Declare your fitness independence

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer

Picnics, fireworks, red white and blue…the Fourth of July is definitely a highlight of every summer.  Families and friends gather together, relax by the pool, fire up the barbecue, and as dusk approaches, gaze upward in wonder as the sky becomes illuminated with a pageantry of exploding color.  While we revel in the day off of work, how often do we take the time to truly realize what our Independence Day really signifies?

Back in 1776, our forefathers declared their independence from a foreign governing body, and fought to establish our country’s right to stand on its own merit.  Today, “independence” takes on many different forms, more than just the geographical and political arenas.  We may stand as “one country, indivisible…” but at the very heart of the matter, each of us is a unique individual, in possession of great thoughts and ideas.  We have earned the right to assert our independence, and yet very often, we forfeit that privilege in favor of going along with the masses.

In the past several decades, there have been many fitness trends that have come and gone.  Each one seemed to carry the promise of being the “next greatest thing”; we need look no further than the Jane Fonda phenomenon to recall how ballistic stretching was once considered a prudent thing to do.  (Heaven forbid, now that we know better!)  Yet so many exercise enthusiasts jumped on that bandwagon, not wanting to be left behind as the fitness craze seemed to be sweeping the nation.

With so many promises made and results failing to be delivered, it is often challenging to know just what and whom to believe.  I always turn to science for answers, and not just because my background is in microbiology.  The research and documentation cannot be disputed: exercise coupled with prudent eating habits will always pack a one-two punch for success.  Study after study confirms that the medical community and the fitness community are on the right track.  When done in a safe and effective manner, exercise and prudent eating can offer so many positive benefits:

• lower cholesterol/blood pressure

• help to maintain insulin levels, leading to a reduced risk of diabetes

• strengthen bones

• aid in weight management

• improve cardiovascular health and endurance

• release endorphins to improve overall mood and feelings of well-being

• increase energy

Armed with this knowledge, we also have choices when it comes to how we exercise and plan our meals.  Yet this is where so many individuals fail to embrace their independence.  If “everyone” is doing Zumba classes, many of us feel that we have to go along with the crowd. Cycling seems to be increasing in popularity, and now everyone feels the need to run out and spend a fortune on a high-tech bike. My advice has always been to choose an activity that resonates with you, for that will be the one with which you will stick, even when you are fatigued, in a time crunch, or simply not in the mood.  If your co-workers are all doing a 50-mile bike ride on Saturday and you’d rather do yoga, go for it!  If your friends want to do a Pilates class tomorrow, and you had already challenged yourself to try a 3-mile run in the park, don’t be intimidated by the crowd… what speaks to you.  The results you achieve will transcend the mere physical benefits; knowing you are honoring your choice of fitness activity will empower you, keep you engaged, and propel you forward.  Sure, it is fun to change things up once in a while, and if you feel like trying a different fitness format with friends, you may surprise yourself and find it enjoyable. The important thing here is that you have declared your independence from the crowd; much like our ancestors did so many years ago. Stand on your own merit; choose your method of fitness and celebrate the red white and blue every day!