Moderation: The Key to a Fun and Healthy Lifestyle

5000 fitness professionals gathered at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this past weekend for the canfitpro International Fitness and Club Business Conference and Trade Show. You have never seen so much colourful workout gear in your entire life. The hotels in the surrounding area were overrun with fit, hard bodies bopping with energy. Lord help the tired businessman, looking for some chips and artichoke dip and a quiet meeting space. At any one time 80 different fitness classes and workshops were underway, along with music, whoops and clapping.

My own contribution to the conference was modest; I participated in a panel discussion about childhood inactivity and obesity, and did a short keynote on the Trade Show floor. My first message was about moderation. Moderation in fitness and eating seems like an unlikely subject for a four-time Olympic athlete. There was nothing moderate about my 15-year training regime, or about my mental approach. Training to win an Olympic Gold medal was an immoderate obsession that consumed several decades of my life. I loved the singular focus, and goal orientated existence of those years. Training intensely for five hours a day was a great way to get results, and each morning when I woke up there was no question about what my priority was for the day. Training was the first thought each morning, and usually the last thought before I went to bed. With this laser like focus I became World Champion and Olympic Bronze and Silver medalist.

Those days are long behind me, and today, as a mother, a professional speaker, writer and community coach, my life is multifaceted and my days are long. Like most busy people, I am juggling many responsibilities and have a lot of people relying on me at any one time. I also like to have fun; the play factor is a big part of my life, and I believe that life is better when we approach each day with an element of playfulness. Why can't sitting on a train, commuting from London to Toronto be fun -- I see it as a mini adventure. Why can't a business meeting be a wonderful chance to meet new and interesting people? On weekends I love planning days full of physical play and elements of decadence (a cappuccino at my local coffee shop with a piece of flourless chocolate cake).

In search of great health and a toned body, many people have forgotten about fun. Food is fun and should be savored. When you cut out whole food groups, and are constantly sucking in your stomach at the dinner table, it is hard to enjoy a great meal. If you mindlessly stuff food in your mouth while on the computer, in the car, and running out the door, the same thing goes.

Over many years, while involved in the business of health and fitness, I have met numerous healthy people; sadly many of these people have gone too far in their pursuit of "health." The search of a perfect body, the perfect eating program, and the perfect workout, begins to erode the purpose of a healthy fitness program -- to be healthy.

As an Olympic athlete, I think that there were times I forgot to have fun. The pressure of performing and the seriousness of a bad performance took some of the playfulness out of my approach. I am not going to make that mistake in my life outside of sport. A healthy life should include a playful attitude and an attitude of moderation when it comes to fitness.

Moderation does in fact get results, because people who exercise frequently but more moderately and with lots of variety will stay active their entire lives. I know many people who got great results working out every day for three months, but they quit because the intensity and frequency just didn't fit in with their life. Without fun, fitness is not sustainable, nor is an eating program.

My second message on the weekend was to remember that fitness should be an element of a rich and multi faceted life. We move our bodies because it feels great to have a healthy connection to our bodies. You only have to watch a toddler run, stretch and jump to be reminded of the pleasure any one of us can take in our bodies. I love the enthusiasm and innovation in the fitness industry, and last weekend I was surrounded by it. Those working and living in this industry can remember that perfection is not the goal, and most of us want to be healthier and happier, not perfect.