Listen to your body and focus on wellness

PHOTO: MJCC Fitness Manager Joe Seitz was reminded of the mind-body connection during a very rigorous workout session when his daughter Delaney’s hard physical effort allowed her body to relax and her emotions to surface. 


People respond to challenges in many different ways depending on whether they are optimists, pessimists or some mixture of different personalities. Few, if any, of us skate through our fleeting existence without encountering hardship. 
Much of life is about choices. Fitness, which is part of the much bigger world of wellness, is one of those choices. For me fitness is paramount, but as my wife reminds me, not the driving force for everyone. Fitness is a constantly changing combination of factors responding to the ever-changing world around us.
When designing a fitness 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 an increased stress next time. I have heard this described as eustress, good stimulus that triggers a healthy training response, versus distress, which causes damage.
You can probably think of some examples of both types of stress. Remember starting a new job, marriage, having a child, or buying a home? All hopefully joyous and exciting times, but also intense and stressful. On the positive side you could feel highly energetic, motivated, rewarded and eager for the next step in life. Unfortunately, the pandemic our planet currently faces is just the opposite. Long-term distress changes how the brain thinks and can affect virtually all our physical and mental systems.  
We have had a huge amount of distress in the last few months. Much of it is mental and emotional. My kids and I identified distress including 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, low-key birthdays, unemployment, fear of virus personally and for others, social unrest, a caustic political environment and conspiracy theories. Some have faced the end of life for themselves or a loved one. I know even more stresses exist.
As my daughter and I completed the hardest part of a very rigorous workout session, I said, “Let’s walk for a minute.” She broke down in tears. What for us both had been a great physical effort had relaxed her body, which could do no more, and her 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 Manager of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.


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