Bringing It Together: A Personal Reflection in Fitness & Health

Bringing It Together: A Personal Reflection in Fitness & Health

It's important to take the time to stop and look back at accomplishments you've made.
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Last week we took a look at three particular ways I still focus on my health since deciding to devote health and fitness as a part of my everyday life. This is not to say there aren’t other ways to proactively do much for your well-being, remember everyone is different! That’s the beautiful part of this process; everyone has their way to achieving their fitness and wellness goals.

Today, we are going to zoom in on three (big surprise) significant surprises and lessons I learned reflecting on this process. It wasn’t a natural process coming up with these either, because the experiences and blockades encountered were and still are endless. After substantial debate, these hold the most significant importance amongst most. Without further undue, here are Mike’s reflection of an eight-year fitness and health journey.

Learn how to push and test your limits – this one applies to a quote from the Man of Steel. There’s a particular scene in the film when Jor-El, Superman’s biological father, sees him in an entirely mature grown state. He tells his son, “You’ve grown stronger than I ever could’ve imagined. The only way to know how strong is to keep testing your limits.” This may sound pretty hokey on the surface, but it’s true. The only way to know what potential and capabilities your muscles, endurance, mental tenacity, and commitment have are to push them continuously. I was able to achieve this by completing six races in 2016 as well as start engaging in CrossFit in the Fall of 2015. These were brand new horizons for me. And I am sure you can find new horizons for yourself, physical activities are endless! In the beginning, a coach or mentor will be extremely helpful in guiding you; someone will be there. Later on down the road, the mentality is second nature.

Develop your listening skills – We have some overlap here with the above first point. To know how to push and test your limits, you’ll need to sincerely take your coach, trainer, mentor’s advice to heart. Make it a priority to write it down. In CrossFit, a lot of the workouts require progression and on-the-fly learning to application. In hockey, it comes down to hearing what a coach says about how to enhance your play (help the defense in the corners as a center; make sure to trail the first forward heading into the offensive zone; crash the net on shots on net). For soccer, it was trying to utilize my running speed and shuffle backward as a sweeper (after playing most of my life as a forward). Tips, form, and progressions in tactics will all be enhanced as long as you actively listen to your coach, or whoever leads the instruction.

Have FUN – As cliché as this one sounds, it’s the truth. If you hate the activity you are doing, why bother? There are countless activities to engage in (cycling, yoga, CrossFit, basketball, baseball, running, soccer, hockey, tennis) and sometimes seasons limit those. I found two wonderful communities of people who brought me into their fitness families – Elite Athletic Development of Arlington Heights and Final Round CrossFit. There were two reasons I decided to join those families: the coaches are those that care for every single person in the room and the community Is a family. The same goes for your teammates; they will become your brothers and sisters, a new family in which you’ll engage in activities outside of the game. Some of my favorite memories were those times in the locker room, just talking with the guys about school and what else you do outside of hockey.

Bringing this all together, you’ll notice this is a very personalized account of fitness and health. We’re all fortunate to have different paths and destinies, but we can share with others and give them advice and ideas to strive towards in the short, mid, and long-term. It’s a blessing to be able to share this two-part series with all of you – it’s the first time I’ve opened up and reflected on what’s been accomplished and what remains to come. Your journey is endless. Make the best of it, rise from it, push your limits, always listen – but most importantly, have fun along the way.

Cover Image Credit: Stocksnap

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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The Things Nobody Told Me About Depression, But I Really Wish Somebody Would Have

I was diagnosed with depression six months ago. These are some of the things that I wish I had known sooner.

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There are a ton of things about having depression that no one will tell you. For example, something that no one ever told me about depression is that I have it.

I was diagnosed with depression in December of 2018 - just six months ago. But my therapist tells me that, based on what I've said about my mental state, I've likely had depression since elementary school, if not earlier.

The fact that I've had depression for so long and not know about it only goes to show how easy it is for one to live with mental health issues and never know it.

The fact that I apparently developed depression at such an early age only goes to show that mental health issues do not exclusively affect people only after they have lived and experienced all that life can throw at them.

The fact that I have had a pretty good life - a loving family, success in academics, never experiencing severe poverty - only goes to show that mental health issues are not always caused by shitty life experiences and traumas.

These are all things that no one ever told me about depression, and things that I never knew until I got to college and took a psychology class focused on mental health issues.

I did not know that depression can hide for years without you ever knowing about it.

I did not know that depression can manifest even in young children.

I did not know that depression can affect even those living happy lives.

These are things no one tells you about depression.

These are things that I had to learn by myself, and things that I am still learning how to compromise with the reality of my own life experience.

It's no one person's fault that I didn't know these things, it was the fault of a societal system that didn't know it needed to be concerned with such things. The early 2000s, when my young brain was developing and learning how to cope with the world, were not exactly focused on mental health in children. By the time people realized that children were suffering from depression and anxiety at earlier and earlier ages, I had already been living with my own issues for years, and I thought that my experiences and interpretations of the world around me was normal - that this was how everybody felt, that this was all normal. I didn't think that the symptoms that our counselors and teachers warned about at the beginning of each school year applied to me.

Nobody told me that depression isn't always sadness and crying.

Nobody told me that sometimes depression is a creeping grey numbness that clouds your brain. That sometimes it is a blurring and a muting of your emotions until you feel nothing at all. That such nothingness is worse than any level of sadness you would ever feel.

Nobody told me that depression isn't constant.

Nobody told me that I would have good days amid the bad ones. That every now and then, a day in a week or a day in a month or a day in a blue moon, I would have all of my emotions sharp and bright and my smiles would be as soft as they were genuine and I would relish the taste of the air around me. That these good days don't invalidate the bad days and mean that I don't have depression after all.

Nobody told me that once I was diagnosed with depression it would simultaneously feel like a weight had been lifted and like a punch to the gut all at once.

Nobody told me the relief that I would feel at the explanation and the knowledge that I might not always have to live like this. That I would also feel my understanding of my life flipped upside down, because if the way I have been experiencing the world is because of a disease, then what does that mean for the validity of my life and who I am?

Nobody told me that there would be a part of me that feared to get better, because who would I be without depression? Without this parasite that has somehow been such a constant throughout my life?

Nobody told me that I would begin to question which parts of my personality are "real" and which parts of me are the depression?

And if those two things can even be separate? And if so, will I ever be able to say I am better, if these parts of me developed through depression are still a part of me once I am "recovered"?

Nobody told me how scary that thought would be.

But what people have told me is that recovery is possible. They have told me that life gets better. That those good days that I used to find - unexpected yet welcome - could become my normal day. That I can be my own person, separate from my depression, and I can grow stronger, and happier, and more vibrant and more driven and MORE.

These are the things that people have told me, and these are the things that I remind myself of.

Nobody told me how lonely depression can be, but I hope that this article might make you feel a little less alone, and a little more prepared, and a little more understood.

I am not an expert. I still do not know everything, and my experience is my own, and in no way represents a majority or speaks on behalf of everyone out there suffering from depression. But I know now that I am not alone in my own experiences, and I hope that whoever is reading this, if you need it, maybe now you can know that you are not alone in yours.

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