Vitality versus Fitness

by Dr Danielle Pirera, Exercise Physiologist, Goonellabah, Australia

Why do healthy people who are extremely or moderately fit, who eat a well balanced healthy diet of protein, carbohydrates and fat, who go to bed early and sleep 8 hours per night, still get very tired or even exhausted by an average work day behind the desk, or need caffeine and sugar to get them through the full day?

In my early 20s I was super fit (able to run 21km, or in scientific terms, a peak oxygen consumption of 70 ml/kg/min, which is equivalent to a male competitive cyclist), but still I got tired by an average work or university day: I not only ate, but craved sugar in the form of high carbohydrate foods, chocolate, lollies and ice cream.

Generally, if someone is unfit, not eating well, over-weight, going to bed late and feeling a level of fatigue or tiredness throughout their day, their doctor or health practitioner would say that they need to eat healthy, lose weight, go to bed early, and do some regular exercise to increase their endurance. Practically and scientifically this makes sense: the cardiovascular and muscular system is not strong enough, or is under strain, or does not have the nutrients it needs, or the physical body is not having enough rest to easily get through the physical demands of the day.  From my experience working in this industry, I have seen that being fit, healthy and eating and sleeping well is not the answer to having good energy levels.

Through the work I have done with Universal Medicine I have come to realise that there is a significant difference between being fit and being vital. Vital is being energetic, awake and lively throughout my day without the need for sugar or caffeine or other stimulants to get me through the work day. Being fit is being able to walk for an hour comfortably, or walk stairs or hills with minimal effort, or swim a few laps at the pool without getting out of breath, or doing 15-30 minutes of light weight-lifting without reaching fatigue. But being fit does not mean being able to get through a work day without being tired, or waking up not tired – this is being vital.

For me, being vital requires a different type of training. It’s not the time or consistency spent walking or doing strength exercises. It’s more to do with how I am with myself in everything that I do. Not only my diet, sleep and rest, but the way I prepare for work, how I shower and dress myself, how I move about the house, drive to work, how I am at work, how I speak with others, how my lunch break is, how I arrive home from work, how I prepare myself for my evening, how I am with my evening, how I am when I eat, how I interact with my husband and family and how I lay myself down for bed in the evening.

If I do all of these things in a frantic, fast-paced or unfocussed way then I feel drained. It’s like there’s a part of my petrol tank leaking, so not only am I using petrol to do what I need to do, but I’m dumping petrol at the same time.

Fine-tuning how I do things to not drain my energy levels has been a process of breaking old ways of being; not only to not rush around, but also considering how I am holding myself and how I am moving with myself. Is it in a fast paced, empty way, or at a natural pace where I feel every movement and move gently and lovingly? It’s also about considering what I’m thinking about whilst I am doing anything; when I’m in the shower, washing the dishes, talking with a person at work, writing a report or doing exercises. Am I thinking exactly about what I’m doing?…. Or am I thinking about something completely different? And it’s about considering the purpose behind everything; why I am doing or saying things – is it because I think I have to, to please another person, to get recognition, to look good, because that’s what my mother did, because that’s what the magazines, TV, teachers or my friends do?

I’ve discovered that if I move in a very gentle and precious way with myself in all that I do, if I stay focussed and thinking about what I’m doing and if I only truly do what I feel to do for me because it feels right, then I don’t get drained throughout my day. When I lay myself down to sleep I am not tired, but already rested and ready to enjoy more rest, not needing it. I then wake up the following day in the same fashion that I finished it, rested and energised. Over a number of days this builds, then over weeks and months it builds to a level where I feel much more rested, more energetic and less chaotic or tired during my day.

This is definitely a work in process as I begin to realise that what felt rested a few years or even a few months ago feels tired or chaotic now. Sometimes I fall back into old ways of being, but eventually my eyes and my body ache and I recognise that my vitality is low and I need to re-consider how I am living – not whether I need to go to the gym and get fit to have energy.

326 thoughts on “Vitality versus Fitness

  1. This is a great point to highlight Danielle, I don’t believe there are too many vital people in the world because of the copious amounts of coffee people intake everyday. I remember the time when I considered myself very fit as I was doing a lot of running training for half-marathons, but was I vital? Absolutely not, as I continually got sick and would not have steady energy levels throughout the day.

  2. I remember once watching an extremely muscled up footballer, who was obviously extremely fit in the accepted sense of the word, get exhausted after doing 15 minutes of gentle movement… Vitality is indeed the essence.

  3. A very pertinently timed blog. I can feel the momentum of patterns of behaviour that lead to this belief that we need to push ourselves beyond our body’s capabilities and there is nothing wrong with feeding ourselves toxic substances in order to keep the pace we think we need to live. Yet it is quite a rollercoaster way of living, up down up down crash, up down up down crash. Worth considering the alternative you have proposed.

  4. In my teens, twenties and thirties I was very fit, my job was based on fitness, however looking back at it now, it was not unusual to feel exhausted at the same time, I put it down to the amount of energy I was burning. It was not until I came across Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine that I realised it was more about how I lived that gave me vitality and it was not about how hard we physically train because that can be counterproductive.

