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Physical Culture & The "Performance VolunTourist"
Greg Alario, founder of Optimal Performance Fitness, takes time to answer our questions for this issue and share his fundamental philosophy that ALL of us are performance athletes, especially VolunTourists. Physical culture and proper diet are absolute essentials in guaranteeing the highest level of performance in day-to-day activities and service throughout an entire VolunTourism itinerary.
1) When considering some of the fundamental characteristics of VolunTourism Expeditions (non-traditional venues; direct contact with local residents/ environ-ment; focused, physical exertion; goal-oriented activity; "desired for" vs. actual, individual capacity), what physical culture and dietary elements would you recommend as general preparation for VolunTourists?
Physical Culture: The philosophy, regimen, or lifestyle of seeking maximum physical perfor-mance ability through such means as fitness training, diet, aerobic activity, and mental discipline. Specific benefits include improvements in health, appearance, strength, endurance, flexibility, speed, and general fitness as well as greater proficiency in sport and physical related activities.
A VolunTourism expedition will unquestionably be impacted by the state of body-mind-spirit wellness of the individuals involved. I list the order of body-mind-spirit with purpose as the state of each influence the enhancement of the next. Physical culture can significantly benefit us in reaching our human potential by enhancing the quality and quantity of our physical energy and capacity.
An integrated, healthy lifestyle base is needed whether one’s objective is specific-activity participation or general health and wellness. An integrated healthy lifestyle consists of a structured, focused, flexible application of a sound diet, daily exercise or physical activity, and adequate recuperation. It is paramount to see all these components linked synergistically as the failure of one will detract from the whole.
Greg Alario - Founder Optimal Performance Fitness
The first and most important step in optimizing one’s physical fitness is to reassess and make any adjustments needed to create a wholesome, sufficient diet, including hydration, which is balanced in volume to meet energy expenditure needs. Not enough food or water will rob you of your energy and recovery potential. Small to moderate meals every 3 hours along with constant sipping of water are necessary to assure consistent energy supplies, regulated blood sugar levels, maintain hydration and help the body to recover.
Our bodies are designed for constant movement and have potential for incredible performance when properly prepared and fueled. In times of intense, prolonged effort it is key to maintain an intake to compensate for loss as it takes the body up to 24 hours to rebuild adequate stores of glycogen and hydration once depleted too low.
Athlete – A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance that are necessary for physical performance
The approach to fitness that I follow, prescribe, promote and educate on is performance fitness. Performance fitness is about energy, vitality, resilience and sustainability as well as the ability to absorb periodic attrition. In essence VolunTourists are athletes, service athletes if you will. As in the competitive athletic field, service athletes' efforts regularly go beyond ordinary capacity. To enhance the limits of our capacity, to protect and recover from the wear and tear of overload, it is necessary to prepare sufficiently. It is not about putting in extra time, 30- 60 minutes per day will suffice. It is about using the time that you have in the most productive ways possible to expand your capacity to enjoy and perform in life.
Physical conditioning for the service athlete needs to address the body as a whole -working as a whole - in a balanced and efficient manner. Athletes need an exercise program that is integrated and focuses on whole body functionality by implementing flexibility, core strength, functional strength, movement skills and endurance in the planned objective. Using the correct exercises can utilize all or different combinations of the aforementioned components simultaneously. This is much easier attained than one might think. The key is being disciplined and having a program that is right for your needs at your current state.
An organic approach to fitness is going to return much greater results than any standard health club routine. With minimal to no equipment you can create a state of dynamic fitness, vitality and mobility. Athletes have to move fluidly, with bursts of power, multi-directionally and do it over extended periods of time. To prepare for this it is critical that an athlete’s approach to training has a functional foundation. Major muscle groups need to be used with stabilizing muscles in practical movement to prepare one for the specific physical exertion at hand. Adopting this type of approach would greatly support the type of ambitious, passionate efforts that VounTourists desire from themselves.
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
Sleep and regeneration of our energy is an often overlooked but absolute necessary element of quality wellness. Many times in our busy travel itineraries these important areas tend to be minimized due to commitments and obligations. We are very resilient but have definite limits. Regeneration from sleep, meditation, and quiet time is an irreplaceable pillar of a fit and healthy lifestyle. The time spent away from the daily grind to regenerate yourself will increase your performance throughout the entire trip.
An investment now into the management of your health and fitness will pay off in great dividends on a future VolunTourism adventure. Start your day with exercise or physical activity as it provides the most health benefits, and it is the most easily manageable time slot of the day. Feed yourself regularly and with as wholesome of content as available. Manage your time to allow for adequate sleep and schedule in the quiet time and/or meditation that you deserve and need. Implementing exercise, diet and regeneration as life habits is the formula to optimal wellness and an important door to attaining one’s personal potential.
2) In relation to daily activities - both voluntary service and tourism-based - what in-destination, physical culture could prevent injury and prolong functionality for VolunTourists?
The benefits of starting your day with a systematic approach to preparing your body to move are numerous and very advantageous. In the athletic field it is understood, without argument, that a thorough, specific warm-up and cool-down at every practice and competition are an irreplaceable necessity. Utilizing proper warm-up and cool-down approaches will allow VolunTourists to perform strenuous service and recreational activities with diminished risk and increased productivity. The reimbursement for this intelligent investment is to reduce the risk of injury, prolong performance, increase performance intensity, and aid in recovery.
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Dynamic movement exercises are the most integrated, economic, and efficient approach in preparing for physical activity. Dynamic movement exercises systematically go through the whole body from head to toe. Using full range of motion and all angles of movement while maintaining core stability and posture these exercises resemble a fusion of yoga and military calisthenics. This type of warm-up will create a physical, mental, and emotional state of "ready-to-perform." A prepared body is able to work with much more efficiency, thus actually reducing energy output.
A thorough warm up increases the circulation and pliability of muscles, tendons and ligaments, releases synovial fluid to lubricate joints, and stimulates neuromuscular pathways, allowing the body to move with less resistance and more control. Attempting a forceful movement on stiff, unprepared muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints is an unnecessary, against-the-odds gamble. Putting in this initial energy output will reduce overall energy expenditure as well as aiding in recovery by minimizing physical stress. It takes much more force to move stiff muscles as it does warm, pliable ones.
A cool-down of compound static stretching has no equal. A quality cool-down will help you transition into mental relaxation, return the heart rate to its resting rate and reduce muscle soreness and stiffness the next day. By allowing circulation to continue at a gradually reduced pace throughout the whole body, it will aid in flushing waste products in the bloodstream, such as lactic acid, produced by extensive physical exertion and utilize the pliable state of the muscles allowing you to bring back maximum muscle length. The effects of a good cool-down will not only give you immediate benefits but contribute greatly to your recovery for the next day.
3) How can VolunTourism promote the importance of an integrated regimen of physical culture and diet and assist sincere VolunTourists in developing a routine of their own?
“Be Strong to be Useful”
---- George Hébert (pioneering French physical culturist)
Once involved in a mission, VolunTourists exhibit a noticeable passion in their activities fueled by a sense of pride of purpose and contribution. As this pride transitions into a sense of authorship and responsibility it produces an ability to perform at very high intensity. This is true, high-performance living as it defines the essence of the nobility of service and a win-win philosophy. This is the type of transcendent action that elevates us in body, mind and spirit.
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This type of activity to an unprepared body can have detrimental effects. How far we go beyond our capacity dictates whether we feel:
- A little sore and stiff the next day,
- Very sore and stiff the next day,
- Laid up and incapacitated the next day, or
- Unable to finish the present day because of injury.
Each VolunTourist has the responsibility to be prepared for his/her daily duties and commitments.
The nature of the activities involved in VolunTourism expeditions and the character, intelligence and altruistic ambition of VolunTourists combine to create a tangible need to promote a system to fortify functional capacity. A comprehensive fitness, diet and lifestyle guide interspersed with practical motivational and educational passages would be of great value and stimulate a need, as well as a desire, for the service athlete to come into a VolunTourism trip "ready to play." It could be argued that VolunTourism Operators have a civic responsibility to promote and make available resources to enhance body-mind-spirit wellness for their clients.
Greg Alario, founder of Optimal Performance Fitness is a physical culture pundit, martial artist, and nutritional chef. He has been performance coaching competitive athletes, fitness clients and martial artists for the past 25 years.
Greg was a physical education major at San Jose State University and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. He is certified by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), holds a national “C” license from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), is a USA Weightlifting (USAW) certified Sports Performance Coach, and a Level 1 Track and Field Coach with USA Track & Field.
Whether working with professional athletes, CEO's, senior citizens or film stars the objective is to design a personalized, integrated, fitness and diet system based specifically on that client’s, or group's, ability and short term goal while enhancing their long term wellness.
Greg owns Optimal Performance Fitness which provides fitness and nutrition consultations and programs as well as performance coaching for competitive and every day athletes, groups and athletic and executive teams.