Enjoying a Long Healthy Life: You Cant Fool Mother Nature
This past week a friend sent me an article from the Atlantic magazine that bemoaned how unfriendly and intimidating the fitness industry can be for those who are out of shape but want to start an exercise program.
On one level, I tend to agree that gyms can be intimidating places for newbies. Any time we take on an activity that is outside our familiar zone we feel uneasy and look for reasons to go back to what we know well (aka. Our comfort zone).
I also agree that easing the transition from inactivity into physical training is important.
However, IMHO we must never attempt to sugar coat the reality that achieving a high level of fitness will take a lot of hard work.
In a few months Ill turn 82. I have been working out regularly since I was 14. At 82 I get to enjoy living in my body. I feel great almost all the time, I move easily, have super endurance and am strong as hell. Unlike almost all my age peers, I do not have to take any prescription medications.
The super cool thing is that I have enjoyed feeling this way every day since I was a kid.
Was all this physical activity and eating right a lot of work? Hell yes! Was it always easy? Nosometimes it was very hard!
Occasionally someone says to me this is easy for you because youre a natural. The implication is that being strong and fit just happens for me and comes without much effort.
The it is easy for you argument is usually (always) an excuse for the speaker not to do what is necessary to do something difficult. It allows them to ignore the fact that the only way to accomplish something extraordinary is to work very hard!
Over the years I have done some things that were difficult at the time. There were many opportunities to take the easy way out or ignore a situation I didnt like. But I did what I believed was best for me even though it might be hard.
For example, I have not taken a drink of alcohol for 20+ years. I quit initially after working in Russia for 6 years and having to deal with the institutional alcoholism rampant in that country. Quitting was a bit difficult for the first few months, but after a while I totally lost interest in booze.
So here I am at 82 a relatively slender 170 pounds at 510. I run and lift weights 4-5 times a week. I eat 2 meals a daysometimes less. Have a lot of energy and am very strong.
When talking about this I sadly recall several friends who have died in the past decade. Some of them died way early from heart disease and diabetes that might have been prevented it they learned to manage their appetite. They literally ate themselves out of a decade or more of potentially high-quality life.
Two died following falls in their home. The muscle structure was not strong enough to keep a fall from becoming a terminal health crisis. Again, they couldnt be bothered with hitting the gym.
Nothing in life is guaranteed but Im guessing had all these people been strong and fit, it is unlikely that they would have declined so rapidly. Also, being very unfit meant that they all experienced a lousy quality of life for a least five years before they died.
Here is where we get to the uncomfortable truth: mother nature does not care whether you dont like to work hard. If you dont do the necessary work of keeping yourself in the best shape possible, you will decline rapidly and feel like sh*t in the process.
This is not about vanity. It is about caring for the only body you will ever have and the only life you will ever get to lead. You can care for your body and treasure it or treat it like a junk car.
If someone has a six pack it shows that they understood the laws of the universe and cared enough to do the work necessary to build their physique.
Getting and staying fit is about working hard on the things you can control. This includes what you put in your mouth, your activity level, and how you manage yourself. You cannot control your genetic heritage, your ethnicity or how tall you are.
One of the hardest things to do regularly is control our eating. The main reason we struggle with overeating because humans genetically hard wired to overeat. This is because we have the same genetic make up as our ancestors who emerged in the African savannah 30 million years ago. They had to eat as much as they could whenever they could find food because they never knew when they would find their next meal.
Humans have never existed in periods where food was abundant until after World War II. Until 1950 famine and mass starvation were common. Not having enough to eat was the norm, not the exception.
Again the uncomfortable bottom line is that in this age of overabundance we now must restrict how much we eat to be healthy and have a good quality of life.
Earlier I implied that reaching an elite level of fitness takes a LOT of work. Absolutely!
There is no shortcut to building a durable, high-performance, and great looking body. The same hard work rule applies if you aspire to be an outstanding mathematician. It is imperative that if you want extraordinary results, you must do the work necessary to get there!
If anyone suggests that there is an easy way to get fit and healthy, watch out. Their next move will be to try and sell you a beautiful ocean front estate..in Kansas.