  5. “When I lay myself down to sleep I am not tired, but already rested and ready to enjoy more rest, not needing it.” This sounds simple and obvious but I wonder how many people actually lay down to sleep already rested, ready for sleep and prepared for the following day, When we get to understand that it is how we are in the day that will affect how we sleep at night, we will begin to eradicate most of humanity’s sleep issues and for many its regular bed fellow exhaustion.

    1. Alison I’m sure most people feel it’s normal to collapse into bed exhausted, I certainly have. I can see that it’s quite a leap to consider going to bed feeling rested, and that a normal day doesn’t have to mean working so hard that the body becomes exhausted, but we can still achieve much in our day but do so gently and arrive for sleep feeling physically very at ease.

  6. ‘… It’s like there’s a part of my petrol tank leaking…’ This is exactly how I used to feel every single day of my life for years. I could not work it out, because nothing made sense. I was doing all the so called ‘right things’, and yet I was exhausted all the time which led to anxiety and bouts of depression. Attending Universal Medicine presentations and workshops opened my eyes to why my tank was leaking. I realised how affected I am when I take on other people’s worries and their dramas. I realised I was affected by the fact that I was always living in the future, so doing one task, and thinking about the next before I’ve finished the current one etc etc. There was always a ‘getting somewhere’ attitude which kept me going like a mouse on a wheel. Since realising that that approach simply doesn’t work for me, I can get through the day no problems and also fit so much more in than I used to.

  7. A huge learning I have had in how my body gets drained of energy is how much less food it needs if I choose to hold it with tenderness, love and grace. The more this becomes my way of living the less anxiety I experience. With the less anxiety my body is ‘working’ less. I have more vitality and my body needs less food. This is not rocket science, but the true science of observing our own bodies and responding to them with the utmost love and respect.

    1. Leigh I have found that also, on the days where my stress levels are high, including anxiety and nervousness, then more food is needed. When I am living in the grace of my own tenderness and love my body feels so much more taken care of and needs less food.

    2. Yeh this is what I have found too – the higher the quality of my body, the less food I need, whereas if I drop that quality I feel like I need food to get by or get through my day.

    3. Yes Leigh, there is so much wisdom available to us through the simple observation of our bodies, and responding to it with love and respect as you say. The more we let go of pictures of how life needs to or should be, and just allow our bodies to lead the way, the simpler, more expansive and fuller life starts to be and feel.

  8. This is a brilliant article to re-read Danielle and be reminded of the difference between true vitality and fitness. In the fitness industry there is much talk about ‘being fit’, but the people I see who are considered fit are not really walking around with much vitality in their body, in fact at times they can look quite exhausted from the hard training they put their bodies through.

  9. I recognize that. The level of unrest is changing all the time. It is asking us all the time to refine our movement as so does the love comes closer to us.

  10. A beautiful way to look at vitality. For me I have been supported by Esoteric Yoga to become more aware of my body and to stay connected with it, and also explore a more natural way of moving that is not disregarding, rushed or rough, but is considerate of my body, and gentle and tender. I definitely find this kind of tender loving care for myself as I go about my usual day impacts on my energy levels. It feels lovely to move this way!

  11. The way we exercise, eat and sleep, and as you share how we live in all the moments in between those times as well, is key in the kind of vitality levels that we have. And listening to our body gives us a marker for the way that truly feels harmonious and vital, rather than just looking outside of ourselves for guidelines. It’s not that we can’t be open to seeing recommendations or different ways of doing things but to remember to always honour the wisdom of our body too in showing us what truly works…

  12. This is a great explanation of the difference between being “fit” and being “vital”, perhaps the two go hand in hand and we need to work on both our practical physical fitness and also our fitness for life, so our stamina in the day, how we cope with difficult situations, how we prepare for sleep. And perhaps it comes down to this question – our energy is incredibly precious – what do we really use it for?

  13. Great article Danielle. That is what I did in the past: when I felt tired, I would go to the gym. It got my energized but that did not last very long, it was more a drug to compensate the fact that I was not living vital.

  14. True vitality is rare these days, one only has to count the number of coffee shops in every city to know that humanity is dealing with a level of exhaustion in their body, they need to prop themselves up with coffee in order to function every day.

  15. Bringing a focus to what drains us is really important in understanding it, and living with the huge amount of vitality that is there for us to access. Love what you’ve shared Danielle about bringing a focus to everything that you’re doing, and how you are in each moment, the quality of your movements, as a way of staying vital and not being drained. What drains us? Being unfocused, reacting, taking on other people’s stuff, wanting or needing things to be different to how they actually are.. the list is pretty endless, but we can stop the draining and increase the vitality simply by paying attention to how our body is feeling, and starting with just one thing – e.g. how our feet feel on the ground, and building from there.

  16. Recently I felt drained and wiped out, something I have not experienced in a while. A couple of incidents occurred in my life the one incident where I had to learn to speak up in a situation which I was not used to and the other a more intense situation of something that has kept re-occurring throughout my life except with different people as they entered my life. What I was amazed by was how exhausted I was feeling. It made me realise how exhausting relationships with others can be when I am not focused and honouring of the relationship I have with myself. It showed me that when I slip and place another before me dishonouring me and who I am I lose vitality and become exhausted. Thankfully it didn’t last long because I knew what was going on and how to get myself out of it but before Universal Medicine this would have been my normal and way of living!

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