by Keith Paine

For most of us, exercise is a compartmentalized activity. It’s a thing we do 2-3 times a week before work. It’s a chance to focus on ourselves and on the way we want to feel. It’s an opportunity to get back into our bodies and away from the stresses of work and life.

Sometimes life rears its head, however, and shakes us out of our routines. When a big storm like Sandy hits, our lives are upended, and we’re reminded of what’s truly important. When that happens, our idea of “fitness” takes on a new meaning.

Fitness could be defined as the ability to walk up and down 23 flights of stairs in the dark with a fully packed bag and bottles of water—as one of our clients did–and realizing that it wasn’t that hard. Fitness could be loading heavy boxes of supplies for a relief effort, as another client did, and finding she could do it for hours without injury. Maybe true fitness is the ability to make better choices. Maybe it’s the ability to act–reaching out to a community when your parents have lost their house, or just offering to help in any way you can.

Being fit enough to help others as well as yourself. Having the ability to overcome stressful situations. Realizing that the training you do has benefits that you weren’t aware of. Maybe true fitness is just being able to handle whatever life throws at us.