It’s that time of year again: you resolved to get fitter and start shedding those bad holiday habits. However, “New Year, New You” is not just about losing pounds or being more mindful—and, let’s face it, the “new you” might already be tired.
We asked two leaders in fitness in Winston-Salem–Dee Duggan, owner of F45 Training, and Chloë Craver, owner of Lotus Yoga Academy–to share their advice for taking the longer, more holistic view of exercise in order to achieve life-long wellness.
Don’t you worry; they have good news for everyone. Whether you’re plagued by injuries, completely new to exercise, or you’re bad at maintaining a fitness routine, it’s not too late to set yourself up for life-long wellness.
What is Functional Health?
Frequently, when we think about fitness, we take a short-term view of exercise: How many trips to the gym can I fit into my way-too-busy schedule? What do I need to do to get healthy now? What do I need to do to run a marathon, build some muscle, or just start working out?
But perhaps a “healthier” view of exercise is to focus on how physical fitness affects our day-to-day activities. This concept is called functional health—think about your ability to chase kids, carry groceries up stairs, or get up after sitting on the floor.
“Anyone can learn to be functional,” Dee Duggan, owner of F45 Training, says. “The right form and muscle conditioning can help you be more independent throughout your life. We train people of all ages and abilities, whether it’s learning to do the right squat so you can lift a bag of groceries or building the muscle and endurance you need to run a marathon.”
Both Duggan and Chloë Craver, owner of Lotus Yoga Academy, see a lot of clients who come to them looking for help with daily activities and to improve their quality of life.
“People want to feel good from the time they wake up until the time their head hits the pillow,” Craver says. “Yoga gives us the body mechanics and the smaller muscle groups and joint mobility that we need to move through the day, helping with functional movements like being able to put pants on or being able to sit down and stand up without bracing on something.”
Both Duggan and Craver got into the fitness business from their own journeys to improving their functional health and healing, a journey they want to share with others.
The “F” Stands for “Functional”
Duggan first encountered the F45 Training phenomenon living in the Cayman Islands, where she lived a very active lifestyle, but kept getting injuries that hampered her daily activities. In the F45 model, Duggan found a way to keep fit in a way she could sustain without injury.
“I was going into the gym with some limitations and predispositions to injury, but at F45, I found ways to modify exercises and build the muscles I needed to support injuries so that I could get back to a place of strength and stability,” Duggan says.
When Duggan wanted to move back to her hometown of Winston-Salem with her family, she didn’t want to leave behind the wellness she had found.
“I fell in love with F45, so I decided to bring F45’s model back to improve fitness in Winston-Salem,” Duggan says.
Duggan now owns a F45 Training franchise in the Innovation Quarter, providing group exercise classes taught in circuits with personal trainers on the floor at all times to help ensure that members exercise in a way that doesn’t result in injury.
“The ‘F’ in F45 stands for ‘functional,’” Duggan says. “It’s functional training that focuses on developing functional movements that will get you through your lifespan.”
Most of the classes offered at F45 are 45 minutes long–hence the name–and focus on either strength training or cardiovascular exercise or a hybrid of the two, which give members a well-rounded approach to exercise.
“To really develop functional health, you need a holistic approach,” Duggan says. F45 also offers their members fitness consultations with body scans to develop personalized exercise goals, as well as nutritional programs and coaching on hydration and sleep.
The Practice of Presence
Chloë Craver started her yoga journey in her early 20s, when she was trying to get her footing “in the real world,” as she calls it. For her, yoga was a safe space to heal from some difficult life experiences.
“Yoga is movement and exercise, but it’s also exercising the internal which taps into spiritual fitness and getting a clear vision of who we are,” Craver says.
Craver quickly realized that yoga was a way that she could help others. When she decided to become an instructor, she had to travel far and wide to get the necessary training–sometimes even traveling out of the country.
Craver started Lotus Yoga Academy as a way to address the lack of access to training. Later, she expanded the training and started offering a range of classes, eventually creating studio space at 525@vine in the Innovation Quarter.
“There wasn’t much in the Innovation Quarter when we first looked at the space, but we saw a lot of potential for growth with all the apartments under construction,” Craver says. “I wanted to be in a place that was a hub for a lot of people, particularly people who were interested in the urban lifestyle.”
