The Five Foundations of Happiness: Lessons from the Gym
Since The Tribe’s inception, we built your workouts on a solid foundation of fundamental fitness principles. Those same principles are a powerful metaphor for a life of integrity, joy, accomplishment and serenity. And they are the basis of the thoughts I want to share with you today.
The five principles are
Strength, Flexibility, Endurance, Power, and Recovery.
Strength is the absolute amount of resistance that you can lift, move, or carry. To gain strength safely, you progressively increase the weight or volume of resistance over time. You don’t make huge leaps of strength overnight. And you don’t manipulate multiple variables at the same time. Instead, you take on just a little more than you think you can lift at any given moment. Over time, with steady, consistent effort, you get stronger and minimize the risk of injury.
In life, strength also comes from resistance. Resistance - what we call challenges - might not feel good but we can’t get stronger without them. The flip side is you can’t hold onto to everything or you won’t get stronger, you’ll get crushed underneath the burden of the weight. Since you can’t hold on to everything, challenges can help crystalize your values and priorities in life. Pick what is most important to you and lift that. Carry it around. Decide if you want to continue to carry it or put it down and pick up a weight that is more in line with your greater goals in life. The weight should feel challenging but manageable. And it will make you stronger in areas that are truly important to you.
Flexibility is the ability to bend without breaking. It’s a type of strength to be sure - just look at any experienced Yogi to see that - but it is primarily the ability to stretch and move without tightness or restriction. It also implies a lack of brittleness.
In my mind, the spiritual counterpart to flexibility is faith - emunah. Emunah reduces tension and allows you to remain supple and flexible in the face of life’s challenges and successes! I told the story of the woman in town who opened a ‘competing business’ and thought I would be upset so she avoided me. When we came face to face unavoidably, she saw I was open and friendly and we had a nice conversation about health coaching and what it is. Long story short…she in now a client of mine. If I had been petty and upset, we both would have lost out on the opportunity to work together, not to mention the negativity and hard feelings we both avoided! Punchline? When you live in G-d’s world, the pie is infinite. You having more will never mean me having less, and vise versa. If I help another business owner, it will never mean less parnassah (income) for me. I get what I’m supposed to have and you get what you are supposed to have. In a G-dly world, there is no such thing as competition.
Endurance it the ability to hold an effort level for an extended period of time. In fitness, that means bringing an athlete to near maximal effort and having her hold that effort level. As time goes on, with sufficient rest in between workouts, I slowly increase the amount of time the athlete spends at near-maximal effort. I am pushing her aerobic ceiling, what we call VO2 Max in the Biz. When your VO2 Max is higher, your heart muscle gets bigger and more efficient, your lungs transport more oxygen, and your magical mitochondria - your metabolic superheroes - increase in number. From the athlete’s perspective, she thinks she can just run longer. In reality, there is a cascade of beautiful and intricate change happening in her body that she can’t see. It’s like looking through a kaleidoscope and turning the wheel. Mesmerizing colors and patterns move gracefully through the lens as they do through your body and soul when you hold your own in challenging moments.
When we learn to endure, when we learn to tolerate discomfort instead of fighting against it, we create space for intricate inner change that we might not see or perceive. That doesn’t mean suffering endlessly or silently. We aren’t supposed to be martyrs or act like martyrs. It’s really not an attractive trait. But you can internalize that just like a hard workout, this too shall pass. And truly, if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger! Breathe through the workout. Congratulate yourself for completing a tough session. Rest. Recover. And move on.
This is arguably one of the toughest principles for women in our community to reconcile with our culture.
Power in fitness = maximal strength + speed
Power in life = Responding with confidence/assertiveness. Assertiveness is NOT the same as being aggressive. It is knowing what you need and what your boundaries are and respecting them even in the face of pressure.
The tougher the workout - the harder an athlete has to push - the more recovery they need. They need proper post-workout fuel, sleep, nutrition and sufficient time between workouts. In fact, its actually during sleep and recovery that the body rebuilds and gets stronger!
When life gets busy and stressful for women, that is exactly when most women let their health and fitness routine go. Don’t. It’s a lifeline. Shorten your workouts. Make frozen veggies instead of fresh. Get some extra help in the house so you can rest. But don’t let those great habits go by the wayside. Your best performance requires self-care! First put on your oxygen mask. Then assist others!