Fitness imitating life…
Another Saturday, another fitness conference and the more things change the more they stay the same. I always say that clichés exist because most of them are true. Today I discovered what I have maintained for some time now, there is no magic pill or solution. There is more than one way to skin a cat, more than one tool for the job, more than one road to travel to a final destination.
Fitness is a lot like religion, people believe that their religion is the true religion unwilling to hear the possibility that there may be another way. They spend a good deal of time and energy defending their belief system and their gurus while avoiding any information that might support the contrary view. I find that fitness enthusiasts both the professional and consumer behave in quite the same manner in regards to their beliefs about exercise. They cite information that supports their beliefs and close their minds to anything that might oppose those beliefs. Their beliefs about their exercise routines become symbols of who they are and what they stand for; so much so that they will defend these ideas to the bitter end as if their character was being assassinated. Today’s seminar confirmed for me that no one has the answer, because in general there is no answer. There are however, good ideas, better ideas, and some not so good ideas. It is almost comical to watch experts that I have followed for over a decade now change their views on specific movements, and types of workouts. They were for it, before they were against it, and then for it again.
I have always maintained that the number one key to any successful exercise program is that you perform it on a consistent basis. I choose movement quality over quantity. More is not always better. It was confirmed once again by the speakers that rest is as important as work as it relates to improved performance. Just like most things in life, danger lies at the extremes. Whether it is diet, exercise, or a night out on the town, moderation or rather, balance is the way to go.
In general, Americans lost their way when they lost their balance. Many Americans work 60 hour weeks, are sleep deprived, malnourished (not due to a lack of food), inactive, and totally stressed out. One of the speakers, Juan Carlos Santana, spoke about how stress negatively impacts immune function, mind-state, body composition, and recovery. The irony is that we work more and sleep less so that we can provide a “better life” for our families, which somewhere, somehow also came to include acquire more material things. The irony is that we do this in the pursuit of happiness while it appears that we are mostly miserable and medicated. Is the life we think we are providing truly better in the long run, and at what cost? I don’t have the exact answer, but I believe that balance is a part of the equation for happiness. The task though requires introspection and honesty. Goal setting for fitness and life are similar. You must decide what you want, what needs to be done to get it, and what you are willing to do to achieve it. The problem is that many of us want to get a lot while doing only a little. It baffles me when people who understand this principle as it relates to their professional careers fail to see its application as it relates to their fitness programs and personal relationships.
I hope by now you see the connection. To talk about exercise in isolation of your personal relationships and professional careers is futile. We are given one life, one body, one shot to make the most of it. I think many of us would agree that making the most of it would primarily mean finding true happiness. I think including movement, proper nutrition, spirituality (not necessarily religion, but more like quiet time i.e. reading, meditation etc.), and sleep are all important ingredients for balance and in the end happiness. You can’t bake a good cake and leave out some of the fundamental ingredients. If you’re exercising but not eating properly or regularly, and are also lacking in the sleep department don’t be surprised when your cake (happiness) doesn’t turn out.
With the holiday season upon us, and the New Year around the corner I challenge you all as I do myself to be introspective, and to ask what would really make you happy. The next step is to include those things that serve to help you attain happiness and try to eliminate or minimize the things that stand in your way. Exercise is one tool in this pursuit. The type of exercise that is right for you is the one that gets you to move consistently, that doesn’t result in injury, that improves your function, and has you happier than you were before doing it. For the cynics, who find themselves unhappy but resistant to making changes I say, “what are you doing now, and how’s that working for you?” Make this year, the one when you turn it around, the year you get balance in your life, and the year you get some happy. Be well, be fit, and have a great holiday season!