Life tends to give you what you need to succeed, and not one thing more to your benefit. For some reason, if we choose to take a hard look at the world around us, do some introspection, and realize what it is we are good at, we will always find what we need to succeed. When I first met Claudia, I was immediately amazed by the shear force of will with which she committed herself to becoming better. A better friend, a better athlete, a better sister; everything. And one of the few times we were able to workout at an actual gym together, her workouts were instantly familiar to me. This was because I had spent the past weeks and months working my way towards the same rapid-fire gymnastic movements she effortlessly preformed in-circuit. So at that time, while life hadn’t provided me with the budget for one-on-one personal training from a master, it absolutely provided me with a friend who could help guide me towards my goals. For this and a thousand other reasons, it’s my privilege to introduce another friend and Real Jungle Human: Claudia Dentico. Read, enjoy, and always #StayStrong.
The way I live, I play many roles...
I am a lover of metal, CrossFitter, ex-cheerleader, Exercise Science student at Manhattan College, and Gymnastics instructor. There’s also: fighter of Crohn’s Disease, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Gastroesophagael Disease, anxiety, a few eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and the sadness/anger of being a child of divorce.
But I am not a victim.
I don’t resent the circumstances of my life, and I’ve never been able to set my sights on just one thing, especially when I dream of what my life can be.
My belief is that there will never be total solutions, but there will always be outlets for those seeking answers. Each day that we choose to wake up and work a little more than is required of us, we elevate ourselves. Regardless of what has happened in the past, we are not just human beings, but humans doing when we are willing to be more now. This mindset of exceptional service has transformed the way I walk through life. No longer do I live to serve others out of existential guilt, but rather, I live to serve myself in order to achieve the miraculous enlightenment that best helps those who cross my path. And the best part is, it never ceases to renovate itself as needed. I have a constant flow of inspiration because the hard fact is: there’s always more ways we can give back.
I began to untangle the intricate web of disease from my body when I realized I was not fulfilling my roles any longer. I was far too disconnected in body, mind, and spirit to remain focused and feel purposeful. The realization dawned on me, that at some point in time there needed to be a balance of selfishness and selflessness in my life. I had to stop trying to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. Under this notion, I bloomed, into this ever-changing version of Claudia who is strong, resilient, wholesome and present.
Over the years, I’ve explored a variety of different ways I can use my body as a tool to learn and heal. I have embraced weight lifting, CrossFit, gymnastics, and yoga; all of which personally represent overcoming obstacles through setting goals and letting go of egotistical barriers. I have gone through phases of running and rowing for long periods of time, and phases of playing sports and games to sustain the stoke. But the root I have found in all of these things is that the best version of me is the one completely integrating my body, mind, and spirit into whatever has set my passions on fire in that moment.
I spend a lot of time in a CrossFit gym. This is the place that I truly found myself. It gave me a place to focus on performance goals rather than aesthetic goals. This new type of health focus was very different from the self-loathing, calorie reduction, body shaming, and binging and purging I had grown so appallingly used to. It was wholesome. It didn’t devour me from the inside out. It began to nourish me. There were no mirrors in CrossFit. There was nowhere to pick myself apart into a miserable puddle of self-pity and hatred. I was 16 when I stepped into CrossFit Momentum, my local gym, and I felt alone. Until all of a sudden I wasn’t. There were a lot of people overcoming their own versions of struggle.
I fell in love with constant assessment, goal setting and goal reaching. I fell in love with what the body can do. I found myself fighting the demon inside of me instead of feeding it for the first time in a long time. I became the dominant, rather than the submissive. And it felt GOOD!
I’ve become an enthusiast. A movement enthusiast, a nutrition enthusiast, and most importantly, a self love enthusiast. There is nothing more valuable in this world than the integration of body, mind, and spirit in oneself. So, I cultivated a passion for change. I adopted the mindset of constant evaluation, assessment, and adjustment for sustainable health in all of its forms. Through endless self-imposed research (because that’s really what it takes), I have come to realize all of the tools are out there, but it is up to us to collect and utilize the ones we need. In the Internet age, individualized methods of understanding what kind of movement best suits your needs are at our disposal! What a miraculous thing!