Now, several years in, Lotus Yoga Academy provides members with a variety of alignment, flow, and meditation classes, as well as streamed and on-demand classes online. Lotus Yoga still holds teacher training as well as hosting yoga retreats and other special events to improve the ecosystem of fitness in Winston-Salem.
Throughout all the classes, there’s consistent theme: the practice of presence
“The practice of presence during a class is mirrored in the other 23 hours of your life,” Craver says. “You start noticing your reactions when having a difficult moment or facing a challenge. Yoga gives you the skills to take a beat, slow down, and you learn to respond to situations rather than react.”
How to Improve Your Functional Health This Year
Lotus Yoga Academy and F45 might seem very different on the surface, but they share a vision of helping people encounter their daily lives from a place of strength. Duggan and Carver provide some of their wisdom on how to build sustainable functional health for anyone interested in fitness in Winston-Salem.
1. Find the right starting point for you.
The typical New Year push to get fit can be difficult to maintain over a year (not to mention over a lifetime), and people can overdo it and burn themselves out. Duggan and Craver emphasize starting at a reasonable place and building up from there.
“At F45, we take the time to get to know you and your goals and background, so that we can make recommendations for exercises and programs that will help you ease into exercise and build your abilities,” Duggan says.
The key to exercise at F45 are modifications to exercises. Their physical trainers help people find the right version of an exercise that pushes them while also preventing injury. Having someone always present to improve your form or find a new level for an exercise can be game-changing.
“Sometimes, it’s too intimidating to start off practicing in the studio,” Craver says. “For those people, our streaming and on-demand classes can be a good way to ease into it.”
Trying a class online from your own home can build confidence or give you a familiarity with the lingo that goes with exercise, as well as letting you know what to expect.
“Once people come to a class, though, they usually want to be in the studio,” Craver adds. “But the online classes can ease the transition, especially if exercise is outside of your comfort zone.”
2. Build up habits that you can maintain.
For many, the practice of exercise lapses because it’s difficult to sustain.
When people first start coming to Lotus Yoga, Craver encourages them to come to one class in particular and to make a commitment to that class for eight weeks.
“When you’re consistent with something, it becomes a routine, a part of your day just like having a cup of coffee,” Craver says. “I think people put pressure on themselves to jump in and be a regular practitioner, but yoga is not all or nothing.”
Craver recommends incorporating exercise slowly, at an attainable pace, so that you can begin to notice how those classes impact your daily life.
Duggan notes that functional health is a lifetime endeavor, and, by building habits, you can maintain activities later in life.
“Our bodies become adapted to what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Duggan says. “It’s doing the small things that add up to big things.”
Duggan recognizes that it takes time to build abilities and that easing into exercise is preferable to just pounding away. If you can build a routine, improvements compound and activities are easier to maintain.
“We want to make exercise normal,” Duggan says. “Making fitness a habit helps it become part of your lifestyle. When it’s a lifestyle component, it becomes routine and helps maintain it over your lifespan.”
3. Exercise in community, not by yourself.
Exercise can do more than improve your physical and mental wellbeing; it can also improve your social health. We do better when we have people around to both encourage and keep us accountable.
“Our studio is really the container for the community to grow,” Craver says. “We do yoga here, but what we do is a reflection of the people who come here.”
Community building is a key component to what both Lotus Yoga and F45 are doing and why they are located in the iQ to begin with. Having a group of people you count on seeing regularly helps establish the routine and makes it easier to motivate yourself to show up to exercise. Often, that social component extends beyond the exercise experience itself and becomes a broader community.
“Our motto at F45 is ‘team training, life changing,’” Duggan says. “Our classes are characterized by encouragement, not just from trainers but also the team taking classes with you. It becomes like a family, and we’ve seen a lot of friendships, relationships, and even a couple marriages develop out of our studio.”
Regardless of your particular method of exercise, seeking community while doing it can bring extra benefits to the physical component and help you maintain it as a part of your lifestyle.
Catch the Vision of Function
When it comes to improving your functional wellness, the first step is changing your perspective. Thinking of exercise as a lifelong endeavor is the place to start, and if you’re looking for an introduction to either F45 Training or Lotus Yoga Academy, check out some of the free fitness programming in the Innovation Quarter.
Photo Credit: Thank you to F45 Training Winston-Salem and Lotus Yoga Academy for sharing your images.