I get asked this question quite often, and I have given a lot of thought to the answer because I believe that a robust and thoughtful response to this question could inspire someone to prioritise and improve their fitness and opens their world.
Firstly, a definition of fitness in this context: I’m referring to fitness in a physical sense, so literally your strength and cardiovascular performance. However, to achieve a good level of physical fitness, you must also pay attention to your sleep, mental health, energy, body composition and digestion – what we call the Six Signals®. Health is a long game, and should be viewed holistically for true and lasting fitness in all regards. It takes time to make lifestyle changes, even small ones, but if you’re patient, amazing things can happen.
So, what does it feel like to be fit? This is a powerful question, but the answer even more so. Nothing is more empowering, emboldening and permissive than developing good physical fitness. I’ll explain why.
Being physically fit provides you with more energy to get things done, whether that’s in your personal or professional life. Rather than drain your energy, a workout at the start of the day can set you up for a more energetic and productive day, as well as giving you all the benefits of increased blood flow, potential EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption – i.e. increased calorie burn post-workout), increased heart rate and the flow of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.
Our lifestyles demand that we are physically fit for the rigours of modern life. The demands made on us in terms of our availability, combined with the pressures to be ‘always on’ mean that it can be easy to become stressed and burned out. Whilst being fit doesn’t mean this won’t happen (or that the demands on your lifestyle should be met), it does mean that you are much better equipped for the tough times and have the resilience to ride the storms.
Being fit provides you with the stamina needed for much of life, whether that’s a long day at work, travelling or a day out with friends or family. Being fit means you don’t need to worry about the physical demands of an exercise or activity because you can be confident you have the fitness to endure it. This is a big one – knowing that I can go into almost any situation knowing that I have the physical stamina to withstand it is very empowering. This creeps into mental stamina too.
You can say yes to things rather than defaulting to no because you don’t think you’d be fit enough. This might range from an invitation to run Parkrun on a Saturday morning to a day out at Go Ape with the kids or a game of rounders on the beach. You don’t want to be the one who sits it out because of a perceived or real lack of fitness. Once you become fit, your world opens up and you are more willing to try new things. It’s an incredible feeling!
This is linked with resilience, but a very important point. The ability to become comfortable or have the tools to operate in your discomfort zone is huge. We believe it’s important to regularly challenge yourself in some way to get comfortable with this. Sport and exercise is a great way to do this, hence we regularly take part in challenging endurance events to keep ourselves sharp. For you this might also be trying a new hobby, joining Toastmasters for public speaking or overcoming a fear such as heights or enclosed spaces.
Being fit means you are giving yourself a good chance of having a long healthspan. We talk about healthspan not lifespan because health is what really matters, not the total number of years you’ve lived. Maintaining your fitness will promote a healthy cardiovascular system; strong bones, tendons and ligaments; a healthy brain with lots of blood flow; balanced blood sugars and hormonal profile; a healthy digestive system and good mental health.
This is one of my personal values; it’s a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. Being fit means you have the energy, the confidence and the strength to let life take you where it will and get as much enjoyment from it as you can. You have options. Your perceptions of what you can and can’t do won’t stop you from living life to the full. The process of taking control of your life and reclaiming your fitness is so empowering that mentally you’ll be much stronger and you’ll have the body to match your aspirations.
If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared.
Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.