Fitness is a word we use predominately to describe the present condition of our body. It generally indicates a level of health, strength, vigor, robustness, outward appearance, inner well-being and happiness. Guidelines for evaluation are based on the highs, lows, and averages of others around us. For example, an Olympic athlete is generally considered to have a high level of fitness, while a sedentary individual is considered to have a low level. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
Most of our concerns revolve around the body and its ability to operate properly and appropriately. We generally look at our body as if it were separate from our mind, and that which we describe as our spiritual self. This pattern of thought then is self-perpetuating. Since most of us see ourselves, and others, as a physical image the reinforcement is very compelling; I see you, you see me.
A new way of thinking about our body requires that we expand our understanding of whom and what we truly are. We are indeed the physical or genetic being, for sure. But we are also the mind, or intellectual self, and on a much grander level, we are spiritual beings as well. This concept can simply be referred to as ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’. It balances the physical world, our perceptions of the physical world through our mind, and that part of us which is eternal and omniscient.
ALL THINGS ARE INTERCONNECTED
That is quite a powerful statement. It may be hard to grasp that concept at first, but take a moment to reflect on it and consider all the ramifications. It applies to all three levels of who we are, as outlined above. Certainly, it works on the Spiritual level, as that part of all of us is connected on the same plane of awareness. Our minds, including perceptions, thoughts, and intellect are connected as well. We are giving and receiving information with one another all the time. And, on the physical plane, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and our very existence on this tiny planet in the cosmos connect us. Therefore, we are literally physically connected to everything else physical around us. The old saying, ‘you are what you eat’ was founded in this thought.
Your body is also connected to external influences as well. Unlike genetic influences, which govern the basic operation of our body and are not generally subject to change by us, external influences can have an effect on our being, as well, but can be handled or controlled by us to some degree. Stress is one of the most common externally stimulated influences in our daily lives. Everyday we encounter stressful situations from work, school, driving in rush hour traffic, from financial difficulties, and from the personal relationships with which we get involved, just to name a few. But, what is stress?
Stress is a reaction to something generally relating to our dealings and associations with events or situations with other people. Your body is equipped with a self-preservation circuit in your genetic make up. It is one of our evolutionary reactions, enabling us to survive, for example, when a hungry bear chases us for his mid-day meal. We refer to this as the ‘fight or flight’ response. It can bring about all sorts of physiological reactions ranging from elevated blood pressure and adrenaline flow, to increased metabolism, and heart rate.
In our present social environment, these effects can interfere with the body processes necessary to maintain the general state of fitness. For example, if you are attempting to gain muscular weight, a tranquil and stress free mind and body are necessary to allow for muscular growth. Additionally, it can affect us even if we are attempting to drop our body fat percentage. Stress triggers our body to release a chemical called cortisol into our blood stream. Cortisol breaks down protein (muscle) to use it for energy, as another part of our fight or flight response. Hence, our body fat percentage can go up, not down, if you are subjected to stress over an extended period of time.
Of course there are still other influences that link us to everything else. Emotional responses to various events in our lives, such as those experienced when we ‘fall in love’ or feel the pain associated with the death of a loved one, not only link us together, but have a marked physiological or behavioral effect on us, as well.
The physical part of you (your genetic self) has a very unique DNA code, specifically for you. It tells the body how to do all the things we take for granted. It instructs the body on how fast it will burn calories, what size to build our bone structure, or build new muscle, or govern our body fat percentage. It tells us how much sleep we need, how our physical features will look, and when or if we will experience gray hair. These things are rooted in our DNA and are not changeable, but can be understood and accepted.
The other influences that affect us are the ones we do have the ability to modify or control. In this case we are still connected to those influences, but have the intellectual option to do something about them. This then, becomes the first rule of changing your lifestyle to a happy, healthy, fit, and productive one. The rule is not new, but never the less is applicable here:
Accept the things you cannot change, Have courage to change the things you can, And look inward for the wisdom to know the difference.