When it comes to health and nutrition, it should be straight forward: exercise regularly and eat a well balanced diet. However, there are different philosophies on the subject matter depending on the expertise and background of the professional. This is why I wanted to interview two different fitness and health instructors who hold expertise in two different backgrounds. The comparisons between the two are very interesting to say the least.
First, I interviewed an allopathic physical fitness trainer whose own training and views of fitness and nutrition come directly from the Centers of Disease Control nutritional and physical activity guidelines. Next, I interviewed a yoga instructor whose approach to complete health and nutrition stems from ancient Ayurveda traditions, where she commits to a vegan lifestyle, meditates, and emphasizes on physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
In fact, that was the biggest difference I noticed between the two: the one fitness trainer focused on purely the body as a mechanism to be sculpted, while the other worked on the entire mind-body-spirit connection. This difference was seen in every aspect of their work. The allopathic fitness trainer asks her clients their goals and then creates a customized fitness plan in order for them to achieve their goals. She keeps in mind their safety, needs, and wants during each session. She advises her clients to make healthy choices as far as nutrition, and shows them exercises to do. On the other hand, the Ayurveda fitness instructor encourages her clients to do some form of exercise for a minimum of an hour at least three days per week. She encourages her clients to do any kind of activity and then build up to an hour every day. She also believes in experimentation with different forms of exercises in order to provide variety and enjoyment to the activities. She also recommended yoga as the primary exercise, especially when a person starts their program.
Why is exercise so important? Both experts agree that exercise begets health. For the allopathic fitness trainer, physical exercise is important to burn calories, increase muscle mass and stay fit. For the holistic fitness instructor, exercise, especially yoga, is for a multitude of factors including: stress relief, pain relief, deeper breathing, flexibility, increasing strength, weight management, improved circulation, cardiovascular conditioning, presence, and inner peace. When done correctly, exercise can be very beneficial to the health and well-being of every individual. However, without proper training or supervision, it is easy to hyperextend ligaments and joints, pull muscles, and even break bones. With any activity, there are risks of injury. Both instructors are trained to teach clients proper techniques and methods during their clients' workouts. Safety is of the utmost important when working with clients.
Nutritional needs of clients are just as important. The allopathic fitness trainer encourages clients to eat a healthy and well balanced diet, complete with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy, and watch fat and caloric intake; the balance for maintaining weight is “calories in” and “calories out” are equal. To lose weight, it is important to decrease caloric intake while increasing caloric expenditure. Low calorie foods can often take place of higher calorie foods, especially when consuming beverages. Food journals often help to track calorie intake and exercise regimen.
The holistic fitness instructor prefers to go by a different set of dietary rules including buying organic foods when possible; buy locally grown whole foods, naturally produced, mostly raw, and minimally packaged. Consume mostly raw vegetables, only whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds , and fruits. Eat for your Ayurvedic constitutional type when possible. It is also important to stay away from processed foods, such as foods in cans and boxes, packaged with preservatives, and modified chemical composites of food. Her main points, however, were specifically foods in raw form, nothing deep fried, not cooked with olive oil, no carbonated beverages (including diet), no artificial flavors or sweeteners, no coffee or other beverages with caffeine, alcohol only in moderation, never microwave food, eat only natural and holistically derived meats, consume good fats, and eat flax seeds regularly.
One major point the holistic fitness instructor differed from the allopathic one is in the fitness of whole aspects of the being, including the mind and spirit. In allopathic physical fitness, the point is to train the body by overcoming the mental roadblocks and proving to yourself that there are no real limitations except the ones which are constructed mentally. In holistic physical fitness, it is viewed that there is an inner balance between the physical body, the mind, and the spirit. It is important, in this paradigm, to go through a mental and emotional detoxification by letting go of anger, negativity, jealousy, hatred, and hostility. It is viewed that these feelings are toxic to the mind and soul. Through the practicing of mindfulness, the thoughts and emotions absorbing life can be lifted and genuine gratitude replaces it. Positivity induces a positive lifestyle where one can thrive and flourish. Plus, through prayers and positive affirmations, this positivity can be enhanced, where thoughts actually become reality. Prayer is a very powerful tool to reunite the mind-body-spirit, reciprocate love, find inner peace, show gratitude, and heal.
So how applicable is exercising to lay people? The allopathic fitness trainer finds that some people need more motivation than others to continue with the training. Some people have to be pushed to work out, some people give excuses to why they can't work out. The clients are worked at their own pace, and that is why it is important to listen to them to plan for their wants and needs during each session. The cost can be quite reasonable depending on the facility, hours, and type of physical fitness trainer hired. When personal trainers become expensive are when they are part of an exclusive gym, or club, or require a long-term contract. Although these methods can get costly, it is always important to note that one does not need to hire a professional trainer to walk, ride a bicycle, swim, or play sports with friends.
On the flip side, the holistic fitness instructor has found that her clients do not subscribe to such a strict diet or lifestyle, however she challenges them to make baby steps toward such a healthy lifestyle. She doesn't charge for her yoga classes, and sometimes meets with people afterwords to follow up on some healthy living basics. Holistic exercise, in general, can cover a broad spectrum of exercises including, but not limited to: Qigong, T'ai chi, zero balancing, water aerobics, and yoga. Easiest way of finding a qualified instructor is to do so online. Sometimes being referred to a class by a friend is a fantastic way of starting an exercise routine. Some instructors charge more than others depending on facility and their qualifications, and if their instruction is private or not. It is important to scrutinize the instructor's qualifications to make sure they have the proper training and certifications.
Keeping this in mind for my future practice, I will need to establish a knowledge base of the variety of exercises, and specifically know the specific functions of each type of exercise so that I am able to make recommendations to my clients. Knowing which type of exercises, whether it be a type of allopathic or holistic, my client would benefit from the most is very important to establishing a lifestyle change that would last a lifetime.
Thus, I close this by saying that no one type of physical trainer or fitness instructor is better than the other. The perfect fitness instructor depends on the individual, their needs and wants, goals, budget, and even their mindset. It is important that opinions of nutrition are just that, opinions, and genuine concerns about nutritional needs should be taken up with a specialist, either allopathic or holistic. Staying healthy is important no matter what, so eating healthy, staying active, being positive, and being grateful are all necessary in achieving that goal. Achieving a healthy lifestyle through a fitness instructor can be a fun experience, but it is always important to remember that the best exercises are free.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011) “Physical Activity for Everyone: How Much Physical Activity do you need?” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011) “Nutrition for Everyone.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/index.html
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