Mind Over Muscle

May 16, 2016
By Raela Marie Villanueva

“When life knocks you down, do a burpee!” ~ hasfit.com

Spring has sprung! It’s time to get out and be more active in the warmer weather. Shorter winter days are behind us leaving dreariness in the cold dust. You may have made some type of resolution this year to get fit, eat healthier, or quit an unhealthy habit, but did you really stick with it?

My resolution was to take daily steps to living mentally well. Having dealt with depression for almost half of my life, I decided after my last (what I like to refer to as) ‘meltdown’ to take more responsibility with self-care. I started a mental health blog titled “Where is your mind?” where I share personal experiences and best practices from other sources in the hopes of helping others who struggle.

I’ve accepted the fact that I need to be on medication for now, but know that I’ve gone without it before and that extra steps need to be taken in order to maintain a life without meds. I’ve found that my best natural medicine is exercise and, of course, nutrition goes with it. Using a variety of exercises keeps me from getting bored and increases my motivation. Even just getting outside with the sun on your skin increases your Vitamin D intake naturally.

The most recent incident that pushed me to get in shape quickly was the participation in a wedding last month. I was asked to be a bridesmaid in my dear friend Manisha’s wedding, a traditional Indian wedding. The fact that our outfits completely exposed the mid-drift was reason enough for both of us to sign up for classes at Pure Barre.

Not knowing what to expect, my first class with Catalina left me with sore muscles in places that haven’t been focused on since I was in my 20’s working out daily. The older we get, the more we have to fight like hormones, a slower metabolism, and let’s face it, gravity. After just two weeks of sticking to classes, it felt like my core muscles were being carved into shape.

A typical barre class is a 55 minute long full-body workout concentrating on the hips, abs, core, butt, and arms, the most difficult areas for women especially as we age. There are sequences that focus on each body part and at times you feel like you’re exhausting your muscles.

The only equipment needed is a small ball, hand weights, a stretch band, and mat which is all provided. It’s the fastest most effective way to change your body that I’ve tried. And one thing an instructor said that stuck with me was “It’s just mind over muscle.”

Another form of exercise introduced to me last year is Vertical Pole Fitness. No, it’s not just for strippers! It’s also a full-body workout that allows you to let your hair down and feel sexy as you work out. There are even International and National pole dance competitions.

My instructor Mia with MB Fitness Studio has seen a change in her own body over the past year since she opened her studio and started teaching. She had the only studio on the Gulf Coast at first, but now there are studios in Gulf Shores and Destin. She encourages you to take a class with friends and there’s no more than 3 in a class, or join in with others and meet new people.

There are 8 levels, each lasting 6 weeks. She combines floor exercises with spins and holding yourself up on the pole using your body weight. There’s even opportunity for free-style dancing at the end of class. She also offers other classes that are unique like Sexy Flex, Burlesque Cardio, Twerk-N-Tone, and Booty Camp – something sexy for everyone.

Running is another form of exercise that helped me not only quit smoking over two years ago but also helps clear my mind as I listen to music. We have such great scenery with many bodies of water and no shortage or runs every weekend year round. There are also several weekly running clubs where you can meet other runners and maybe enjoy a drink afterwards.

I also use yoga to stretch the muscles out and get centered. All your cares melt away when you are on your mat. There’s even a free class on Tuesdays at 6pm at Ever’manns for members in the new Community Room. And I recently traded in a surfboard for a bike that I enjoy riding everywhere.

On cold or rainy days you can still get a workout at home. Youtube has several channels with free workouts ranging from yoga to PIYO (Pilates and Yoga) and other workout routines. Try not to make excuses – remember that exercise is your natural form of medicine as your brain releases feel good endorphins.

Whether you walk, run, take a yoga class, or dance when no one’s watching, just move, get outside if you can and you’ll reap the benefits for your mind, body and soul, and just in time for bikini season!

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