I had 3 really inspiring conversations today about the idea of fitness and what it really is. I’ve also been watching the whole concept of fitness for the past little while and pondering the various applications of the word. It seems that the industry that I call home uses this word, and an absolute tonne of ‘supporting’ imagery, in a lot of ways and it also appears as though almost every ‘expert’ claims that they have their own unique map that lays out the best route to the mythical land of fitness. At first blush, fitness looks a little something like an every ready beach body that can climb a mountain after running a triathlon and following that by crushing some serious weights, of course looking HOT the whole time… An exaggeration of course but after months of really looking at the images on Pinterest, not by that much!  With all the imagery and info out there it’s hard to know which route to take on your own personal journey of fitness. And I’ll even argue that it’s BECAUSE of these images and this information that it seems so confusing. In all reality most of us don’t look like these images and that’s inherently alienating. The brass ring is hung before us and we feel that that is the standard. So if fitness isn’t that beautiful brass ring that the internet and magazines polish so nicely…. What is it?

To me, the kernel of truth at the very center of the entire ball of string that fitness is, no matter WHAT your reason or push may be, it’s freedom. Fitness is the freedom to live your life as comfortably and capably as possible. Fitness is a feeling as opposed to hard data or even collections of trophies and flags. (Note: while hard data can help inspire us to keep moving it doesn’t actually define how we feel as we experience life on a day to day level.) Fitness is also an ever changing adventure because as soon as you get good at one thing you’ll find something else that you wish you were better at and there’s your next project.

Fitness, is about settling into your body, gaining an awareness of your own personal start line, your own limits and setting your sites on your very own finish line. It helps to get clear on what it is you are looking for, what you want to feel in your very own body and how you wish to improve or strengthen your relationship between your body and your life. In getting clear it also helps to get real about your expectations.

Fitness, can also work nicely as a moving meditation. It teaches us patience and determination. It can show us aspects of ourselves that are easy to ignore or that we haven’t unearthed yet. Giving up before the timer goes??? I’ll bet you do that in other places in life. Finding some hidden strength to lift more that you ever have??? I’ll venture a guess and say you’re capable of crushing another obstacle elsewhere.

A few of the conversations that I’ve had around this subject have centered on the negative down slope of defeat. New Years Resolutions are BORN from this, the biting off more than you can chew, setting your goals too high and not breaking it down into manageable steps – and this all stems from that strange brass ring.

Which brings me to the kernel of truth again, freedom. No matter what your regimen or goal is your fitness pursuit should feel like freedom. If you find yourself constantly back at square one and frustrated by a lack of results try a slower approach, start with small things and add on as the months change – you’ll be amazed at how far you got in one year as opposed to planning your next fitness goal rerun 11 months early… The best place to start is exactly where you are and if you are honest about where you are, push yourself when it’s right and respect yourself when it’s not you’ll get far further ahead than just barreling thru the bricks.

To go from zero to hero in 6 months or even a year is a bit unsustainable. You risk injury; burnout or worse, a blow to your ego, which may set you back even further. The focus of attaining fitness ought to be on building a foundation, or if you have a foundation working on the ground floor and upward from there. Freedom ironically comes from discipline and by establishing a deeply rooted habit you avoid the trap that is treating fitness like something you do once to get into your summer clothes and you allow it to develop into something that you maintain over the course of the rest of your life.

Ultimately, fitness is your very own process of engaging with your body and creating a conversation about what feels comfortable and what makes you feel strong, empowered, prepared and excited to wake up each day. There are no limits to what you can achieve with your body and never underestimate it’s ability to lead you to places you never thought you’d go but don’t forget the other side of it and remember to respect and honor your body, check in and make sure you’re not chasing someone else’s idea of fitness!