The SpirFit Blog

Updated: Feb 6

Making a lasting impression is awfully hard to do, especially in this day and age of mass information and perpetual change. But it can happen if the experience,

the message, the person affects our brain in a truly transformational way. I can only count a handful of

people who have made lasting impressions on me.

Near the top of that list is a 91 year-old priest named Father Al Ruschman. Known for his even-keel disposition, patience and peacefulness, Fr. Al is widely beloved in his community. He’s relatable to people of all ages and circumstances, surpassing any limits set by Father Time.

I sat down with him recently to talk about

spirituality and how to find it in today’s world.

Today's Spotlight: Rev. Albert Ruschman

Retired Priest

Diocese of Covington

Me: Fr. Al where does your faith, your spirituality, come from?

Fr. Al: It started when I was young. I was raised on a farm. My siblings and I helped work the land and tend to the animals. My parents ran a Catholic household. I remember going to mass starting at age 5. Our lives were centered in the Liturgy.

Me: It sounds like a good life.

Fr. Al: It was and yet it wasn’t without hardship. I remember talking with my older brother Clifford in the fields when he was about 13. I was 6 years old at the time. The next day he went to St. Elizabeth hospital for an operation. He had an appendicitus but by the time he arrived his body was already poisoned. We had the funeral visitation at home. That was a hard time for our family, especially my parents.

Me: Did that event affect your faith?

Fr. Al: Clifford’s death was a lesson. It taught my family that out of this hardship was an opportunity to help others in similar situations. It taught us empathy, and how to have a good impact on others who suffer similar losses. As Christians, we’re called to react as best we can to trials and tribulations. And to constantly be open to God’s help.

Me: God has a way of helping and healing through human connections.

Fr. Al: I’ve had a Spiritual Director since I was in the Seminary. That person has changed through out the years but I’ve always had one for spiritual guidance. It’s important to have someone you can talk to or meet with regularly. It doesn’t have to be formal, and the person doesn’t have to bear the title of a Spiritual Director. Everybody just needs somebody.

Me: What are some important characteristics to look for in a Spiritual Companion?

Fr. Al: Does the person listen? Is faith a priority in their life? Do they constantly work on keeping a relationship with the Lord? How well do you know this person? Often times, it’s someone you have come to know over the years.

Having someone to discuss life with helps keep us focused, uplifted, and in touch with the Lord. Though the truth can sometimes be hard to receive. Our hearts must be open to it. Open to advice that’s not always easy to hear.

Me: That’s hard. And it can be equally difficult to give an honest opinion. But that doesn’t seem hard for you. Your disposition is both truthful and kind. How did you come to be like this?

Fr. Al: Knowing that God is with us, and that tomorrow will be better gives me a sense of calm. I’m talking to God all the time. Every day I take a walk. Knowing he’s in the trees, in the people I meet, it gives me peace. I feel connected to this earth. Taking these daily walks gives me quiet time and I always come back enriched.

Me: Many people say they’re too busy for “quiet time” or they’re uncomfortable in the quiet. What would you say to them?

Fr. Al: We have to find a way for quiet time. But that might mean something different to each family or person depending on their stage of life. For a busy parent, for example, quiet time might mean taking a child to see a flower and lingering over it to appreciate its beauty. To determine what quiet time means to an individual, you can ask the Lord for guidance.

Me: Although you’re retired, you’re still very active. You had 8:15am mass this morning. You take daily walks. You visit the school. And up until a couple years ago, you maintained a vegetable garden. If I can ask you one last question, how do you stay so young?

Fr. Al: Of course eating right and staying active is important. But equally important, is my prayer life. To not pray is to give up on our spirituality. If we continue to pray we’ll get back to the Lord. It’s important to keep in touch with God. My prayer life keeps me going.

Well, you heard it from Fr. Al. Youth isn’t just physical and mental but spiritual too.

Thank you Fr. Al for your time and insight. You're a blessing to this world!

Peace, health & happiness!

On March 20th and 21st, you’re invited to step away from it all to join us for a brand-new SpirFit Wellness Retreat, Simplify Your Life.

