“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”
Although not in any particular order, the third pillar of Primary Food (aka: Vitamin P) is physical activity. If you haven’t yet read the previous two blog posts about career and relationships, check ’em out now.
Physical Activity includes not just the type of fitness we build at the gym, but all types of daily movement, fresh air getting, or any other pursuit of a life less stagnant.
BLUF: find a form of movement you enjoy and do it regularly.
Even though I’ve been an athlete my whole life, I have had seasons when I have struggled to incorporate movement into my daily routine. I yo-yoed between pushing myself really hard for any number of weeks or months, then retreating to inactivity for days and weeks at a time. I didn’t feel healthy, but I didn’t know any other way either. My weight, mood, and mental acuity hit highs and lows that corresponded with what I was doing physically. It wasn’t until I shifted my perception of fitness from “exercise” to “movement” that my mind and body also shifted in a healthier direction in a much more consistent manner.
I do still train for very physically-oriented competitions like soccer, Australian Rules Football, and Gaelic Football, but I now recognize that daily activity of any kind will benefit me. So, for example, I walk my dog two to three times a day, I engage in a daily yoga practice, and I wear my little FitBit every day to encourage and remind myself to just roll with it. I do things I love to stay fit: snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, and more, and haven’t lifted a dumbell in months. Yet I’m leaner, fitter, and happier now than I have been in my entire life. My training regiments are now much more diverse and I don’t get injured several times a year like I used to.
Thus, I encourage you to strive to accept the rhythm of life. No need to achieve a type of balance associated with perfection; rather, keep in mind that some days you’ll train harder than others, and sometimes you need to just plain get outside and get moving regardless of what exactly it is you’re doing. You don’t always have to be “working out” for it to “count.” Just Roll With It is so much more than the title to my first book; it’s a daily mantra for me to remember to just roll, just move, and just keep going.
Let’s make this concept a little more salient for you, though. I had a client who used to be in the Special Forces. Since leaving the Army, every time he’d try to “get back in shape,” he’d go full-bore, run and lift hard for a few weeks, then get injured and spend twice as long after that little spurt of frenetic activity doing no exercise at all because he was hurt. Each one of those breaks, he would go longer and longer without activity, and every time he wanted to get back into “working out,” it was harder and harder to do so. It never really occurred to him to just ease his way back into things, or to still go for a short hike or something on the days he wasn’t following a prescribed work out.
Therefore, when we began working together, I encouraged him to just get moving again. I told him, “Keep it simple. Don’t even worry about running, lifting, or doing anything strenuous. We just want to start by adding movement and fresh air to your daily routine. We’ll progress as we go, and that will make this exercise regimen an actual lifestyle versus a sporadic inconsistency.” One month in, he felt great. Three months later, he’d lost 30 pounds and said he felt the best he had in years. He gradually added in jogging, yoga, and more vigorous hikes to his “just get out and move” goal, and now his longer term goal to run a Tough Mudder this year seems attainable. This is a lifestyle of wellness he can maintain.
Think back to your childhood for a moment. Imagine playing outside with friends. At dinnertime your mother, father, or older sibling would remind you, “Time to come in and eat.” “No mommy/daddy/annoying sibling, I’m not hungry yet,” you would respond. Eventually, you would be corralled indoors and forced to eat before you ran back outside to play again. At the end of the day, you would return home, exhausted, and go to sleep without thinking about food at all. When’s the last time that’s happened to you as an adult?
Find an activity you enjoy. Start there. Do it every day.