Insider's Guide to Spas
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Timeless Truths of Spa: Fitness

Fit is Beautiful: 6 Smart Tips for a Healthy Life

Mary Bemis

Formally trained as a dancer, Judith Jackson, called the Mother of American Aromatherapy, has had a long and distinguished career in beauty and fashion. Now in her elegant eighties, she still practices what she learned decades ago—that fitness is a total self project, and that “discipline, desire, determination, and consistency are key to creating the energy, endurance, and expertise you need to become fit—and maintain it.”

I asked her to share her wisdom. Here’s what she told me.

1. Know your body. Sense how your body works. Are you a short- or long-distance runner? If your muscles are clustered into a small but well-defined area, you should use them in spurts. If they stretch out into a leaner, longer line you are probably a miler. This philosophy can keep you from injury or fruitless effort from head to heel. Listen to your body. If it says to stop—STOP!

2. Back to the Barre. In my first career, I was a professional dancer with an American Ballet Theatre scholarship training. I had the advantage of studying with great teachers. One class I worked out at the barre behind Rudolph Nureyev—then and now ranked as one of the world’s greatest male dancers. I noted that his gluteal muscles were huge and his muscular legs were rather short for his body. This naturally propelled him into breathtaking leaps and jumps that elicited gasps, as well as bravos from the audience.

My teacher in the class said two unforgettable things about sensing what your body can accomplish. “Put your mind in your muscles—out to the end of fingers and toes,” and “Never ever try to work out an injury.” I want to add to that, work up to the point of exhaustion—never go beyond.

Happiness is moving to music. It nurtures the soul.

3. Try not to be competitive when learning. Once you know the moves and can do them, a little competition can be a good thing. Star performers still take classes. You can learn from watching a master of their craft. Even horses like to win the race.

4. Fitness is a total self project.  Discipline, desire, determination, and consistency are key to creating the energy, endurance, and expertise you need to become fit—and maintain it. Follow the three-day rule: Once in a while you may travel or just plain veg out and not lose the benefits of your program. However don’t stray too far from your normal routine or it will take longer to fully return. Of course,it depends on your basic brain and body ability to recoup. Almost every morning I do floor stretches,mini yoga, and work out on my ballet barre in the living room. Happiness is moving to music. It nurtures the soul.

5. Eat fit.  My motto is “Never put food or drink into your mouth unless it does something for you.” Another slogan I like: “Dead food makes dead people,” or at least slows you down. Eat lively, really green greens and naturally orange oranges. Smell your food before you buy and just before you eat it. A peach should smell peachy.  Chew until you are bored with the bite. Fifty percent of your digestion starts in the mouth with an enzyme called ptyalin. Raw is best—except for meat and fish. Vegetable juices contain living enzymes that nourish every organ and cell in your body. It’s a quick way to be quick.

6. Sleep & Regenerate. Newborns sleep all the time. That’s because their brain and body are adjusting and growing. To a lesser degree, it’s the same for all humans, animals, and even plants. Every, or almost every, living thing on this earth needs sleep to cleanse, repair, grow, and fully function. A recent scientific survey reported that people with insomnia had shorter lives than those with at least seven hours duvet time. Our brains need sleep to eliminate more than a bad day. The brain gets rid of debris while refreshing glands involved with learning, memory, and senses. All functions needed to be fit.

Essentially Fit.  After 35 years of aromatherapy as my calling, I decided it was time to go with today’s raging currents of change and communication. I edited my massage formulas to be more with less without sacrificing benefit and quality. My new Essential J is a four-product set that can become part of a personal fitness program in minutes or a now spa treatment.

Essential J is a distillation of experience and dedication. The essences for face and body are named what they do to simplify choice. For instance, you can wake up in the morning and select Calm & Renew to relax tensions and rejuvenate face and body. Energize & Purify gives you a little zip and lymphatic cleansing, while Treat & Relieve is great pre-workout.

And if you have a neck, back, shoulder, or knee problem, there is my Wonder Rub pain relief cream which does its job with a heavy dose of capsaicin, arnica, juniper, cinnamon. and ginger. I carry a tube in my handbag to dose my ex-dancer’s knees whenever they crunch. Spas are finding it is a wizard deep-tissue treatment.



Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.