Eat Your Heart Out :: Part 2

Ashley Taylor

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

The relationship between food and exercise hangs in a fragile balance that can be easily manipulated to deteriorate into unhealthy proportions. So after examining healthy eating habits in the last article and exercise in this one, look forward to my next article in which I’ll tie the two together to discuss the significance of healthy mental thought processes and how that relates to food and physical activity. But first, what is exercise and why does it matter?

Physical exercise is built on three separate yet equally significant pillars: cardio (aerobic), associated with weight management and heart health; weights (anaerobic), associated with muscle mass and strength; and flexibility exercise, associated with injury prevention and stress management. These three categories are not mutually exclusive but are an overlapping framework upon which physical activity is built. Food is the input to your body. The way in which food is broken down depends significantly, though not exclusively, on the physical activity you engage in.

Working out is how we are empowered to shape and fine tune our bodies. It is essential for general health, but also to focus your body towards a purpose. Exercise is not a fruitless activity; athletes condition specific muscle groups, and even the apostle Paul talks about disciplining his body (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) for a specific purpose. The decision to be or not to be, physically active will determine how the food you eat is broken down and will make a world of difference in your overall wellness.

Consistency is of exceptional importance, whether it is on a weekly or daily basis. For my first anthropological field survey (in 2004), I went into the Wooden Center at UCLA and haphazardly selected a few members to ask about their workouts. One of the questions we asked was inquiring to what was the hardest aspect oft their exercise program was. Nearly every participant said that the hardest part was actually just getting to the gym. These people also indicated that the more consistent they were, the less of a mental battle it was for them.

That said, work yourself up slowly. Use your head when challenging yourself. If you force yourself to lift more weight than you can actually handle, then you’re just asking to get hurt. Pushing yourself is good both physically and mentally. Remember though that pain (different from post-workout soreness) is your body’s way of saying “Stop! You’re doing damage!” Always stretch to warm up and cool down. Every gym is staffed with people who know how to use the machines properly and most have personal trainers. Take advantage of this! When I was learning to scuba dive, my slightly overprotective father “suggested” that in addition to the weekly training UCLA required, that I meet with a personal trainer at Wooden so that I “didn’t find myself having a problem 50 feet deep and not physically strong enough to do anything about it.” I was skeptical, but I’ve learned that I have to pick my battles, so I agreed.

I think I only met with my personal trainer twice to learn proper form on the weight machines and for floor exercises, as well as stretches, with the purpose of being a stronger swimmer and diver. He helped me form different workouts and routines as well as an exercise schedule so that I could focus my body toward this goal. While it made me a more effective diver (sure enough, I once had to do a cold water beach dive on a broken foot to get my research certification in time – and survived), it also increased my confidence in the gym, now that I know I’m not going to hurt myself because of a technique error. Good call, Dad.

Finally, if you’ve never done yoga or pilates, I seriously encourage you to give it a try. Disciplines of this nature combine all three exercise principles into one workout routine. You’ll feel more relaxed and accomplished than you’ve ever simultaneously felt before, and according to fitness gurus Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, “all kidding aside, if everyone did yoga, we would have world peace.”

Ashley is a senior biological anthropology major at UCLA. She is the health and fitness chair of Alpha Delta Chi and the safety officer on the Bruin Waterski Team. She loves running and wakeboarding, and is passionate about encouraging women in confronting and overcoming eating disorders.

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