Jennifer's Fitness Philosophy

1. Who am I?

While I am a professional aerobics instructor, my "real" job falls under the domain of computational mechanics. I view fitness as a hobby, not as my profession.

I played competitive volleyball from age 10 to about 28 at which point I had to give it up due to injuries. While I was playing, I swam or ran for aerobic conditioning. I've got arthiritis in both my ankles, knees, and hips from injuries and repeated impact, but what's a little pain? None of those problems stopped me from playing. It wasn't until I sprained my index finger on my right hand (I'm right handed.) that I stopped. I've lost mobility in that finger, and it is obviously larger than the left index finger. I have to admit that once the finger had healed, I started playing again at a lower level of competition.

While the lower body injuries didn't stop me from playing volleyball, they did stop me from running, and since I no longer live near a university, swimming is much less convient. That's when I started taking aerobic dance. I also learned more about weight training and flexibility training. I'd always valued both of them (altho I find them both very boring), but I was only slightly knowledgable about volleyball specific training.

After a few years, I decided to become a certified aerobic instructor because, IMHO, this was the best way to continue my education in general fitness. And I found that I like to teach.

2. Lifestyle and Fitness

I'm in my midthirties, and my life has changed significantly from the life I had when I was in college. I'm married with a child on the way, I own a house, and I have a dog and 3 cats. When I was single with 1 pet and an apartment, I significantly fewer responsibilities and my priorities were very different. So I had time to exercise a lot.

I no longer have a lot of time to exercise, and my priorities have changed. Fortunately, I do not have a long commute. I don't know how people who have to commute an hour each way, take care of a house, maintain their relationship with their spouse, have a social life, and take care of their children ever find any time to exercise.

Exercise and fitness are not the same thing. Fitness is a continuum, and it is activity specific. There is no such thing as ideal fitness because what it necessary for one activity can be detrimental to another. In addition, fitness must fit in to the individual's lifestyle. If fitness is not made a regular part of the lifestyle, what ever it is the individual is doing is sporatic exercise. Fitness requires maintence. And finally, fitness is also a continuum in that different people have different goals. In order to benefit from fitness in terms of health, it is not necessary to have extremely low bodyfat levels, the aerobic capacity to run a marathon, the strength to compete at an olympic weightlifting competition, or the flexibility to put your feet behind your neck. There's nothing wrong with making any of those things a goal, but that would be a different goal than deriving health benefits from regular exercise.

3. Fitness should be fun

In order to truly benefit from fitness, fitness needs to be a lifetime commitment. That means, you will be exercising day in and day out for the rest of your life. Based on my experience as a coach, an aerobic dance instructor, and as an individual, I have come to the conclusion that people continue to exercise if and only if they enjoy the activity. If exercise is a chore, uncomfortable, painful, boring, or unenjoyable for any reason, people will not continue to exercise.

While I know that fitness includes aerobic exercise, weightlifting, flexibility training, nutrition, and other things like stress management, and adequate sleep, I don't pursue all aspects of fitness equally. I find weightlifting and flexibilty training to be mind numbingly boring. For whatever reason, nutrition is really hard for me; I struggle with my weight. I have decided, within the context of my lifestyle where time is so very precious and in light of the fact that my goals have changed to be health focused instead of activity specific, that it is better for me to regularly exercise aerobically and to not pursue weightlifting or flexibility training very much. That doesn't mean that I don't lift weight or that I don't stretch; I do both, but it falls under the category of injury prevention or recuperation rather than training for the sake of the activity.

While trying to do a more balanced fitness program of aerobic exercise, weightlifting, and stretching, I had to give something else up in my life. That is, my current lifestyle doesn't allow me to do it all. I tried it for a while. I gave up time with Robert and some social life. What I found was that not only did my relationships with Robert and my friends and family suffer, but that my job also suffered and that I was not able to do many small maintenance jobs around the house. In the end, the additional exercise was adding to my stress levels and was not adding to my happiness.

So I stopped lifting and stretching as much. I'm not as fit in terms of strength or flexibility as I could be. I'm happier for not being so.

The point of all this is that not only wasn't I enjoying the activities, but they actually added to my stress. It is my opinion, people will only continue to exercise as long as they enjoy it and the exercise reduces their stress levels. In my case, I had found an aerobic exercise that I enjoyed, but you may want to exercise aerobically, and you hate everything you have tried. Keep looking. Or try a different sort of exercise like weightlifting or yoga. Exercise and the fitness that comes from regular exercise will benefit you.

[e-mail:Jen] Jennifer

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This page was last modified Tuesday, 23-Mar-2004 15:55:04 PST