The Importance of Fitness

August 18, 2023

I was at the gym the other day, sweating through one of my favorite, rough and tumble classes when the instructor yelled out, “Now is not the time to slack off; Memorial Day is just around the corner and we will start showing off our arms! Let’s be readyfor summer!”

It got me thinking. Is fitness seasonal?

In my world, fitness has always played a big role in who I am. From the time I can remember I took part in sports at and after school, swimming competitively in high school and college.

My mother was a fitness aficionado. My childhood was spent hearing Jack La Lanne from the small black and white TV in the kitchen as he counted down jumping jacks (which my mom did as she packed our school lunches…there’s a visual for you).

Both of my parents were great examples of the power of fitness in life. My father was six-foot-two Irish muscle from an equal measure of swimming and high diving to years of hard labor in his job as a butcher. Before I gave up meat, I used to marvel at my father’s ability to shoulder half a cow for butchering. His strength made him legendary in my world.

In short, we cooked at home for most meals (eating out at relatives’ homes or for my mother’s birthday) and we were encouraged to get…and stay fit and strong. I can still hear both of my parents saying that life was hard; the world tough; you need to be strong and healthy to succeed.

All these decades later, I remain a committed member of our local gym. While I can’t do some things with as much ardor as I used to (think jumping on boxes), I lift, push and pull weights and hit the spin bike multiple times a week. And as I did growing up, we walk everywhere; it’s one of the joys of living in the city.

So why tell you all of this? Is it to brag?

I think you know me better than that.

We live in difficult times. There are so many struggles that we face, whether economic, familial, social, political. Our planet needs our strength to help restore her.

Feeling strong and capable does more for us than make us look good in clothes. Strength gives us the confidence to make change in our lives; to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves; to fight for what’s right and fair. If we are weak and out of shape, how can we stand tall and help our neighbors, our communities, our planet, ourselves?

I know that I am all about food and the impact of the choices we make on our wellness. I have also come to believe that we can’t chew our way to strength and flexibility. We live in organisms that are miraculous. These bodies of ours respond to the right fuel and the right stress on them so they can serve us well through youth and into our later years.

A recent study showed that people between 91-97 years old were given strength routines to follow twice a week. Only twice a week! They showed new muscle formation, better balance and cognitive ability in no time. Imagine what 4-5 workouts a week can do for your longevity. (Hint: extend your life and improve the quality a lot…)

And don’t worry about getting enough protein if you are plant-based. Arnold (yes, that one) famously says that we were sold a bill of goods that we needed meat to build muscle. He has gone from saying things like, “You hit like a vegetarian” to believing that no one needs meat to build muscle.

Life throws us many curve balls and we have to be nimble enough to dodge them and move forward. Eating well gives us the fuel; fitness gives us the strength. Don’t let the oncoming sweater weather soften your resolve to stay strong. Fitness is about more than how you look in a sleeveless dress or shirt. It’s about how you move through the world.

Every season is the season of fitness.