Finding Balance

Spin bikes
Photo by Kyle Jacobson

When I was the younger version of myself, I watched a lot of action movies. The explosions and over-the-top car chases of the ‘80s and early ‘90s went well with my Captain Crunch breakfasts and Kraft dinners. The muscle-stacked heroes not only saved the day through physics-defying theatrics, but they also shaped my perception of what it was to be fit. On the VHS edition of Terminator 2: Judgement Day , before the movie started, Arnold Schwarzenegger told me “Fitness is Feeling Great.” That’s a really fine message—the problem is I attached it to having a sculpted physique. Wellness and overall health didn’t come into the equation, and young me thought people using those words were talking about being ripped.

Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look a certain way, but it’s when you’re not doing it to feel good about yourself that there’s a problem. Amy Sanborn, founder and owner of MadPower Training Center, understands this and provides the equipment of a traditional gym in a very stress-free environment. Her motto: work hard—play harder. “We really encourage the hanging-out aspect.”

When I first entered MadPower, I wasn’t hit with anything vigorous or intimidating. I instead felt like I had entered a spa carrying a distinct jungle vibe. A lot of green ferny plants, an eclectic mix of jungle-inspired paintings and sculptures, and a nail salon. “It’s just meant to be a place that people feel good when they come in here and better when they leave.”

With access to a full array of stationary bikes under disco lights and rooms for dance and yoga classes, members have a lot of choices on how they can work up a sweat. And if they want to build muscle, there are classes for that too. Everyone can push themselves as hard as they choose in a nonjudgmental environment, reinforcing the camaraderie between members. After a shower, many gather at the full bar and partake in some weekly traditions. “Every Tuesday is tequila Tuesday.”

Photograph by Kyle Jacobson

Wellness for Amy is creating a sense of belonging where members take care of each other. “It feels a lot like a co-op membership.” And that environment inspires members to want to be their best selves inside and out.

That’s what Sue Hogg, vitality coach, is all about. Being your best self. Sue says, “Wellness is a never-ending quest to find your optimal health in body, mind, and spirit.” Many of her clients have suffered from an injury or gone through surgery while others are business owners experiencing low vitality, and Sue works with them to overcome new frustrations physically and mentally in her studio. She strives to ensure the things going on in her clients’ lives aren’t getting them stuck.

“Sometimes our beliefs are just totally fiction. And so we have established these habits or this way of living that we think is the way we should live.” Sue sees people get sucked into their own expectations without ever wondering where those expectations came from. As Yuval Noah Harari, author and historian, advocates humans are simply a collection of stories of what we buy in to. Through physical motions enhanced by her understanding of meridians in the body, Sue’s clients regain a vitality they lost from a life change or unseen stress.

One of the first things Sue does with a new client is ask them what their dream is. This can be as simple as losing 10 pounds. She then asks what difference the goal would make and what would change in their life once the goal was met. Her clients are encouraged to “begin to live into what you’re shooting for right now. … You’re so living everybody else’s expectations that you don’t really know what you expect out of you. And it’s so interesting to study you.”

The aim is to find the movements, exercises, and shift in mentality that works for each client on an individual basis. Sue will do Pilates and yoga with her clients, but the spiritual and intellectual changes have to come with the physical changes. “I’ve worked with three people whose ankles have absolutely been crushed. And how each of them heals is very, very different in what they need.” It might look like she does wellness differently, but I think she sees it as doing wellness completely.

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

Keith Kubiesa, aka Coach Kubi, owner and conditioning coach of Summit Strength & Fitness, embraces doing things differently. Not everyone is programmed to work out on machines designed for the gym. “Do what’s fun. For a lot of people, lifting is not fun.” Though Summit has some strength-training equipment, its focus is the giant climbing dome that looks like the mouth of a geometric cave.

When someone pushes themselves at Summit, they sometimes have to step back from the wall. “Why did you fall?” Keith will ask. The climber then starts breaking down what happened physically and mentally before reattempting the problem, a term to denote a particular climbing sequence on the wall. This is quite different than pushing yourself in, say, a CrossFit class.

“We do a lot of mindfulness practice.” It’s a form of awareness. The physicality of the body can operate in very efficient ways when you start to understand how everything connects. This knowledge then becomes a more conscious risk assessment when trying to perform certain maneuvers, which urges a climber to consider what happens if they miss a hold.

It’s a full-body workout, and Keith says, “I think of our workouts here more as prehab—preventative rehab. … That’s a lot of what our workouts are in here. To be safer. To strengthen your muscles, joints, ligaments, all in a safe, progressive way. … I want you to get stronger in here, so you can go explore outside.”

Each person I talked to pushes the idea of balance in life. Being healthy doesn’t mean being fit. In fact, being overly fit can often be unhealthy. It can be obsessive. Being a part of something special to you, relieving stress by assessing who you want to be, and having the awareness to keep your body where it needs to be so you can do the things in life that are important to you is what wellness is all about. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we can see where we want to spend time growing as individuals. With so many unique opportunities in Madison to improve mentally and physically, no one should be asking themselves how or where. The real question for those who haven’t started is when.

Kyle Jacobson is a copy editor for Madison Essentials, and a writer and beer enthusiast (sometimes all at once) living in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

Summit Strength & Fitness

3118 Kingsley Way
Madison, WI 53713
(608) 515-8385
trainclimbsummit.com

MadPower Training Center

5264 Verona Road
Fitchburg, WI 53711
(608) 212-0654
madpowertraining.com

Sue Hogg

Vitality You LLC
“You & Your Extraordinary”
Waunakee, WI 53597
(608) 469-8001
smhogg@vitality.com