Given the number of oft-repeated clichés about the benefits of exercise and sound nutrition, one would think that adherence to even the most basic and agreed upon principals of self-maintenance would be universal. Here are a few mantras that come to mind:
“If you have your health, you have everything.”
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
“Just do it.”
Everyone knows a few of these exhortations, and yet, in the countries with advanced economies, the top causes of death are, by and large, the consequences of little to no exercise and poor nutrition.
I was a real pioneer in this area since I was a fat kid. I was a fat kid back when very few kids were fat and that experience clearly marked me, effected my personality in many ways, and drilled into me an unwavering, and some might say, unhealthy addiction to regular exercise. Better eating came later.
I would dispute that my interest is an addiction, or that it’s unhealthy. In fact, I suspect my long term interest in fitness has sustained my health through many tough periods when I was restricted in my ability to eat like I should or exercise. Even in those times, I would walk. I would walk long distances, often at night, with no phone full of music. For years, it was just me and the night.
In better times, I have mostly lifted weights, doing the standard routines I learned as a teenager by reading muscle magazines. I’ve lifted hundreds of tons of weight by now in the form of bench presses and dead lifts and squats and shoulder presses and several other moves. I’ve done so much for so long, the moves are like tai-chi to me. I do them perfectly and they are a meditation.
More recent years have led me to yoga, which has been a revelation. Yoga has brought into my awareness parts of my body that the weights didn’t touch, like my hips, which are not flexible, and my balance, which could use improving. I do not do yoga moves perfectly, that’s for sure.
I’ve also integrated some of Crossfit in to my training, and now I never lift weights without a strong cardio angle built in.
Most recently, I’ve found a martial arts studio that I love, and there, on the mats, I’ve discovered new challenges, and new things about myself. At Revolution Dojo, I’ve discovered a way to channel the fitness in to something useful, like not getting choked out. Strength, flexibility, and cardio are all factors.
The question now is why. Surely, the walking alone still offers plenty of health benefits, and it’s cheaper and easier. All my furious activity takes time, it takes money, it takes enduring some pain, and it opens me to injury.
The answer is that it has built in to me a deep resolve. The activities have shown me that daily effort produces daily results. What I do has put me in charge of my destiny, insulated me from illness, but more than any of that, it has made in me a living credo to the idea that well-being comes from the inside. When I depart from this idea, I begin to falter, but the activity and the good food brings me back, and I’m whole again.
You can put an expensive suit over an unhealthy body and put them both in the corner office, but you aren’t fooling anyone. Under that cloth and authority is a system that will soon fail. On the way to failure, there will be destructive pain, lashing out, and blame.
My fitness and my knowledge of my own body is my competitive advantage everywhere I go. Nothing I’ve done has ever paid off so consistently and so handsomely.