The Inertia

5 Hawaiian Words of Wisdom To Redefine your Fitness Journey

In fitness “living pono” is also doing the right thing, making better choices about fitness and nutrition. Photo: Shutterstock

The Inertia

My own search for perfect waves and love for Hawai’i led me to the study of hula. At my hula school Na Pua Me Kealoha, under the direction of my “kumu” (hula master) I have learned that Hawai’i is much more than a picture-perfect setting blessed with incomparable surf. It’s a way of life and a way of thinking about one’s purposes in this universe.

The Hawaiians believe in island traditions of aloha, pono, aina and kuleana ― simple
 but powerful concepts that can redefine one’s lifelong eating habits. As a personal trainer and nutrition enthusiast I took these values and built a philosophy to create what I call Surfcore Fitness.

1. Aloha

It is true that in Hawaiian people say “Aloha” both when greeting someone and also saying goodbye. But if we dissect the word “Aloha”, we learn more and dive into the roots of Hawaii: “Alo” means “to share”; “oha” means “to show affection or friendship”, and “hā” means “life, breath”.

How does aloha relate to fitness? Well it is quite simple. Before you start any fitness program make sure that you are doing it for the right reason. I often tell my clients “workout because you love your body, not because you hate it.” Whether you are a seasoned athlete in top fitness shape, or someone who is just starting and needs to shed some pounds, the approach should be the same. Show love, affection and compassion for yourself. Make it a new beginning, leave behind the errors of the past and approach the journey with aloha.

2. Pono

The state motto for Hawaii is: “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono,” or “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

In fitness “living pono” is also doing the right thing, making better choices about fitness and nutrition. It can be as simple as trying to find the better option in a restaurant menu, substituting soda with water or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Many small changes add up to dramatic results. New clients usually ask me for silver bullet diets in order to lose as much weight as possible as soon as they can. Instead I redirect them to making smaller changes that they are able to sustain longer and translate to lifestyle changes. Fitness is a journey not a destination, striving to make better choices in our everyday or “living pono” will yield sustainable results as opposed to momentary changes. We are not perfect, but it is about progress not perfection. When we “live pono” as long as we are heading in the right direction a setback will not mean much more than a bump in the road.

3. Aina

Hawaiians have a primal connection to the universe, to nature, to the land and the sea – a connection that comes from a deep spiritual as well as genealogical belief system. Nature is where it all begins for the Hawaiians. In fact, they call themselves keiki o ka ‘aina– “children of the land.” The land gave Hawaiians everything they needed–not just food. Success depended on living in harmony with nature.

Aina is particularly important when it comes to nutrition. Like the ancient Hawaiians we should strive to be in balance with nature. Buying locally grown organic food is healthier for you and your family, organic certification standards prohibit synthetic herbicides and pesticides, antibiotics, artificial hormones, and genetically modified organisms. Minimizing your exposure to these toxins can reduce your risk of cancer and other health problems. In addition, organic foods have been shown to have higher levels of beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Organic farmers give plenty of aloha to the aina, protecting soil, water, and air quality with practices like crop rotation, cover crops, and composting. There is nothing that recharges me more than excersicing outdoors. Outdoor activities are a great way to keep a strong relationship with the aina. I love working out at the gym, but nothing makes me happier and recharges my spirit more than a good day of surfing at the beach. So get outdoors every chance you get, go for a hike, take your dogs for a run or go for a walk on the beach. You will keep your workouts fun and interesting and strengthen your connection with the aina.

4. Kuleana

Kuleana translates to one’s personal sense of responsibility. It means owning up to your actions when they are wrong and standing up for your own actions when they are just.

I see many trainers struggling with their clients, fighting back and forth because the client may not enjoy a particular exercise. I believe in a different approach. I hold clients accountable for their workout. I remind them that they are not working out for me but for themselves, and to take pride in their work. We are constantly doing things for others like cooking and cleaning for our kids, working for our bosses etc. Fitness is one of the few things we truly do for ourselves. So why not make it your kuleana to be truly accountable for it, take no shortcuts and give your personal best every time you exercise?

5. Mana’o

Mana’o represents thoughts, ideas, knowledge, or opinions – in Hawaii when making decisions together people often ask for each other’s mana’o.

There is an overwhelming amount of fitness, nutrition, and health information available. It is impossible for the average person to have time to sift through this information for what is most valid, accurate and up to date. I strongly recommend seeking the mana’o or knowledge of a fitness professional. Someone whose job it is to stay on top of health trends and continue their education in order to provide you with the safest and most accurate information in the industry. Trainers are able to use their education, knowledge and experience to provide you with tips and tricks to help you develop a healthier lifestyle.

Not everybody can afford one-on-one personal training, but resources like ClassPass and Groupon are great for anybody on a budget. You do not have to break the bank on your search for fitness mana’o, and don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, us fitness professional love when people show interest on what we do. After all we have been working hard in furthering our mana’o to share it with you.

To learn more fitness philosophies and tips from the author visit SurfcoreFitness

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