As a military veteran, I realize the importance of exercising. Neila Rey has taken another interest of mine – the Internet – and brought fitness routines and other useful information to the world through the wonderful website she and her team provides for free. I asked Neila some questions about fitness, and graciously gave me her thoughts.
Travis Blair: How do you approach the different types of exercise when maintaining your fitness? I don’t spend nearly as much time as I should on balance and flexibility.
Neila Rey: It’s actually not at all uncommon amongst fitness enthusiasts to ignore certain areas they are not very good at. Balance and flexibility are often at the top of the list especially if you are training for size rather than performance. You’ve got to force yourself and find time and energy for these things, spend even a little bit of time each session doing things that are unfamiliar, even painful – things you struggle the most with because these are the ones you benefit the most from. If you don’t challenge your body – it doesn’t change, it’s that simple. If you only do what comes easy you will never improve.
I was never very athletic as a child, I hated exercise for most of my life. I forced myself for years to do the bare minimum until it sunk in. You never know what will happen and how you will feel about something unless you give it a chance. I pushed myself enough to wake up one day and no longer feel forced, more than that – I fell in love with it, with the freedom regular training gave me.
The same thing happened with me and stretching. For years I avoided any kind of stretching – I am the least flexible person I know. I started with small things, trusting my body’s ability to handle it all… and slowly, I started gaining ground. Every inch I gain is a victory and it encourages me to go further. It’s no longer a burden but something I can see I can do – it makes me want to do it now. In the beginning you may have to force yourself but it’s worth the trouble.
Travis: Is there a best time of day to exercise?
Neila: Any time is a good time to exercise. The thing that most people don’t understand about training is that it doesn’t have to have a schedule, it’s a way of life most of us are currently missing out on. We spend more and more time looking at one screen or the other barely moving from the spot all day and then we wonder why this or that part of our body hurts. Our bodies are designed to move and are happiest when they move and, in an ideal world, they should be moving at all times except when they sleep – but as we are, we try to find the time to do the most natural of things. We need it as much as we need breathing… and how often do we need to do that?
Travis: Here’s the scenario: you are about to embark on a long day of sedentary work. You get to bring with you one snack, and do one exercise. What do you choose for each?
Neila: I would probably grab one of my homemade protein bars, a banana or a yogurt. It’s really not a big thing for me if I have to go on for an entire day without any food especially if I am busy and it isn’t unusual either. If I am at my desk, I would do standing side leg raises – you can do those at the office as well and if I have the space, I would do push-ups as well – it is one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do.
Travis: Your website offers a wide variety of workouts, with many adhering to a theme. My favorite is the Wolverine workout. What’s yours?
Neila: My two favourite workouts are the Batman and the Shifter (HIIT). The Batman one is purely because Batman is my favourite psychotic vigilante and the Shifter because no matter how fit you are it’ll always push you.
Travis: Aside from looking like a leaner, meaner version of ourselves, what are some benefits we could reap from proper diet and exercise?
Neila: For me, exercise isn’t about looking good and it hasn’t been for a very long time. Even when I was a teenager struggling with my body image I saw training as a way of becoming a better self, becoming a ninja assassin – a better and stronger version of myself inside and out. I started running because I lacked stamina, because I felt weak and needed to be able to push myself and strengthen my resolve in everyday life. I had to rewrite my identity and change my DNA and I have done exactly that through training. And if someone physically and mentally weak like me could do it, anyone can. That’s why I do what I do today, to give everyone else the same fighting chance and perhaps even, in some way, by empowering others, change the world.
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