Maintaining balance

Leah Mitchell

Heather Winia wakes up at 6:22 a.m. because 22 is her lucky number. She wears something different each day – whatever makes her feel good on that particular day. She is a mother to four girls, and takes this responsibility very seriously. Her success story is her own.

Winia, a Grand Valley State University physical education professor and holistic health counselor, shared her secret to maintaining the perfect balance between work, family and living carefree.

“I listen to what my need is for that day,” Winia said. “What do I need today? What sounds good?”

A Zumba instructor and master trainer for Groove, Winia teaches on and off of GVSU’s campus. She teaches seven classes on campus, along with an abundance of other health and nutrition workshops at local churches, schools and businesses.

As if this isn’t enough, Winia also runs healthy cooking and fitness classes out of her house. And she never fears the issue of having enough space for clients – Winia takes advantage of the environment available to her, teaching outdoor classes at local parks and beaches.

But just because she knows the secrets to a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle doesn’t mean she’s never struggled with it. Winia uses her experiences with overcoming an eating disorder as well as an obsessive compulsive habit of exercising, to effectively help others who are in similar situations that revolve around unrealistic expectations for oneself.

“I am thankful that my education was to help people and myself to live life fully,” Winia said. “I have to remind myself that I get to choose each day how I want to live.”

She may try to tell you that she doesn’t balance very well, but she is able to juggle her activities, her work and being a single mom.

It will be one year ago in December that Winia lost her husband, Mark, at age 45 due to severe Pneumonia. Winia said the loss of her spouse was life-altering.

“I’ve learned to say no,” Winia said. “I’ve had to be really focused, which is why I get good sleep and eat well. If I don’t, nothing gets done. I’ve set my priorities in such (a way) that my kids come first, family comes first. Things change when you lose a spouse. My whole perspective has changed.”

Winia relies on three things to give her strength daily: A healthy mind, body and spirit. To her, spirit mainly means God, but it also involves yoga and outdoors. Winia said both of these build the spirit, and she works to help others develop the strength she strives for.

First inspired to teach physical fitness classes while taking aerobics as a freshman at Hope College, Winia has been a gymnast, a dancer and a coach her whole life. Feeding her love for life, she has only pursued activities that she enjoys.

After teaching wellness education and fitness at Johnson Controls for 12 years, it was time for a change. Winia flew from Michigan to New York City once a month for an entire year in order to graduate from New York City’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition. As a newly certified holistic health counselor in 2005, she began chasing a fresh dream.

“The goal is to teach people to eat real whole food, and that there are no quick fixes,” Winia said. “It’s about finding their own way with fitness, health and nutrition. Because there isn’t just one diet that fits everyone, I help guide people and help them listen to their own bodies in order to take care of themselves. It’s all about balancing, right?”

Winia said she loves to share her passion for living a vibrant, healthy life. She hopes the lessons learned in her classes will stick with students throughout their lives to improve their strength of body, mind and spirit.

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