Our line-up of speakers and activities will explore the areas of physical, mental and spiritual (Christian) wellness. We are privileged to host the following presenters: Eric Oliver, PT, Founder and President of Beyond Exercise; veteran in Mental Health studies Dr. Julie Sell-Smith, Psy-D.; Superior Sister Barbara Rohe of Divine Providence Congregation; and Co-host of the Catholic Soup Podcast, Rev. William Cleves of Holy Spirit Parish in Newport, Kentucky.

The Retreat will take place at St. Anne’s Retreat Center (as seen on the 1980’s film Rain Man) in Melbourne, Kentucky.

Two ticket options are available for purchase: Overnight OR Single-Day.

The Overnight option will grant you access on Friday at 5:30p.m. After checking into your private bedroom, you’re invited to participate in a Welcome Gathering, Self-Reflection Activity, Spir-Fit Class (which includes gentle stretching and prayerful meditation), and a Social Hour with beverages and snacks provided by the The Gruff restaurant in Covington, Kentucky. Saturday morning, overnight attendees are invited to a 7a.m. mass on the premises and hot breakfast.

Saturday activities for ALL attendees include the aforementioned speakers and your choice of two activities ranging in topics from fitness and nutrition to art and poetry. Ample time for self-reflection and a delicious lunch is also provided. Dismissal is at 4p.m.

Nearly 70 people attended our last retreat in September. We anticipate a great group again this year! Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Both male and female adults are welcome! To purchase your tickets you can go to Eventbrite. If you have any questions, please contact Jessica at spirfit3@gmail.com.

Remember there are 365 days in a year. You deserve at least one of those to step away and reflect. We hope you can join us!

Peace, health & happiness!

Updated: Jan 24

Have you hit a roadblock in your career, fitness routine, or another area of life? Eric Oliver, Owner of Beyond Exercise (a highly-regarded holistic physiotherapy, fitness and nutrition center), can relate in more than one way. He’s walked the walk of overcoming obstacles and fears. At times in his career, did he want to quit? Sure. Was he scared of failure? Yes. But did he persevere? Absolutely. 

Recently, Eric sat down to talk with me about his

company (nominated a semi-finalist for the 2019

Groering Center Family and Private Business Award),

about thinking outside the box, and also taking care

of the body … beyond exercise. 

Today's Spotlight: ERIC OLIVER

Physical Therapist, Running Specialist, Founder of

Beyond Exercise, Husband, Father & Christian

Me: I’m always interested to learn why or how people end up in the fields they work in. So, start off by telling me a bit about your business and profession, and why you chose this path.

Eric: This will sound like a cliche, but I chose to work in the healthcare field because I wanted to help people. I chose the profession of physical therapy because I liked the idea of helping people return to their sport or activity after sustaining an injury. In high school, I had sustained ankle injuries playing soccer that required some level of rehab, and my personal experience in dealing with these injuries further propelled physical therapy to the top of my list of career choices.  

After progressing through PT school, my first job was nowhere in the realm of where I thought I would end up: nursing homes. For two and a half years I worked in nursing home systems, and to be honest, I enjoyed much of my experience in this role. I learned more than I thought I would, and I learned to better appreciate the responsibility and weight that my clinical decision-making had on people’s lives.  

Me: But you obviously didn’t stay there.

Eric: As much as I appreciated my time in my role in the nursing home clinical atmosphere, I knew that it was not my permanent resting place to set roots for my career.  I then spent the next seven years trying to find my place in the physical therapy world. During this process, I nearly quit the profession. Twice! I considered joining the Cincinnati Fire Department. Rather, though, I took the Cincinnati Police exam, thinking that I would become a police officer. I still wanted to help people! 

The reason for wanting to get out of physical therapy was simple, yet complex: I was burned out. I was tired of all the limitations in how I was able to practice my craft the way I believed it should be done. I was giving my all to my employers and my patients, and yet I didn’t think I was making the kind of impact that I thought I could. And this is the complex part. The problem is the healthcare system. Many times, clinical decision-making is altered by a healthcare provider’s dependence on health insurance reimbursements. In physical therapy, reimbursement from insurance companies isn’t very high for the services provided. In order for the physical therapy practice to cover their overhead costs and make a profit for themselves, a higher volume of patients needs to be driven through the door. The more patients per hour that the PT has to treat, the more that quality of care is reduced along with added stress of battling the needs of the patient and the needs of the practice.

Me: So you were fed up.

