Sink or Swim

A phenomenon that is well known, and is repeatedly observed all over the world is the flow of money and resources to the top few, while the poor get poorer and more numerous.  So, if the rich class continues to grow, and the poor class continues to grow then the middle class must be shrinking.  I think that this same phenomenon is happening with respect to fitness.

The numbers don’t lie, obesity is at an all-time high and continues to rise, this has been well documented, accurate statistics kept, and we know this.  What we don’t yet “know” in the same way is what is the rest of the population doing?  I look around and see big box gyms popping up everywhere, and not just one brand name, a whole class of competitors.  Each one of these gyms has approximately 2500 members, 15 busy personal trainers, and group classes that are always full.  We’re in an economic down turn and these gyms are still opening new locations and being very successful.

In addition to big box gyms, there are whole others brands of fitness and fitness-related events that are new, popular and successful; Cross-Fit, Tough Mudder, and Colour Me Rad just to name a few.  Cross-Fit has branded the sport of fitness with their Cross-Fit Games.  To me these are all indicators that the fitness population is also growing.  So, if the obese population is growing and the fit population is growing then the middle population must be shrinking.

I once had a football coach point out to me that it is impossible to be 100% exactly the same from one day to the next.  That leaves you with two options, a little better or a little worse.  To ensure that you are getting a little better each day you need to work towards SMART goals.  If you can track your progress towards goals that are important to you then you can truly measure the fact that you are improving in one way or another every day, which is very motivational and self-perpetuating.  Find out what is important to you and work towards it relentlessly!


How Important Are You?

“[Man] sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”(Dhali Lama)  What does this mean to you?  To me it is nonsense.  Not the quote, this quote is dead accurate, but the fact that people will literally ignore their health for their whole life until they reach some breaking point then they are willing to trade every dollar to live even one more day.

This poor lifestyle has some very serious implications.  An individual living a life of poor health no matter how much money they throw at it near the end will live a shorter life.  They will live a life where at various time intervals they lose abilities.  At first they are minor abilities.  Some time in many people’s teen years they lose the ability to hold their own body weight with their grip, an ability most children display on the monkey bars.  In their 20’s they lose the ability to jump more than 12 inches off the ground.  In their 30’s they lose the ability to stand on one leg, do a push-up, and many people sadly reach mid-life at this point.

After the age of 40 the reaper may come disguised in many ways; a heart attack, cancer, diabetes, stroke, liver failure, and with the passing of each year some other ability is lost.  If death does not strike then it is not long before people are unable to climb stairs, go outside in the winter, or safely operate a motor vehicle.  The pattern of many people’s lives is a series of vague memories from age 0-4, school from 5-25, work until 60, retire, spend all their life savings clinging on to the last few years of painful, limited life, then die within a few years of retirement.  Life does not have to be this way.

For an increasingly large population of people their lives are quite the opposite.  From a young age these people are encouraged to eat properly, and they never stop playing as they did as a child.  The games get bigger and better, but the result is the same; mental and physical wellbeing throughout a long, happy life.

You see the ads all the time, 10 minutes per day…30 minutes three times per week…doctors recommend 30 minutes per day…etc.  The key, the special trick to a long, healthy life is simple.  It is eat right and exercise.  That’s it.  There is no quick fix, pill, supplement, diet, single piece of exercise equipment that beats it.  Nothing will reduce your medical bills by a larger margin.  Nothing will improve your quality of life by as much.  Nothing will cause you to retain abilities longer and at a higher level as simply a good diet and regular exercise.

There is also no need to make diet and exercise complicated.  Eat three fist sized portions of vegetables, with a fist and a half sized portion of protein a handful of some kind of carbohydrate like rice or something whole wheat.  For exercise, workout 5-6 days a week and alternate a day of cardio with a day of weight training.  This investment in exercise and good eating will add significant time and quality to your life.  That’s right, you won’t be adding 10 more years in a wheelchair or being feeble in any other way, you will literally add quality decades to your life!

I’d like to share a success story with you.  I trained a couple whose last visit to the gym was 20 years ago.  They both were suffering from arthritis and had lost several basic, ‘life-function ‘type abilities.  They knew it was time to address their situation and they did the right thing in seeking knowledgeable, professional help.  We weight trained together, and I gave them some basic cardio and dietary advice.  The changes they noticed were very substantial.

I’m going to refer to the guy as “X” and the girl as “Y” for privacy reasons.  X has osteoarthritis (most common) and he used to creak his way out of bed, limp down the stairs and was frustrated while preparing breakfast and other meals.  He loved cooking, but was limited in his ability to pair fruits and vegetables, he couldn’t do it in one fluid motion.  This may seem like a minor thing, but any time you aren’t very good at, or are limited in pursuing a true passion of yours it doesn’t make you feel very good.  The couple enjoyed a low-set Italian sofa that required a full body (arms and legs) maneuver to get up out of.

Y had a more severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, where the body’s immune system attacks its own joints causing deterioration, pain and loss of function.  She was seeing a rheumatologist who had her on pain killers and anti-arthritis medication.  Her condition was not improving.  She was in pain for very significant length of time every day.  She could barely move her wrists or ankles at all, her grip was getting weaker and hands less dextrous.  Her other joints were similar, maybe a year behind.

After 1 year of basic weight training, some cardio, and some positive dietary changes the improvement in their quality of life was so remarkable that it truly touched me and their story has really stuck with me.  I was amazed and surprised at how much positive change they had experienced.  X was springing out of bed, jogging downstairs, and happily pairing foods in one fell swoop.  Y was completely off pain killers, and had drastically reduced her dosage of arthritis medication!  Her rheumatologist was amazed at her progress (of course she attributed it to the medication) as it was very significant on scans and in tests.  She had the most function and least pain she’d experienced in 10 years!

They both were squatting up off that low Italian sofa using only their legs.  Their skin was better, their hair was better, their nails were better.  Their attitude was better, they were healthier and happier and had more function and ability than they had in a decade.  It brought them closer as a couple going through this process together, and reduced their stress which had a positive effect on their relationship.  They referred to lifting weights as the fountain of youth, and I believe them!

The total amount of energy in the Universe tends to move towards disorder, this is the general idea behind a scientific theory called Entropy.  On the small scale we see things get temporarily more organized all the time, seeds grow into trees, embryos grow into people, compounds get mixed and form buildings and other material things.  All things once created and grown-up begin falling apart.  All things last longer when you take care of them properly, from the start.  What is more important to you…than you?