Starting Weight: 134 kg
Finishing Weight: 129.6kg
To think that the first of January was a whole month ago, complete with resolutions, commitments, affirmations for a year filled with hope. As you may recall from Episode 1, December ended in disaster, and so I was determined to make January 2024 a success! A real fresh start, a line in the sand, a new beginning, and I would never look back.
As we have all come to realise at some point or another, the journey of wellness does not have a defined start and finish line, because it is not linear, and there is no destination. Wellness, as I am coming to understand it, is an awareness of mind, body, and emotions (what some would call spirit).
The reality of that awareness is that it shifts and changes, moves and moulds itself based on knowledge and practice of a particular time. I like to imagine it as one of those old school lava lamps – the gooey bits are always there, they just move, collide, and change shape, as long as the switch stays on.
And so I was more forgiving of myself in January, not recording any transgressions as a disaster (I had one long weekend away and may have over indulged). In fact, berating yourself because you fell off the “programme” is again falling back into that destination psychology around wellness, as though any “wrong” move has you sliding down the hill to hell.
Life is a series of happenings, not all within our control, and as people we do what we can within the circumstances of the moment. As long as we return to the intention of wellness for our minds, bodies, and emotions, we are generally good.
This does not mean that I am advocating for a life void of discipline. On the contrary, I am continuing down the path of understanding the importance of cultivating a healthy mind-body connection, which involves discipline, flexibility, and determination.
We are looking for balance, not perfection, not even perfection in balance – a continuous adding and subtraction to reach equilibrium for the majority of the time, because perfect, unending balance is not possible, and, ironically, leads to unbalance.
The importance of the mind-body connection cannot be overstated, and the two are inextricably linked. If your mind is strong, your body will be empowered to do more, and if your body is strong, your mind will have the assurance it needs to ask your body to do more. It is in the balancing of these two parts of who we are as people that we live out our overall wellness.
One of the methods to develop this mind-body connection, is to explore exercises and programmes that require you to develop equilibrium between the two to achieve the desired outcome. Pilates uses six primary principles which does this:
- Breath: Coordinating simple but challenging movements while trying to stay alive by breathing
- Concentration: Having to be fully aware of your body to maintain balance and equilibrium, while engaging your core literally the entire time
- Centring: Focusing on the area of your body required to complete movements, and sourcing power to complete said movements
- Control: Total, deliberate, purposeful muscle control is required for all movements, which essentially challenge you to engage the parts of your brain that tell you that you’re strong enough, with your body’s ability to bend, move, and hold
- Precision: Developing knowledge of each movement’s purpose for your alignment, bringing together different parts of your body to support the central point from which you’re drawing power to complete movements
- Flow: Finally, and importantly, to make smooth and graceful movements, that reflect the previous five principles
Then you have STRONG Pilates, a new way to engage in this particular wellness practice on a modified reformer called a “Rowformer” (a traditional reformer on one end and a rowing machine, or stationary bike, on the other) which I accepted as my January challenge.
The principles are the same as those above, with an added element – burst of high to medium intensity cardio between blocks of movements completed on a rowing machine or stationary bike. The idea is not dissimilar to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but also different in that you are challenging your body to move between stability, balance, strength, AND endurance. It is sad that you burn upwards of 800 calories per 45 minute class, so I was sold!
And here’s what fascinates me – I went in thinking that just Pilates was my mind-body moment, my “going inward to go outward” situation, but as a person who actually hates cardio (with an absolute passion), what I have discovered over the month of January is that completing cardio is just as much of a mind-body thing as anything else. Through the STRONG practice, it dawned on me that cardio/endurance is not just a matter of sore legs and being out of breath, it is actually about connecting, purposefully, one’s mind and intentions with one’s body.
I am happy to say that I am continuing my STRONG journey, and exploring other forms of cardio to continue to develop this connection.
As part of my renewed understanding of the mind-body benefits of cardio, for the month of February, I have challenged myself to swim 800m to 1 km per day to see how this affects body composition. Follow me on Instagram @fuzz.ali and @balancethegrind for weekly updates.