Photo: Joe with his daughter.
By Joe Seitz
I am always fascinated by how people respond to challenges. There are optimists, pessimists, different personalities, and all of the conditions of human fabric that make our life at times so beautiful, and so tragic. Much of life is about choices, and most of us know that few, if anyone, just skates through our fleet existence without going through hardships.
Fitness is one of those choices. It is one part of the much bigger world of wellness. It is where I live, but as my wife reminds me, not the driving force for everyone. It is not a place of arrival, but a constantly changing combination of factors responding to the ever-changing world around us.
When designing a program, we try to challenge the body in some physical aspect beyond what it can currently handle. This signals the body to regroup, recover, and improve so it can adapt to increased stress next time. I have heard this described as eustress or the good stimulus that triggers a healthy training response vs. distress which causes some kind of damage.
We have had a huge amount of distress on the system in the last few months. Much of it is mental and emotional. I was talking with my kids and we identified increased isolation, increased news viewing, lack of seeing friends and family, disruption of schedules, cancellation of sports, harder separation of work and home life, less park access, less travel, several low key birthdays, unemployment, fear of virus personally and for others, ugly scenes of social unrest with brutal authority, a caustic political environment, conspiracy theories and for some, the end of life for themselves or a loved one… I know there are more.
As my daughter and I were in the middle of a very rigorous session, we completed the hardest part of the workout and I said let’s walk for a minute and she broke down in tears. What for us both had been a great release of effort, had relaxed her body, which could do no more, and her true emotions came to surface. It reminded me of the mind-body connection. Her tears were a sign of health, not weakness. We talked, listened, cried, laughed and felt so much better at the end.
Workout over. We went for a slow walk looking at the sunset. Yes, fitness is important for so many areas of health, but don’t discount or ignore the amount of stress out there and go easy on yourself. Go hard when you feel it or relax if you need it. Don’t guilt or judge yourself or others. Listen in quiet for what you need.
Joe Seitz is the fitness program manager at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.