Sustainable Solutions for Active Living and Well-being

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Trusting myself, my body, my sensations, and my experience has been monumental in helping me sustain active living and well being.  Fitness must address the human being, not just the human body and staying well requires me to trust my intuition, my experience, and my own tolerance to challenges.  It used to take injuries to help me identify that I’d done too much; it sometimes still does.  Practicing trust is a foundational piece of creating movements that I can sustainAnd each day or week that may change.  It has certainly changed over the last 24 years of working in the fitness and wellness industry, and I suspect it will continue to change as I try new things and explore boundaries.

I’ve dealt with several injuries and setbacks.  Growing my curious muscles has taken the most time and patience!  Becoming curious rather than defeated regarding performance and my training cycles helps me to grow and learn about what environments help me create fun and enjoyment in my movement.  Flexibility to change – as is with businesses achieving success-- is a process of making changes and adapting.  Flexibility is a vehicle for resilience.  Being flexible with what and when I move has been helpful in preventing injuries and keeping me interested and motivated.  I can choose how to design and build my environment to facilitate movement and well being and so can you.  It may be as simple as adjusting lighting in the office or kitchen or possibly incorporating more activities outdoors that cultivate JOYJoy is sustainable.

This image depicts my personal framework for creating a and sustaining active living and well being.   Joy is the secret sauce of fitness for me.  I follow the pleasure principle.

If it doesn’t feel good or I can't find joy in it, I stop. Collective joy brought me into this arena when I was 12 years old.  I really enjoyed the aerobics classes I took at a local gym.  Now I realize a sense of shared experience is what I really enjoyed.

Dance researchers describe collective joy as a feeling of “expansion that transcends your internal boundaries– the boundary of who you are dissolves.”  Kimberly Sogge, a master’s crew leader in Canada, describes the bliss of rowing with her crew on the Ottawa River, “We have been in this rhythm where the boundaries between us as humans have dissolves.”  It’s not just the idea of being connected, it is the physical sensation of connection. I feel this connection in group fitness classes, dance classes, and practicing tai chi with my husband.  Runners may feel this when silently running with a running group.  Collection joy strengthens the social ties that encourage cooperation.  And, it can be sensed virtually.  Jennifer Weiss, a Pelton rider, experiences a sense of collective joy when riding at 5:30am with riders all over the world.  The flow of moving and breathing in unison is something that brings her back again and again.  We've experienced collective joy through teaching live-streaming fitness classes and in virtual personal training sessions with SAS employees and are honored to offer this opportunity for our participants.

How can you create a frame that encompasses JOY?

I suggest using the joy, flexibility, trust, and curiosity frame big picture guide and the following as design tools.

Tools for Sustainable, Active Living

These tools can serve as a litmus test of sorts around your routines, activity choices, or even goals related to movement.

  • Body – What parts of my body are involved in the activity?  If I use the same body parts, they might get overused, and if I neglect some parts, they may atrophy.  The body can stretch or curl, twist or turn. It can do this in symmetrical or asymmetrical shapes. They can be wide, narrow, round, straight or twisted shapes. It can do this in simultaneous or successive movements. It can also swing or circle around a bar or rope.  There are so many possibilities with this one.
  • Forces and Effort –How the body moves is important when considering sustainability for a lifetime.  Time: Do I incorporate a variety of speeds in my activities? Are the movements fast or slow, accelerating or decelerating? Are they sudden or sustained?  What quality of movement is involved?  Is it always fast and strong or do I invite springy, smooth, sustained into my activities?
  • Space– We’ve already identified that outdoors is valuable and essential for sustainable activity for a lifetime.  Outdoor moving helps us vary our surfaces, requires that we adapt to the weather.  Our brains weren’t designed to help us navigate linear, sterile, predictable, artificial environments. Whenever possible, reintroduce less familiar movement patterns. It is vital to your central nervous system that you gradually practice motor control with exposure to diverse contextual variables, from simple to difficult. How often do you duck under or hop over a tree in your workouts?  Hummm, something to add to your playtime!
  • Consider relationships – to self, to others, to equipment.  How the body parts move in relation to each other: over/under, left/right, in front/behind/alongside. Relationships is also about the relationship with others (cooperation, collaboration, competition) and relationship with apparatus, rules, equipment and boundaries.

Ready to change your environment to support your personal wellness?

Awareness is key to building environments that facilitate behaviors that support our health  Take time to notice your environments. How is your home set up?  What is the first thing you see when you walk in the door?  How about your office at work?

Accept your responsibility in designing and building environments that support your well being.  You are also responsible for creating and evolving your movement or exercise program to fit you rather than forcing yourself to fit a specified regimen.   Remember to use the Joy test – if it doesn’t create joy you may want to check it at the door!

Action – What can you do?  There are so many things out of our control, but there are so many things we can easily impact in our daily lives.  You can change where your desk is in your office or maybe even your route to and from your car if you park often in the same space.  You could even try rearranging your office or home space to include a movement area.  Think of how a first grade class is organized in spaces – space for reading or quite, space for creating, space for moving, building. And don't forget to make space for joy!

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About Author

Rebecca Allen

Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator Wellness

Rebecca E. Allen is passionate about helping others develop and nurture practices of well-being.   She earned her BS in Sociology and MA in Exercise and Sport Science and holds fitness certifications from ACE, AFAA, Zumba®, Les Mills™, IFTA, and NESTA.  She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 500 RYT, and enjoys long walks in the woods with her husband, Chip Davis.

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