Meet a Health Hero: Wylie Belasik

"If you're working out for someone else, or to chase someone else's ideal, it will feel hollow. It has to be meaningful to YOU."

» You can vote for Wylie here August 22nd through September 18th. 

Name: Wylie Belasik

Role: Founder of UliftU, a local nonprofit that uses CrossFit as a tool to empower unemployed, formerly incarcerated and homeless individuals to achieve wellness.

1. What motivates you to try and make Philadelphia a healthier place?
The fact that we know we can do it and you can legitimately save someone’s life. Health and wellness aren’t predetermined conditions, they are the result of our actions and the choices we make. My responsibility is to find ways to engage our community so that as many people as possible get access to knowledge around those choices. We know that when we move, we feel better, have less stress and make new social connections. There are no sidelines in health-care, we’re all connected and we have the tools — it’s time we fully used them.

2. Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
When debate was taking place around the initial version of the Affordable Care Act. I was also getting more involved with CrossFit and I heard a piece on the news that explained the health care model as only working if lots of young people signed up, paid their premiums and never made a claim in order to offset those who had chronic disease and relied on emergency care. That struck me as totally backwards. In that model, we know who needs help, where they live and why they are unhealthy. Why aren’t we going to those people first and giving them options for a healthier life?

It then clicked in my head, here was this tool of CrossFit that was using movements scalable to any person that incorporated total-body health — this can be a tool for health care and create employment opportunities. That’s when the concept for UliftU started.

3. What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
More importance on support for preventative care and education around health. We know that active people are more productive, perform better in their jobs and are more connected socially. I have yet to meet someone who is excited about feeling terrible when they wake up or psyched to have low energy. It’s about knowing how to address those issues through exercise and diet — but also not just a one-time presentation and walking away. Give programs the ability to really put down roots in areas of the city that need help and create community.

4. What’s the most important part of your health or wellness regimen?
Getting uncomfortable every day. My daily schedule can be all over the place, but whether it’s jumping in a class with members at my gym, or something on my own during some downtime, training presents an opportunity to deal with adversity. We dress to be comfortable, we set the air conditioning to be comfortable, we eat what we like — training for me is a daily reminder that things are tough, but that’s where you learn more about yourself and grow. It doesn’t mean crush yourself every day; meditating for 10 minutes can be much more uncomfortable (and often more helpful) than trying to bury yourself in a workout. Do something that requires you to focus on being present and not off somewhere else in your head. You have to accomplish this task now, embrace that opportunity. Your inbox will still be there later.

5. What is your number-one piece of health-related advice or encouragement?
Find your “why.” If you’re working out for someone else, or to chase someone else’s ideal, it will feel hollow. It has to be meaningful to YOU. Those reasons can be silly or serious — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are YOUR reasons and that you allow yourself to be proud when you work on them because then, when it’s hard, you remember that you’re training for your “why,” not just working out. Lifelong health is 99 percent process and 1 percent result. Make sure your process is meaningful to you. A 300-pound squat will take three seconds to do, but potentially years to train for. Find meaning in the time spent training and who you get to share it with.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: