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What is fitness? Introducing a pioneering plan to get fit and lose weight

what is fitness

Exploring what is fitness

By Christopher Foster

What is fitness? For me, it covers the whole gamut of body, mind and spirit. It's being true to myself. It's honoring the impulse to give my best into life and do my best to get proper exercise and nutrition. Not to mention sleep.

Some people could care less about fitness. Some obsess about it. And some, like me, try to follow a middle way. I was sitting at my computer just now when I realized I had been sitting without any movement for nearly 2 hours. I was getting older by the minute, feeling crankier by the minute.

Taking a short break to do a favorite chi kung exercise quickly replenished both my body and my soul

I got up and went into the living room, and performed a Chinese Chi Kung exercise I've always loved called “Touching the feet with both hands reinforces the kidneys and loins." You start in what the Chinese call the Wu Chi, a basic standing exercise. Then raising your arms to the sides to shoulder height, you bring your arms forward and bend at the knees, lowering yourself halfway down as if beginning a full squat.

When I reach the half squat (sometimes further) I hold it for a moment and then straighten up, circling my arms around behind me and over my head to rest in front of me at shoulder height where they began. It's one of the “Eight Fine Exercises" or Ba Duan Jin developed by the ancient Chinese. In two or three minutes I was invigorated from head to toe.

What is fitness? I agree with guitarist Stone Gossard, of Pearl Jam, “I think if you exercise, your state of mind - my state of mind - is usually more at ease, ready for more mental challenges. Once I get the physical stuff out of the way it always seems like I have more calmness and better self-esteem.”

Your body is your best friend -- learn to love your body and listen to it just like long distance runner Haile Gebrselassie

What is fitness? It's learning to respect our body and listen to it. As Haile Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian long distance track and road running athlete, said, "I will always listen to my coaches. But first I listen to my body. If what they tell me suits my body, great. If my body doesn't feel good with what they say, then always my body comes first. "

Though an ordinary mortal, I too try to listen to my body. My body is my temple. It is so good to me, so loyal and faithful and loving -- let me not take it for granted. Let me not ask of my body more than it is able to give.

Basically, besides walking for half an hour a day -- the standard medical advice for maintaining a reasonable level of health -- I very much enjoy strength training. It's a passion. And what I love about it is that my body enjoys it just as much as I do. Putting it another way, my body loves feeling strong. Mind you, please be aware that I do not have bulging muscles (though JoAnn very sweetly says sometimes when she takes hold of my arm, “Goodness, you feel strong.").

How resistance training helped me overcome severe depression and discover the joy on the other side of despair 

I began strength training at a gym 10 years ago, and I'm not sure I would be here if this were not so. I was in the early stages of a severe year-long clinical depression when I signed up at the gym. I'm convinced that maintaining my resistance training schedule throughout my illness -- though I reduced the weights a little for awhile – helped me stay sane and not give up as darkness covered my face.  It also helped me think of myself as strong even though I wasn’t feeling strong.

Are you kidding? I was dealing with a ton of buried trauma. I’m 6 feet, and my weight plummeted to 128 lbs. at the worst point of my illness. Strength training, I believe, was a primary reason I was able to recover from my illness and find the joy that I now know always exists on the other side of despair.  Incidentally I was prescribed Paxil but it actually made things worse and I finally threw it away.

Introducing a new approach to losing weight and getting fit -- without cardio

What is fitness? With two thirds of the US population now obese or overweight, I was interested to read about a new approach to fitness called Turbulence Training, developed by Craig Ballantyne, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. He asserts that while the mainstream fitness media still insists that aerobic exercise is a great way to lose weight, recent research does not support this view.

He quotes a recent study by the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, in which subjects aged 40 to 75 were instructed to do 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day for six days per week for an entire year.

"Given the amount of exercise, you'd expect weight losses of 20 or 30 pounds or more," says Ballantyne. "Well, the surprise findings showed the average fat loss for female subjects was only 4 pounds for the entire year, while men lost 6.6 pounds of fat over the year.

"That's over 300 hours of aerobic exercise to lose a measly 6 pounds of fat."

Turbulence Training combines high intensity interval training and resistance training 

What is fitness? Well, what Craig Ballantyne has done  is develop a new approach to fitness that uses a combination of high intensity interval training and strength training instead of traditional cardio for better fitness, fat loss and body sculpting.

"I lost 14 pounds this month and the weight is just falling off me," says one testimonial at Ballantyne's site. "My wife says I now look like when we first met and I still have more to go. I can fit into my old jeans again which is a big deal for me. I just cut back on starches and bread and do your routine 2-3 times a week."

Incidentally, Australian Professor Steve Boucher has discovered that interval training increases hormones called catecholamines, which can reduce appetite, among other fat burning benefits.

For more information on Turbulence Training please click here. I'm very interested in this program. If you decide to give it a try please let me know how it works for you. I hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear your own thoughts or experiences on what fitness means to you.

Turbulence Training

Picture credit: thienduong_tinhyeu1100 (This post contains affiliate links.)

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Ciara November 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Hi Christopher, great post and a great reminder to keep moving. I know myself when I feel down, or lack motivation that exercise will always give me the spark I need. I play tennis a couple of times a week and walk daily but I have been wanting to up my fitness a level for a while but keep making excuses. I’ve just decided tomorrow morning I’m going to go for a run!!
Ciara recently posted..Paper V Tablet?

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm

So happy to meet you Ciara, both here and at the A-List Blogger Club. Hey, let me know how the run goes eh?

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Metod November 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Loved the post Christopher. We get often carried away with our daily busy lives that we forget that our bodies need some physical attention as well. I remember in our early years with my wife, we had no car for a long time. We had to walk a lot, or even run for those morning buses to work. I remember being in good shape then just by moving around. Now we moved into the suburbs and it’s the car which brings us everywhere. It’s so easy to get used to the comfort.
I found a great motivation with my youngest son when we go out play almost everyday. Kind of killing two birds with one stone.
I also love walking alone whenever I can, with my camera in my pocket 🙂
Always in search of something new…that motivates me a lot too.

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Metod, great to hear from you. Yes I’m sure that’s one of the many blessings your son brings…I’d imagine keeping up with him even for a mere 15 minutes would be a challenge at times and burn quite a few calories wouldn’t it? I love the sound of those walks out by yourself with your camera too. What a prescription for staying young at heart — always to be in search of something new.

Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day.

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Cathy | Treatment Talk November 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Hi Christopher,

I enjoyed your post. Exercise has always been a big part of my life. I like to play tennis, practice yoga and have been a runner, but recently taking walks with my dog instead. I have been thinking about running again because I need something more aerobic. Exercise helps me as well both physically and mentally.
Cathy | Treatment Talk recently posted..National Drug Facts Week: Did You Know?

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Hey Cathy, delighted to hear from you, and delighted to hear abour your own experience with exercise. What’s the name of your pooch? And what kind of pooch is he? He would be a good motivation to get you out walking or running wouldn’t he (or she?).

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noch November 2, 2011 at 7:03 am

i just started tai chi / qi gong a few months ago 🙂
it feels very warm and refreshing after practising!!!
noch
noch recently posted..“I believe I am changing the world”

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm

That’s great Noch, I’m so glad to hear it. I’ve never learned tai chi but I love chi gung, I’ve followed a book called ‘The Way of Energy’ by Master Lam Kam Chuen for many years. Blessings.

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Darren November 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Christopher,

Sounds like you’ve got a relatively solid plan. Craig knows his stuff, and for the most part I agree with him on all fronts related to physical activity as for 6 years working with my clientele I can assure you that cardio is very ineffective in relation to strength based training combined with interval work.

I will however say that Craig is not the only one with this approach, and there are many other noteworthy fitness ‘gurus’ on the web worth taking a look at.

I hope you won’t consider this spam as most of these guys know Craig, but some other good resources you should refer to include:

http://www.bodybyboyle.com
http://www.mikerobertsontrainingsystems.com
http://www.ericcressey.com
http://www.chadwaterbury.com
http://www.johnromaniello.com

All the best.
Darren recently posted..6 Things Holding You Back?

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Christopher Foster November 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

Darren, thanks so much for getting in the act here and enlarging the parameters of our discussion. I appreciate your various comments and notes re other good resources immensely.

Don’t you think that in the end fitness, like anything else I suppose, is a very personal thing? It’s a responsibility we all share, in my view, to ourselves and to life. But how we go about it — it’s a journey that ultimately we have to take for ourselves, isn’t it? We have to find our own unique path.

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Darren November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Funny you should bring that up.

I do think that fitness (like most things) is incredibly personal. I’m hard pressed to tell a runner for instance to stop running if they enjoy running (even though I have observed that weight training and interval work appears to be more effective for weight-loss).

It’s a self-experiment really, just like nutrition. Some people thrive on a vegetarian diet, others a paleo diet, others a vegan diet, it’s a highly personal thing. No right or wrong way really, only ‘optimal to the individual.’

In my eyes, everyone has something physical out there that they get enjoyment from, many of them just haven’t figured out what that is. It could be hiking, skiing, surfing, playing a team sport, running, cycling, kayaking, whatever the case may be. Find that one thing you can lock onto, and then train to get better at it.

I view the gym as a complement to maintaining a high quality of life and towards keeping people injury free in whatever physical pursuits they may have. I’ll be writing a lot more about this in the coming months/years.

Cheers!
Darren recently posted..6 Things Holding You Back?

Vinita Zutshi November 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Hi Christopher,

I am learning the joys of exercise in my 30s, and frankly, the more I do, the better it gets! I especially like what you wrote about how exercise got you out of depression – there is a deep link there that we don’t know enough about.

Great post, and keep writing!
Vinita Zutshi recently posted..Know Your NO-s

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Christopher Foster November 3, 2011 at 9:23 am

Such a pleasure to hear from you Vinita. I agree with you absolutely. Thank you especially for your very interesting comment re the link between exercise and depression.

Yes indeed. The more we exercise (listening to our body, of course, respecting our body) the better it gets. It’s like anything that’s creative and true, don’t you think. The more we do the better it gets and the more we want to do it. Every good wish.

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Jimmy November 3, 2011 at 2:42 am

Hi Chris,

I am really impressed that at your age you are still healthy. Movement and exercise truly makes our entire living more enjoyable.

My belief is that everything in this world is meant to move. Even your stationary pencil consists of molecules in constant vibrations. How much more so our bodies. The more movement we get, the better our state of being, hence our living experiences.

My profession is as a physical education teacher. I can vouch for this new turbulence training although I have not tried it. Resistance training builds muscles mass which will increase metabolism rate. Interval training raises cardiovascular capacity which provides the oxygen for metabolism.

It’s a perfect combination to burn calories at rest. Contrary to the popular belief that weight is lost while exercising, more weight is lost at rest with increased metabolism from these types of training.
Jimmy recently posted..How to Find the Purpose and Meaning of Life? – Method 10

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Christopher Foster November 3, 2011 at 9:35 am

Terrific comment Jimmy. I’m so thankful to you for sharing your thoughts and perspectives here. I’m sure you’re doing a fine job helping your students be more fit and healthy and I wish you and your students the very best that life has to offer. Stop by again sometime, okay?

And now it’s time to take a break from this office chair and MOVE. Bye for now.

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Laquisha December 27, 2011 at 8:30 am

A provocative insight! Just what we need!

Justin | Mazzastick November 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Hi Christopher,
I definitely feel centered and balanced during and after exercise and if I go too many days without it I certainly feel it.
Justin | Mazzastick recently posted..Intimacy Is Not for the Faint of Heart

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Christopher Foster November 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

Me too Justin. How are you friend?

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The Vizier November 4, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Hi Christopher,

I take the middle way with fitness. I certainly don’t obsess about it, in fact I don’t really like exercise, but I know it is necessary and it is something I must do so I make time for it.

I enjoy strength training, but my goal was never bulky muscles. I just want to make sure I get a good workout and if I get some muscles in the process, that is a good thing. I have been doing this for 10 over years as well. Although when I first started out it was in the hopes of getting really big and muscular. Heh, the vanities of youth.

Thank you for sharing this lovely article! 🙂

Irving the Vizier
The Vizier recently posted..The Vizier’s Guidelines to Living a Good Life

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Christopher Foster November 5, 2011 at 10:28 am

Great to hear from you Irving. Thanks for sharing. What you say is so important. We live in a world that tends to get lost in extremes, be it politics, health, or anything else: but we have this terrific option that is always available to us. To choose, deliberately and patiently and persistently, to seek a “middle way” ie balance in all things.

The universe nods its approval and more importantly our life transforms one moment at a time when our concern is to live in balance.

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Tess The Bold Life November 7, 2011 at 2:58 am

Hi Christopher,
I love your new tag line. I am a runner and have been for 27 years. I recently began weight training as well. I’m trying to fall in love with it;) Talk soon!
Tess The Bold Life recently posted..The Effortless Life: Leo Babauta Interview # 6

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Christopher Foster November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thanks Tess. Wow, that’s amazing you have kept up your running so well. And now weight training too. Congratulations. You’re an inspiration.

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Christopher Foster November 4, 2011 at 11:51 am

Hi Darren, thanks so much for expanding on this aspect. I’m sure your comments will be interesting to a lot of people. I seem to thrive on (or need) a walking diet, I love the gym, but my body just likes to walk. Not so sexy as some of the options you mention but oh well. That’s life I guess.

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Darren November 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Doesn’t have to be ‘sexy’ to be worthwhile. I walk almost every day for at least 30 minutes (15 minutes to work [the gym] and 15 minutes back), I love it. Walking helps clears my mind, pop my headphones in listen to some music or an audiobook along the way sometimes too.

I also ski and surf and play a bunch of sports. I train in the gym to keep my body well prepared for those demands and to keep my quality of physical life high the older I get.

Mindfulness of what you are doing, in general, I feel is an important mindset quality to have, especially with regards to fitness.

Take care.
Darren recently posted..Heads Up!

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Christopher Foster November 5, 2011 at 10:31 am

Just want to express deep thanks for your various contributions to this topic Darren. Such a simple idea isn’t it that walking can actually assist us in attaining or preserving a clear mind at any age. It sure has this effect for me. Best of luck in all your endeavors.

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Christopher Foster December 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

Thanks Laquisha. Much happiness to you.

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