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A Year Into The Pandemic And The Case For Compassionate Fitness

A Year Into The Pandemic And The Case For Compassionate Fitness

Fitness & Wellness | March 15, 2021
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Becoming even more pronounced and an important consideration, fitness shifts into the more mindful, compassionate sense, making it work for you best amid the pandemic.

Related: Breathe As One, Be As One

It’s officially been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we know it. The world came to a halt as lockdowns were imposed all over the world. We all suddenly found ourselves scrambling to do everything at home and to find ways to cope and accept the new norm.

Being in the middle of a pandemic is definitely something that I can honestly say no one was prepared for—it does take its toll on all of us mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Whether we’re able to articulate it or not, some definitely coped better than others while others needed more support. As an entrepreneur, I can honestly say that the rollercoaster of emotions from last year has been unparalleled and while I am able to better manage myself better nowadays, there are still definitely hard days.

Of fitness and health during quarantine

But there is most definitely a bright spot to the pandemic that is undeniable: it has forced all of us to shift the focus back to finding joy in the now. After decades of looking forward to anything and everything new, and striving for better, bigger, and faster, we have collectively been forced to slow down, enjoy what is in front of us, and truly appreciate life’s true essentials: family, relationships, and health.

As an entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, I truly believe that now, more than ever, the case for compassionate fitness must be heard. For years, there’s been so much social conditioning on the need to have an ideal when it comes to fitness—whether it’s the elusive 6-pack abs, the next personal record, the never ending quest for the next advanced pose or routine, or maybe even the enviable biohacking stats, and oftentimes the failing to meet these ideals (or the opposite-achieving these too fast!) can keep us in a pressure cycle that never truly ends.  

One workout or fitness style does not fit all, and that’s OKAY

I’m not saying goals are bad. In fact, having a goal is like having a North Star that keeps one from getting lost. But what if we keep the goal, but we lessen the pressure to push hard?  What if we become more open-minded about the speed it takes us to get to where we want to be? What if we become more accepting of changes to our vision of success? What if through the process, we find self-compassion instead? What if instead of acting from a place of always wanting, we act from a place of true self-love and understanding?

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If there is something more to be learned and relearned throughout this pandemic, it’s this: That every moment is to be appreciated. And that same lesson when it comes to fitness is this: our bodies, whatever state it may be in, whatever ability it may have, must always be appreciated and celebrated—by caring for it the best we can in the now. 

We are not all blessed with the same genetics nor do we all come from the same circumstances and while some may integrate fitness into their lives easier than others, most will have a different journey filled with different challenges. Every body is truly different, and no journey fitness journey is perfect. Just as how we found joy in the little simple things again throughout this pandemic, we must start to learn to embrace, enjoy, and never take for granted our individual journeys to health.

Why compassionate fitness is sustainable

Now I know this may be quite a paradigm shift and may be easier said than done. We are talking years of breaking down and breaking through existing belief systems—and yes, it’s going to be an uphill battle for sure. That’s why I’m listing down a few key mindset changes that personally helped me achieve a more compassionate approach to fitness through the years, most especially this past once-in-a-lifetime year:

1. Remember that your internal dialogue matters

There’s no point denying the mind-body connection. The fact of the matter is, our thoughts command our feelings, which in turn command our actions. Every cell in our bodies listen in to every idea and respond to every emotion. So imagine if you kept a very negative internal dialogue—it’s really going to be a challenge to feel and to be at your best. I truly believe that our thoughts manifest in our bodies, so choose your thoughts carefully just like choosing how to dress up for important events. Choose your best thoughts and encourage more of those on the daily.

2. You deserve to show yourself kindness, too

Do you often find yourself empathizing with a friend or a loved one who is in need of support but at the same time, realize that in the same situation, chances are you wouldn’t be as encouraging or forgiving when it comes to yourself? I’ve realized through the years that true self-compassion is being able to also show yourself the same kindness you readily give others. When you consciously stop yourself from criticizing you, you make room for more appreciation for everything that’s unique and special about you and your journey. You have to embrace being your own cheerleader. 

3. Stressors abound—don’t feel guilty about cutting yourself some slack

The past year is a reminder that no matter what happens, life will always throw curveballs. We are always bound to encounter walls, detours, and many other unexpected circumstances. And when these happen, it’s bound to get tough – and it’s okay to change pace, direction, or approach. That’s the beauty of life after all—it’s unpredictable. Get used to the idea that feeling overwhelmed or sidetracked is completely normal and that there’s always an opportunity to recover, restart, and bounce back. Have the courage to rest when needed and to go back with renewed energy, after you’ve taken a much needed breather.

4. Think well-being, and not just physical fitness

I used to think that fitness is only about what you can see on the outside. I was once obsessed with being “thin” and lean. As I got older, I realized that this fascination and obsession was unsustainable. If you’ve really been wanting to live “well”—to look and to feel great, I suggest that you start looking at it holistically. Health and fitness encompasses not just your physical health, but also mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and even financial health. All these aspects are interconnected and if you forget to nurture a part, the other parts tend to slowly flail too. You must remember to nurture all the different facets of well-being, and to make compromises every so often so all parts remain intact and whole. 

5. Focus on what you “add” instead of what you “subtract” to your quality of life

Oftentimes embarking on a journey towards better health necessitates certain adjustments. When it comes to nutrition for example, most people tend to focus on restricting portions to reduce caloric intake; but a positive spin to this may be choosing better calories and adding more nutritious options onto one’s plate. Focus on adding, instead of subtracting, so you don’t harbor feelings of deprivation. A compassionate approach is an approach that enriches you, rather than leaves you feeling depleted.

6. Your journey to health will take time. Be patient.

Becoming fit and healthy is not a short term thing. I can’t say it enough. If you want to be fit for life, then you have to think of health and fitness as a lifestyle. Your daily choices add up and if you keep making small lapses, the future goal gets farther and farther away. At the same time, consistency in the small acts that show yourself kindness accumulates over time and makes the all difference in the long run.

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If there’s anything this pandemic taught me it’s that we must take everything in stride. There will always be peaks and valleys throughout all the different facets of our lives and the key really is to take it a step at a time and to be grateful. Our bodies take us through this wonderful journey we call life and if we’re going to go the distance, we must constantly nurture the relationship we have with our bodies the best way we can—through all the many transformations life surprisingly has in store for us in the many days to come.

Tanya Maria Aguila is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of ONELIFE, a chain of boutique Pilates and Physical Therapy studios in Manila - the first of its kind. She is a multi-certified Pilates, Yoga, and movement professional. She was also one of the first NIKE Training Club coaches in the Philippines, and is currently a mentor-in-training for internationally renowned, Polestar Pilates. Tanya is a big champion of local businesses and brands and she strongly believes in two advocacies: self care, and women empowerment. As a coach, she believes in sustainable exercises and compassionate coaching, and that fitness is not measured in inches or pounds, but in the ability to continue to do the things you love, free from pain, for life.
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