Health and Fitness: Never Take Anything For Face Value

In today’s society, we have exceptional athletes that accomplish extraordinary goals.  These athletes preach about striving for greatness and pushing our bodies to the limit.  They explain that with hard work, determination, and the ability to never give up, anything is possible.  With several athletes being role models for me, I push myself to the limit every day to become better and be somebody that I’m proud of.  But when it comes to a civilian’s health, can you push too much?  This is something I learned the hard way one year ago.  

After playing collegiate volleyball and continuing to work out every day, one could say I was doing a lot.  Waking up at 5:30am, running 3-4 miles and lifting weights after.  One Sunday, I was playing volleyball and I went up for a swing, came down on my left leg only, and my knee popped out inward.  I completely tore my ACL, MCL, and partially tore my meniscus.  Going through this process after surgery, of healing, I have realized how important it is to listen to our bodies and educate ourselves on proper technique.  I could have avoided all the frustration, anger, and struggle; if I had listened to my body when it told me I needed rest or a couple of days to recuperate.  There are different ways in which our bodies tell us something is wrong.  An obvious example, when we are hungry, we get cranky or get a headache; when we are dehydrated, we will get a headache or see that our pee is the same color as apple juice.  When someone is pregnant, they miss a period or get morning sickness or get fatigued easily.  Our bodies are amazing and complex machines and it has unique ways of communicating to us.  

After I hurt myself, I started reading more and more on how these super athletes train and what they do in their daily exercise routines.  I realized that the more you put your body through, the more you need to do to keep it healthy and nourished.  These super athletes know exactly what to do and eat because they’re educated to do so.  

For us civilians, it is our responsibility to take responsibility for our health.  For example, handling stress.  When individuals do not handle or channel their anxiety or stress correctly, physical and mental changes occur.  People gain weight and have an increased appetite; people’s hair can fall out; people can have trouble sleeping; he or she can get stress bumps all over the body; one can start to feel overwhelmed all the time and one’s mind can’t slow down; one can start to avoid others and become easily agitated and develop low self-esteem.  Everyone’s body is different but nonetheless, the body tells us when it is time to change a routine or habit or develop a new one.  Another example is how we eat.  In a recent article, a doctor stated “the best medicine we can put into our bodies is what we eat”.  In my opinion, he’s absolutely right.  On an everyday basis, we eat food to fuel our bodies so we can do what we do every day; we need vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to feed our brains, muscles, and organs.  When I eat healthy consistently, I feel such a difference in my energy and focus; I see such a difference in my skin and weight.  Of course, I love to eat things like French fries and cookies.  However, when I eat processed foods or food with a lot of sugar or carbs, I feel weighted down; I feel more emotional and less focused mentally.  When the body eats too much of salt or sugar, the body can develop diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure.  

Another huge topic, which is extremely prevalent now, especially involving the younger generations, is obesity.  Being overweight or having more body fat than you should, can lead to multiple problems.  One problem is arthritis.  According to the arthritis foundation, 1 in 5 Americans has been diagnosed with arthritis.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that number increases to more than 1 in 3 among obese people – 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight or obese.   I saw situations like this at my physical therapy office.  There were several patients who were bigger than others, who had knee and/or ankle problems, sometimes both.  They blamed it on everything else except their lifestyle.  The more weight that’s on a joint, the more stressed the joint becomes, and the more likely it’ll wear down and become damaged.  The person’s weight contributed to the physical problems they were having with their joints.

*Important note-I am NOT saying everyone needs to be skinny like the Olsen twins.  I’m not built like that whatsoever!  What I’m saying is listening to our bodies can help us live a happier and healthier life.*

When looking up to these extraordinary athletes, there’s something to keep in mind.  For them, it’s in their daily routine to stretch and get massaged and know what to eat and handle stress.  Those athletes have medical and health staff at their fingertips!  Because I don’t have a team of people waiting at my feet with prepared answers to my every question, I read.  I stay educated on the latest research on health and fitness news.  I meditate to keep my mind free and so when stress does come along, it doesn’t linger and affect my body negatively.  I eat healthily and, of course, indulge every once in a while in keeping my mind and body clean.  It’s our responsibility to become educated on how to keep our bodies as healthy as they can be.  
In conclusion, we all want to be the best we can be; at the same time, we love to live life!   However, people will have their skin, brain, heart, and organs with them for the rest of their life.  We need to take care of ourselves now so we can stay healthier longer.  With my knee, thinking about everything I went through emotionally, mentally, and physically, I think back, “why didn’t I just listen to my body” or “why didn’t I stretch more or do what I learned when I first started in athletics”.  It’s that feeling of knowing it could be prevented that I do not want to have to linger over me like I did after everything I’ve been through.  With so many articles and Instagram fitness models and weight loss supplements, listening to your body and seeing it’s reactions to certain foods and exercise routines is the best form of being our best and striving for greatness.