Physically, this has given me opportunities to embrace the body that I had been disconnected from for so long. The old routines of harsh diets and overtraining caused my naturally weakened body great stress, and lead to a plethora of diseases and conditions. Now, I’ve learned that the only way to heal and nourish is to do so out of love. And in loving my body, I have welcomed the passions of movement and nutritional healing. I am centered. I am never along a path, reaching at a distant destination of being healthy, while immediately suffering the consequences of self-perceived failure. Instead, I am present, listening to my body, doing what it loves, and what it's meant to do. I am able. I am competent. I am worth investing in. And on my worst days, I now have the many lessons I have already learned, catapulting me into the next phases of this adventure.
How You Can Too…
There are many options to explore when you’re ready to embrace the challenge of looking inwards and setting goals that release the jungle Human in you. Here’s some of my tips for regaining functional health through cross training, explorative training and wellness based nutrition!
-Join a CrossFit gym! Tons of support and great vibes along with functional fitness and gains! If this isn’t in your financial window, here’s some more you can do:
-Look up CrossFit workouts and implement them at home or at a conventional gym! Make the best out of your situation by utilizing space and objects in functional ways. There are several websites with free cross training programs and workouts.
-If you’re worried about form, look up anatomical kinesiology breakdowns of movements. Start learning! Form the body mind connection it desperately needs.
-Explore the benefits of all kinds of exercise and sport. This means integrating the benefits of cardiovascular endurance training, muscular endurance training, strength training, flexibility training, body composition and factors such as balance, speed and agility. Find what you love and run with it! Or, fall in love with the many movements that create a functional body.
-Take REST days from lifting! 3 days on, 2 days off or 3 days on, 1 day off are basic schedules for strength training by itself or when cross training.
-Look up Functional Movement training, or Movement Culture, to explore our bodies’ innate, primal movement patterns that benefit body, spirit, and mind.
-Find a focus in gymnastic, acrobatic, yoga or Pilates training! All of these have a focus on core stability and body alignment. These are the best ways of building a functional and able body for life!
-Look into “pre-habilitation,” the practice of learning and exploring proper movement patterns and preventing injury.
-Play sports! Look into your local recreational sports teams, leagues, and clubs. Or, call up a few friends, find a park and get playing! Never lose the youthful energy we certainly wish to conserve.
-You’ve heard of cutting gluten, but how about grains entirely? If you have any problems with inflammation, gastrointestinal distress, chronic fatigue, or feeling unfocused, swap out refined and processed carbohydrates for natural starchy carbs such as sweet potato and plantain.
-If you can’t fully restrict dairy, which is recommended, swap out low fat and cows milk dairy for raw goat or sheep’s milk dairy. These are better digested and metabolized in the body with less adverse affects. Even those who are lactose intolerant can sometimes consume these!
-Sugar is a no no. Added sugar especially! If you are craving something sweet, check for labels and go for products or meals made with honey, dates, coconut sugar or agave as sweeteners.
-Add a multitude of vegetables and fruits to your nutrition regimen each day! A variety of colorful vegetables and fruits at each meal ensure the intake of vital nutrients and minerals as well as fiber.
-Up your intake of Omega 3’s to reduce chronic inflammation by taking a fish oil supplement or increasing your consumption of fish, olive oil, cold pressed flax seed oil, chia seeds, olives, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens.
It’s worth remembering, the world is full of amazing disciplines. Many people have a hard time settling on what they desire, and it doesn’t help that all of our parents tend to have expectations, and all of our peers will make judgements. But if you’re feeling blocked, lost, or unsure, don’t be afraid to keep looking until you feel it in your gut that THIS is your thing. CrossFit, gymnastics, music; whatever yours is, this is the only thing that matters. When you find that thing that ignites your soul, it almost certainly will be scary.