FOR ME, life really has been a journey, not a place where you go and stay still. My journey has taken me away from my hometown of Savannah and brought me back again. It has also been a path of discovery about health, wellness, and choices.
I met my wife Sherica in Savannah when we were both sixteen. We joined the U.S. Air Force together and were able to be assigned to the same duty station in California. Even though I had originally joined the service expecting to become a fire fighter, my test scores allowed me to train as an air traffic controller. So, after 8 ½ weeks of basic training in Texas and eight months in tech school in Mississippi, I worked for over three years helping aircraft take off and land safely.
While I was stationed at Beale Air Force Base in a rural area north of Sacramento, CA, I discovered something that would change my life. At that time, the Air Force tightened up its fitness requirements, which meant some members, including some of the leaders, had trouble passing their annual physical tests.
I had always taken good care of my body, and I was asked to begin working with other servicemen and women to help them get into better shape. I led group and individual exercises. I discovered that I was very good at this sort of work, and I decided I would continue with it after Sherica and I left the service and returned to Savannah.
When many people think about health and wellness, they only think about diets or working out. I think you have to tie all things together the way we do in the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program with Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Clinic. Yes, our team includes experts in fitness and nutrition. It also has professionals in behavior, medicine, and even spirituality and yoga! All those areas are important to health.
Although I’m a personal trainer, my focus is not just strength and fitness. I know that moving your body every day will make you happier and healthier in several different ways. Exercise will strengthen your heart, muscles, and joints. Beyond that, when you get stronger and can do a little bit more, and a little bit more, each day, you start feeling more confident.
I’ve seen many people who had trouble starting their journeys to a healthier life. Some have no history of exercising, eating well, or feeling healthy, so it’s no wonder they don’t know where to start. When they were young, they might have eaten high-fat fast food frequently for many years. They didn’t exercise. They may have been smokers or made other choices that were not health-smart. When we’re young, we don’t feel the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle, and then “suddenly” one day, being overweight and not feeling well become a new and unwelcome reality.
For someone with that kind of history, making healthy changes seems almost impossible. That’s when I teach people to take small steps, baby steps. When a participant tells me she wants to run a marathon, I suggest that she start by joining us for the CRI Life Enhancement Walking Club on Saturday mornings.
I also have learned that some people can be turned off about taking better care of themselves when they think change is too big, like trying to make themselves go to a gym and lift weights. I tell them it’s not about being in a gym – you need to move, and each day move a little bit more and a little bit more.
When I first meet with someone who wants to learn how to be more physically active, I ask them to focus on balance, coordination, and strength. Sometimes they aren’t able to do push-ups or sit-ups yet, so I show them how they can use their own body weight to push, pull, engage their core, and use their legs. Here are two examples:
Modified sit-up: Carefully, lie on your back. Use a chair or have someone nearby to hold on to, if you want. Use your stomach muscles as much as possible to sit up and roll over to your knees. Then stand up. Don’t rush. Try to do this five times.
Modified push-up: Carefully, lie on your stomach. Use a chair or have someone nearby to hold on to, if you want. Use your elbows, arms, and legs to push yourself up to your knees. Then stand up. Don’t rush. Try to do this five times.
We’ve all heard the saying “it’s all about the journey, not the destination.” Think about your journey. How it might change if you identified one or two small steps that would make you a little healthier? Then, no matter where your journey takes you, you’ll be able to enjoy the ride
Palmer Steverson, 26, is a personal trainer in Savannah and is the lead fitness professional on the Core Team of the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program at Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Clinic.