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The summer before college I was 18 and walking through a mall in the suburbs of Los Angeles when a man at a table asked me if I was interested in joining a gym.  I was making minimum wage and already had a car payment, but I signed up for it anyway.  It was a “big box” gym with locations all over Southern California.  I would go to the all woman’s gym or stop by a number of other locations on my long drives in between work, home, and school.

My infatuation with working out started with a man in the mall with a table asking if I belonged to a gym.  That simple question has lead me to teaching indoor cycling classes 20 years later.  Over the years I have learned that working out helps me de-stress and ensure my jeans continue to fit properly.  I’ve tried fad workouts, online workouts, personal training and learned the best workouts from a very intense physical therapist.  Physical activity is my primary wellness tool when I need to relax and stop any negative thoughts or destructive self-narrative.  I’ll spend 2 hours in the gym before I realize I’ve been there that long or end a long day with a 2-3 mile run with my dog, Asha, to clear my mind and sweat out toxins.  Working out has become a huge part of my life in the since I first discovered the gym and I continue to find new challenging workouts, hikes, and classes.

Wendie at the gym working out in 2015.
Wendie at the gym working out.

The first time I tried a Spin class my favorite Pilates and Body Pump teacher asked me to do a double session she was teaching, 1 hour Spin and 1 hour of Body Pump.  I was about 21 and working out 2 hours a day 4-5 days a week so it seemed like a good idea.  The spin class was so difficult that I struggled through the body pump routine I knew by heart.  I was so sore the next day that I swore off spin classes forever. 

Nikki invited me back multiple times, I avoided the subject.  I started taking spin classes regularly a few years later at my work gym every Tuesday and became a class regular for 7 years minus a few extended breaks.  Spin became my workout of choice to recover from long runs when I was training for races, or to lose weight and increase my cardio vascular capacity. 

These days Spin is a huge part of my life and my physical wellness.  I teach a 60-minute class on Sunday morning that I call Sunday Funday, a 45-minute class on Monday evening called Monday Madness and spend about 1-2 more hours choreographing new classes.  I regularly curse my legs for being too tight or sore, but the benefits of intense cardio and hours in the Spin studio outweigh the soreness.  Spin has become my primary physical wellness outlet at the moment and I’m grateful to Nikki and all my instructors for their unique gifts and teachings.

Living the Dimensions of Wellness

Recently I began thinking about why my passion for physical activity has been the sole focus of wellness in my life.  I’ve worked on wellness in various ways in the past by seeking new healthy habits like improving my cooking skills for better nutrition, diversifying my workouts, and which supplements that can improve my overall health.  My curiosity about wellness and my work in mental health exposed me to various theories about how to promote well being and models that include multiple dimensions of wellness beyond my typical focus on physical wellness.

University of Alberta Wellness Wheel.
University of Alberta- Wellness Wheel

This graphic, courtesy of: University of Alberta, depicts 9 dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, academic, financial, spiritual, intellectual, social, occupational, and environmental.  Some models depict five, seven or eight dimensions of wellness.  I happen to like the University of Alberta model because it incorporates academic and intellectual dimensions of wellness to be inclusive of those who are still in school and creating an emphasis on lifelong learning.

The Wellness Grind community is built on stories of real individuals who are exploring the dimensions of wellness.  I, along with other wellness-focused individuals, will share expertise and resources related to all the dimensions of wellness. You can also check out the Wellness Grind Fitness & Workouts for other posts specifically designed to keep you motivated to live a fit and healthy lifestyle.

I have brought intention to my daily life by observing my behaviors when I’m stressed, anxious, bored, hurt, ill, or just stuck in the daily rut of suburban life.  I’ve listened to my body, noted negative and positive thoughts, moments of gratitude, and sought out daily options for self-care.  For nearly six months as I prepared to launch this blog I started working on what exactly wellness looks like and how I feel when I’m happy and healthy.

Physical Health is more than lack of Illness

Since my early 30’s I’ve battled random health issues such as kidney stones, a seizure, sleep apnea, digestive issues, and high blood pressure.  Despite living most of my life very healthy, toxic stress has caused my body to break down and steadily add weight to my 5’0” frame.  I have struggled with both my weight and physical health although I maintain a high level of activity- walking or running several miles a day with the pup, working out 4-5 days a week and 2-4 hours of intense indoor cycling per week.  These struggles have inspired my commitment to exploring how to leave the toxic stress behind and focus on myself.

Physical activity remains a large part of my life and I keep myself focused on diversifying my workouts, pushing and knowing my limits, and exploring the outdoors while working out.  All of my efforts to keep my body moving and functionally fit are preventing future illness and health issues.  Although, I tend to be clumsy and have gotten hurt while working out. 

Preventing injuries is a pretty high priority in my life, I always pay attention to form and try to encourage riders in every class to strive for correct and efficient form.   I continue to be patient with my body and health issues as I find ways to improve my overall health and reduce the physical and mental effects of stress.  I have learned that my physical health is both lack of illness and a pro-active approach to remaining healthy through all of the various dimensions of wellness.

Related to the other dimensions of wellness depicted above, it has been helpful for me to consider how my physical wellness is connected to the other dimensions as well.  For example, when I am physically well, I often feel mentally at peace.  When I am unhealthy, my financial and occupational wellness suffers through the days I lose at work for doctors’ appointments and tests.  When the environment around me is not healthy and safe, my physical wellness will also suffer- for example consider lead or asbestos exposure.

Wendie running in Chicago 2014.
Wendie running in Chicago October 2014.

Think for a moment about each of the dimensions of wellness.  What have you done throughout your life without even recognizing that you were contributing to your wellness in one of the 9 dimensions?  Have you changed tactics as you moved through life from your parent’s house perhaps to college to work and starting a family of your own?  How many times have you stopped yourself and said “this isn’t helpful to me” yet continued to do something anyway?  Could you have made another choice that contributed towards your physical health or one of the other dimensions of wellness instead?  Has anyone in a mall asked you to join a gym or a workout recently?

The title of this post is Fuego, which to me is how I try to leave the gym feeling after every workout.  Consider how you might bring fire into your next workout?  Try an indoor cycling class, a yoga flow YouTube video, run a 5K outside or go for a 5 mile hike.  My goal for physical wellness at the moment is to encourage myself to increase the number of higher intensity workouts involving weights, body weight and cardio each week.  Lighting my inner fire to sweat out the stress is a great way to connect the body and the mind.w

What’s your physical wellness goal this week?

Wendie rowing in Lake Douthat in Virginia.

Fuego Workout

Check out the workout that inspired this post! The Fuego workout and playlist are available now!