fitness for Life includes both physical bodies but also our emotional health and to focus on one without the other means you are only dealing with part of the problem.
Being fit for life includes all of these aspects and begins with a re-connection to our bodies and how they are feeling in any moment.