Eric: I was fed up, and just when I thought I was going to quit physical therapy, I realized that there was a way to practice physical therapy the way I wanted. I cut the cord from insurance.  I knew of no one doing this, so I naturally turned to the internet to guide me. Thankfully, I found a couple of clinics in the country who were starting to do the same thing. I thought if they can do it, why not give it a try.  And so Beyond Exercise was born.

Me: Why did you choose the name Beyond Exercise?

Eric: I named my business Beyond Exercise because I wanted people to know that when they receive treatment from me it was not going to be only about exercise. Rather, there was going to be a one-on-one interaction with me in which I was going to give you my undivided attention and provide treatment that would also include a hands-on manually based component.  In other words, my philosophy was to provide services that went beyond exercise.

The name of my business has lended well to its evolution. In the beginning, I only sought to start a physical therapy practice. I soon realized that in order for me to really care for a patient to their end goal, I needed to offer more than physical therapy. I needed to offer a suite of services that could be used to help someone go beyond a rehab goal, weight loss goal, athletic goal, etc. I wanted people to look at our name and branding and realize that we can help them go beyond expectations by going beyond exercise.

Me: You’ve mentioned in the past that you’ve sacrificed precious time away from your family to make your vision a reality. I know that’s hard. What drives your passion for wellness? 

Eric: As a clinician and healthcare provider I see what it looks like to not be well, and generally when someone isn’t well, they’re unhappy. There are many connotations to what wellness means, but for me it’s simply being happy while honoring your body. I prefer to be happy than not, and I prefer to see people be happy. My passion for wellness is essentially rooted in wanting to be happy and helping others do the same.  

Me: Happiness is what we all want, right? But I know a lot of people struggle with their health. From your perspective, what is the most common mistake or misperception the general public makes regarding exercise or caring for their bodies? 

Eric: A common mistake that people tend to display with exercise is that they neglect the importance of fundamentals. There are so many exercises out there that are derivatives of fundamental movement patterns that require a proper base of strength, joint mobility, tissue flexibility, and motor coordination. Yet, people will neglect mastering these fundamental skills, which include breathing, engaging the core, squatting, hip hinging, planking, upper body pulls, and upper body pushes. It’s not the fault of the person, because more times than not people don’t know what they don’t know, and the majority of people don’t know that there is an optimal way to perform these fundamental movements.

In regards to caring for their bodies, I think people underestimate how well our bodies are able to adapt to our environment and stressors, whether positive or negative. If you place negative stress to your body, the adaptation will also be negative, and vice versa. These negative and positive adaptations apply to exercise, nutrition, social habits, etc. We reap what we sow with our bodies.

Me: Yes, our bodies are like a machine. They need regular maintenance otherwise they’re more likely to break down. So now that you’ve motivated our readers, one last question. For someone who isn’t athletic or is out of shape, where should they begin with a fitness routine? 

Eric: First off, I contend that everyone is an athlete in one way or another. Someone may not be an athlete in the conventional sense, but daily life requires some form of athleticism. For example, getting up and down from a chair requires a squat motion. Lifting your three-year-old from the floor is similar to a dead-lift motion (when done correctly). And so on. I want people who consider themselves to be out of shape or non-athletic to understand this because I feel that it lowers the barrier to entering a fitness regimen.

Once someone makes the decision to start a fitness regimen, he or she should start by setting a goal. You can’t move in a direction if you don’t know your destination. This goal should be realistic and attainable. You can also create smaller goals that serve as stepping stones and positive reinforcement on your way to achieving the bigger goal. From there, beginning a fitness regimen is as easy as picking something that interests you and will give you joy - walking, running, fitness classes, etc. There is no lack of options for people to start an exercise routine. If someone is completely new to exercise, though, I do recommend personal training because it is really easy to get confused and frustrated with the options of exercise that are available. 

Me: And they need to learn those fundamental movement patterns.

Eric: Right. It’s very easy to develop an injury if you don’t have a good foundation of movement and strength. Having a personal trainer who will assess your current level of fitness and then develop a custom plan to address your physical needs as well as point you in the right direction of your goal can save a lot of time, money, and injury in the long run. Once you develop that foundation you will be armed with confidence in your abilities to tackle various forms of exercise.

To hear more from Eric, make sure to sign up for our March Wellness Retreat. He is one of four speakers that will help us Simplify Our Lives. To find out more about Beyond Exercise, click here

Peace, health & happiness! 


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