Healthy Hero: Bridget Griffioen

How long have you lived in St. Joseph County?

I have lived in St. Joseph County my entire life (36 years).

How do you incorporate fitness into your lifestyle?

Fitness is a part of who I am. I spend time working out at the gym each day, but that’s just a small part of it. I’m deliberate about being active. I take the stairs instead of the elevator, I, at times, ride my bike to the gym or store instead of driving, I walk my cart to the cart corral instead of leaving it in the middle of the parking lot at the store, I push mow my lawn instead of using a riding lawn mower. These are just a few of the many things you can do to make healthy normal.

Who or What motivated you to be a wellness champion?

Trying to balance being a mom and working full time made it challenging to fit in time for fitness, so I thought. I was quite athletic in my younger years and very passionate about being fit. Shortly after having my second child, my friend invited me to join the local gym. The gym offered classes and extended hours which would fit my busy schedule, so I couldn’t pass up the offer. I started slow…two to three days per week. Many of my workouts were after my children had gone to bed. After several months, she encouraged me to sign up for the local 5K run. This is what helped push me into the next phase of fitness. I knew I had something to work for and wanted to be prepared. Eventually the 5K turned into a 10K race (and eventually many marathons). I had developed relationships with fellow fitness fanatics at the gym and we started doing group runs. Over the years, I’ve been able to increase my time at the gym, not just because, but because I love to do it.

What do you like to do with your free time in St. Joseph County?

Our county has lots to offer. I love to ride my bike around the county. We have many different routes that we ride…some flat, some hilly, some around the lakes, and some that allow us to stop at Yoder’s for a muffin. You may also find me out running around the many lakes in our area. We also like to spend time at Meyer Broadway Park, whether it’s playing fetch with my dogs at the dog park, playing Frisbee golf with my family, or tubing in the winter.

What kind of difference has a wellness regime made in your life?

Choosing a healthy lifestyle has helped me be a positive example for my family. My children and husband have all chosen to be active and make healthy choices because they could see the benefits were substantial. It’s has helped me be a much more confident person. It’s made me stronger, not only physically, but mentally.

What advice would you have for others that are trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

When trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle, I feel it’s important to set goals. Set some short term goals and some long term goals. If you can, write them down so you can check them off or find a workout partner who will help hold you accountable for them. I also feel it’s important that people know that being healthy includes many components: being active, healthy eating, and adequate rest.

As mentioned earlier, I do spend time at the gym each day (we have several AMAZING facilities right in our county!). Most days I’m there at 5:00 am, not because I’m a morning person, but because that’s what my schedule allows and I know I have a community of people waiting for me to be there. Walking your dogs, playing soccer in the backyard with your child, or mowing the yard are all great ways to make “active normal” as well. I also encourage you to find some type of race or competition to register for. It will give your training purpose. We all have busy schedules and unfortunately people often are looking for convenient. Eating healthy takes planning. I’m not a calorie counter; I do my best to be a “clean” eater. We plan our meals each week and will always pack lunches and prepare dinner for the next day a day in advance. I do eat cake at birthday parties and popcorn at a football game, but I don’t indulge every day. I’ve learned that I have to keep clean snacks (almonds, hard boiled eggs, raisins, fruit, carrots and almond butter, etc.) around the house because chocolate is WAY too tempting to keep in the cupboard. Adequate rest, I feel, is an overlooked key to being healthy. Once again, busy schedules make adequate rest a challenge. 7 to 8 hours each night would be ideal. When I discipline myself to go to bed on time, I feel much better than when I only get 5-6 hours of sleep.