MHLbannersmallThoughts from the Chair... In a Time of Tragedy, Exercise Can Be Healing

In light of the horrific tragedy that occurred during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, I can't help feeling like a part of me was affected when those bombs went off. It is difficult to explain, but if you make exercise a priority in your life, it becomes part of who you are, almost like it's in your genetic makeup.

This new form of DNA is cultivated through the kinship you develop with the many people you 96eab0f5-bc12-4cdb-adb6-76577c452cc6encounter on your fitness journey. As you progress in improving your physical fitness and health, you also grow in an internal way that binds you with everyone else who exercises regularly. You are now part of a "fitness fraternity" that only requires you to show up each and every day and "just move."

Anytime something happens in the fitness world, you then feel a part of both the positive and negative consequences of such events. As my fellow athletes and their families were scrambling in the wake of a cowardly terrorist act, I felt immense sorrow and the desire to wish I was there to help my partners in fitness in any way I can.

I personally know several people who were competing at the Boston Marathon, volunteering or just in attendance for the incredible experience these events provide for spectators and competitors alike. The fitness community, as part of the larger world, is hurting today, but it will press on. Without knowing the vast majority of the people who competed in the marathon, I believe I can safely predict that the number one coping mechanism for many of those affected will be getting back to their daily exercise routine.

Relationship-Of-Body-Mind-And-35451344-300x199Exercise heals the mind and the body. As I continually mature in my fitness journey, I often find it even does more for my mind than my body. I may wake up physically sore from the previous days routine, but I wake up mentally fresh and excited to see what exercise will do for me emotionally each and every day.

No doubt about it, I am a dreamer. What I like most about exercise is the ability for me to shut off my intellectual self and focus on my pure emotions. I pray and I am thankful for the physical ability to get out the door and move, realizing all the while that not everyone has that ability. I am thankful for my wonderful wife and daughter, my friends and all who support me in my health and fitness journey.

To be truthful, I am just so darn happy to be doing what I love to do – swimming, biking, running or strength training most days. My mind often wonders to far off places where I'd like to travel and race, and I often visualize myself and family being there. I also recall past events in foreign lands to occasionally keep me focused on my task at hand, and more importantly, to keep me smiling. During this time, I am healing, both physically and emotionally. Stress is quite literally leaving my body, and my mind is becoming energized for the day's tasks that lie ahead.

By the time I am done with my training, I am mentally ready for whatever the day may bring. On really tough and stressful days, I know my coping mechanism is less than 24 hours away, and my healing will begin once I start my activity of the day. I hope that each of you can experience similar feelings and the healing that I speak about. I would love to call every Riverside employee my personal fitness friend, and welcome all of you who are new to fitness, into our wonderful fraternity. We are here to help you both physically and emotionally, and no matter how difficult the real world becomes, you can stay strong knowing you have the best coping mechanism available.

Please join me in praying for physical and emotional healing for everyone affected in the Boston Marathon tragedy. Along with everyone else, the fitness world is suffering, but we are also the best prepared to deal with this tragedy and forge ahead, coming out stronger and more closely bound together to reach new personal heights. Stay healthy my friends.

Chair – My Healthy Lifestyle Employee Wellness Committee

(Editor's Note: In addition to serving as Chair for the Employee Wellness Committee, Daniel Ballin is the Administrator of Riverside's Therapy Group, Wellness and Outpatient Services and oversees all of Riverside's therapy services along with Riverside's Wellness and Fitness Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.)