Wellness and Fitness

This Sunday Runday, I want to talk a little bit more than just about running. Of course I’ll talk a little bit about running but not just for the sake of it, but instead to address this idea that I run for a whole lot more than fitness. I run to be free, I run to process life, I run for time with friends, I run to be well.

My wonderful friend Arianna, who has been striving to be strong, well, and push herself towards an awesome goal of strength mentally and physically received an essay from one of our friends this summer to both be an encouragement but also put fitness into perspective.  I think it is beautiful and powerful. Over the next couple weeks I want to share bits of it and explore what fitness, for me running, can really be. And that is part of a life well lived.

A wonderful Penn nursing student and friend of mine, Kc writes:

“Fitness is a facet of wellness. A very important facet. Wellness is holistic and comprehensive, and fitness is more specific and focused. Because of this, the consequence of focusing on fitness to the detriment is wellness is….being unwell.

Our emotions and physical feelings are important because they are messages from our bodies. Wellness is finding a balance between injury prevention and pushing one’s physical limits. It’s understanding the difference between good and bad pain.

It is learning to find gratification in the burn.

It is listening to body cues and determining one’s own physical needs even when the media tells us to have a certain body or when perfectionism tells us to increase bicep curls by __lbs/week.  There is a difference between the mental messages “stop planking omg this sucks I feel the burn” and “you’re really not taking care of me (your body) today”.

Wellness means learning to tell the difference between those messages, acting on the latter.  Some people (especially at Penn) prioritize fitness and ignore almost every other facet of their wellness.

This may be because they have body dysmorphia or because they have been taught fitness more than wellness or because fitness is more widely discussed in the media and market. But this practice is ultimately detrimental to wellness, which is what people really want.

People don’t want to be fit in the absence of wellness. We all want to be well and fitness is just the only way people know how to get to wellness because of lack of education or group mentality other reasons.

No one wants to lift while sleep-deprived. No one likes how they feel when hitting the gym hungover and subsequently drink the calories they just burned. No one wants to require exercise-induced endorphins to counteract the irritability and grogginess of sleep deprivation. No one wants to catch a cold because they drink protein powder and eat protein bars instead of eating their vitamins in a rainbow of produce. No one wants to be enslaved by the desire to be slender such that they don’t have enough body fat to keep warm or support ovulation/menstruation. No one wants to be so intellectually “well” that their brain is too fried to be kind. No one wants to be a social butterfly who feels physically crappy. No one wants to do everything they are “supposed” to do in accordance with what perfectionism dictates, but then feel either superior or jealous of their friends.

We want to feel well, and what’s the point of being fit if we aren’t well?

Gains, one might say. Or fat loss. Or body image.

The body is a temple. But those things often take care of themselves when we take care of our body and the soul it lives in. The body of CHRIST is a temple, and that is composed of people’s emotions, souls, thoughts AND bodies.

Want to lose fat, get strong and be happy?

Sleep enough so your leptin isn’t out of whack, your muscles recover and you’re happy enough to be patient with yourself and accept your body.

Eat well so that you don’t get sick and have to skip gym days, and so that your gym performance is better, so that you have more energy, so that your intestines thank you, etc.

Read, write, draw, talk, dance, play, sing, and do what makes you happy because (chances are) that might entail exercise anyway, it puts fitness into perspective, it puts LIFE into perspective and it contributes to wellness in profound ways that are often ignored.”

I don’t know about you, but this part of this essay hit home. As someone who has struggled with body dysmorphia, an eating disorder, and a year of being completely uncomfortable in my own skin, this is beautiful and reminds me so much of why I run.

I run because it is part of my balance. Part of my wellness. It is something I love and it makes me happy. It reminds me why I eat my fruits and veggies even on those days I don’t want to. It reminds me why I need sleep.

All these things together are what make me well. It’s not just running that makes me well, but also time with friends, time with God, my studies, my eating, my alone time, my sleep.

In other exciting news, I RAN 17 MILES YESTERDAY!!!!!! Such happiness! I’m so proud of my strong body and am feeling great!

Happy Sunday Runday!

       Wellness means learning to tell the difference    

One thought on “Wellness and Fitness

  1. I can thank my college course for making me think, “homeostasis,” while reading this!

    Loved reading it, though! I think the fitness/wellness ideology is why I enjoy running now. When I had attempted it many times before, I would always hit a point of this is a chore, I don’t like it, and quit doing it. But, when I began this time, it also became a way for me to clear my mind and relieve stress. I think that is why I find so much enjoyment in it and martial arts. While they both provide fitness in different ways, they also contribute to my overall wellness.

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