Whenever someone seeks out my help with movement or exercise, Pilates specifically, I also ask about their goals. Whether we have it consciously in mind or not, we have a specific reason for exercise. Health is always at the top of the list!
In my experience, however, health can be a bit difficult to define. There are 3 general ways of describing health, and each has particular goals attached. The first is how we look, the second is how our doctor tells us we are, and the third is how we feel.
I would say the most common type of health and goals I see are related to the first type. People seeking out Pilates and other forms of exercise are trying to ‘get in shape’, lose weight, and fit better in their clothes. The goals generally have a number attached like clothing size and weight on the scale. The measure of success is often visual.
The second motivation I see is driven by the doctor’s office. “I have to get my blood pressure and cholesterol down,” some will say. Weight can also appear here, though it’s more attached to number than look. Prevention plays a factor here as well. I will often hear that someone is looking to take up exercise because heart disease/ heart attack/ cancer runs in the family, and they’re trying to prevent trouble in the future by staying within doctor prescribed parameters. The measure of success here is numerical and determined by the physician.
The third (and most elusive) type of health is how we feel. This is a tricky one! We all want to feel good, but we’ve become so used to feeling bad. Or we hear, “What do you expect? You’re (fill in the blank) years old.” Secretly, we know we want to not just look the part, but feel it as well.
While the first two definitions are valid, I suspect that deep down, we’re all seeking the third option. We all want to feel better. Even those of us who fulfill the first two definitions often have issues that keep us from enjoying and living life to the fullest. I have personally experienced what it’s like to ‘look’ healthy, or for my doctor to declare me healthy based on examination and tests, and to still have very serious ‘dis-ease’ preventing me from living or performing well.
To me, it comes down to whether you are seeking health from the outside-in, or the inside-out.
I have been the person who looks and acts ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’, but is desperately unwell.
I have been the person who seems well on paper, and feels anything but.
In my experience, if we can attune to how we feel and then begin to make choices and actions based on those feelings, the look and the prognosis come around automatically. Or as Eckhart Tolle says, “Get the inside right. The outside will fall into place.”
And personally, I think we can all aim higher on feeling better. Apathy leads to mediocre returns. What would it be like to feel better? Not just ‘good enough’, but great! When was the last time you felt great?
What an exciting idea!