While at work or deeply engrossed in your work, there’s a tendency to lose awareness about your physical body. You’re absorbed in the day-to-day operations and fully focused on executing tasks. However, the intangible forces slowly deteriorating our bodies are at work at the same time. The processes in action are non-communicable; they are the slow curving of the spine as endless hours of your life are submitted to an external organization, and they are the byproducts of hurried, unfocused meals at your desk that you poke at while mid-sentence on your keyboard, manically stabbing out urgent emails with impossible deadlines.
It even happens out of the office during the endless train or car ride home where the harsh start-stops jolt your bones and disrupt your “mind-rest” and those priceless moments when you can be alone, and to yourself – well, at least mentally.
This wear and tear of the mind and body is a slow, life-sucking defeat. However, with access to information, technology, and medical and physical resources available today, we should not have to surrender hopelessly to the inevitable. Realizing that you can compete with biology’s effects is quite an empowering mindset. Simply understanding and applying how to slow down its effects transcends the scope of your limitations. Furthermore, living a lifestyle that puts your body in the winning position gives you an advantage which makes you unstoppable! This competitive edge begins with your physical health and wellbeing.
If there are any species on the planet that this competitive edge could be most applicable to today, it’s female homo sapiens. In the known history of the world, women have never had a better opportunity to lead full, satisfying, and inspiring lives. If there is any time on our human race’s timeline for women to be heard and self-empowered and become leaders, it’s now! However, none of these possibilities will be realized until women nurture their bodies and minds. I’d like to share my core fundamentals:
For women to reach their ultimate potential in their homes, offices, careers, and their day-to-day lives, base levels of physical fitness are required. A woman’s multiple identities as mother, daughter, leader, wife, athlete, caregiver, provider, etc. blend into each other and the diverse roles a woman plays requires an unusual amount of physical strength and mental fortitude. Achieving great heights requires tenacity, stamina, empathy, a sharpness of mind, agility in thought, and speed in action. Each of these attributes has cognates in our physical bodies.
Strength is expressed in the body as beautiful muscles, stamina is endurance earned from cardiovascular exercise, empathy is physical flexibility as it’s stretching your understanding to an extended point, fortitude and sharpness of the mind is focus derived from mindfulness and meditation, agility is achieved through jumping through hoops, hurdles, and dodging obstacles, and speed is the explosive burst of desire expressed with our legs striding in free acceleration.
The values of success discussed above are not merely metaphors for gym exercises, nor is this a preamble to a gym routine. The wholesome point I’m making is – your body’s expression is very much these success metrics in action. Actioning what your success values are, with and through your body, aligns your mind with your body. Both mind and body function with the same intention and vision when you are aligned. As a result of this, you are simultaneously growing your life skill sets in the gym and improving your career in your workplace. This combination is an often-overlooked path to success.
Furthermore, working out for women should not only be about “reducing” or getting rid of flabby body parts. Although these outcomes are often welcome and healthy results of a balanced fitness routine, working out with these types of intentions is antithetical to women’s upliftment and life success. I personally view these aesthetic-based motivations to be socially constructed and limiting reasons often based on body shaming. My point is – working out for aesthetic reasons is not sustainable and can become counterproductive as it can breed unhealthy levels of vanity and impossible goals for body perfection.
Ultimately, working out is about implanting the values of a life of excellence into your cellular biology through physical exercise.
Before identifying which fitness method to choose, a woman should first select which values define a life of excellence for her. Values could include a positive attitude, integrity, hard work, compassion, discipline, perseverance, etc. She should take the time required to reflect and write down her answers.
She should then honestly answer the three following questions: a) Which values does she already possess?, b) Which ones does she want to improve on?, and c) Which ones does she not possess at all? Making three columns for a, b, and c helps organize this process. That’s the first part – not too difficult.
The third part is also pretty straightforward, as designing cognate exercises that mirror these values is intuitive for some, and information on particular exercises and their benefits is readily available online. Perhaps my next post will cover some basic exercises and their benefits. In the meantime, I should warn you – here is where honesty is critical. It’s easy to design workouts based on point “a” because you are working out your strengths. It’s harder to make yourself vulnerable and improve on point “b”, and especially “c”, your weaknesses. Pushing yourself and working on “c” physically in the gym and mentally and emotionally in your day-to-day career is a lot harder.
The fourth part is what separates dreamers from doers – it’s where the rubber meets the road. To know what you need to do is good, to have a plan for it is great, but to apply it in daily, dedicated action – that is excellence! This part is the hardest part because it is the actual work that’s needed to grow – it’s where the building happens. Easier said than done, but this is the recipe for success and your leadership as a winning woman. (May the fourth be with you!)
When I used to be a personal trainer, I would tell women over and over again that studies show that fit individuals earn a higher salary, tend to get the raises, earn more respect among peers, and bring a culture of health into their families. I used to constantly remind women working out is great for their appearance, physical health, posture, and life expectancy. I’ve stopped doing that. I noticed that those reasons ended up being temporary motivations proving temporary results because they are not the real reasons for women to get fit and nurture their minds and bodies. Women’s rise and leading a fulfilling life are.
Holistic expansion of a women’s true potential and living out her complete personhood is the ultimate reason all women should harness the power of their bodies and drive themselves to the top.
Today, when I mentor women entrepreneurs or young leaders, I find that appealing to this ultimate reason has never been easier because each of us women does feel, deep down, that the time is now for us. We have a responsibility to the women before us, to the men who believe in us, and to our daughters of the future to grab this moment and turn the tide of history through our very bodies. It will start with each of us, through our fit bodies and brilliant minds expressing our true potential in harmony.
Shikha Uberoi Bajpai is the Co-founder of Indi.com, generating reach, engagement, and revenue for brands.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)