Happy Fourth of July.
For those who had the day off and spent it being physically active, socially engaged, relaxing or even working, as I did, I hope you at least got something good from this special day. Being the 240th anniversary of US Independence Day – yes, many other countries have had their day of independence so we should recognize this is just that of the US of A’s – makes it a good time to reflect on what those years have brought us, and maybe the world.
Some of those things it brought us was ‘aerobics’ by Dr Ken Cooper in the early 1970s; Jane Fonda in the late 1970s; Billy Blanks in the late 1990s; and the internet.
Where am I going with this mish-mash of fitness-related BS?, you ask.
Today I was training a long-term client, friend, confidante, and, oh, did I mention wise friend? Kathryn Dettwiller, who gave me permission to use her name, is a local artist and wise but reluctant fitness enthusiast, to be generous. She is consistent with her training and diet but not over-the-top. She knows it’s good for her but has many other plates to spin in her life so fits this part into her day and week consistently but not obsessively.
So we were discussing her art endeavors and she used a phrase she has used in the past about the creative process: composting. That is, with a ‘t’, not as in composing, but actually composting – where you toss in many ideas, occasionally mix them up, and – Voila! – something good comes out of it.
To Kathryn I am attributing this discussion of composting exercise.
So the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the US Preventive Task Force, the US Surgeon General, and all other kinds of organizations lay out their every-so-often guidelines for better health through better living. And each time they do, they endeavor to explain, using the latest research and opinions of experts, the benefits of doing this or that, eating this or that, or not doing or eating this or that.
But each time, it just gets more confusing for the lay public…and subsequently few read those directives and fewer care. “What’s the bottom line”, everyone wants to know, from their doctor, their coach, their trainer, their friend, or the worst source, the media.
So Kathryn’s idea said it all to me. Compost your fitness.
It’s a pretty simple idea – throw in a few of this and a little of that and maybe more of whatever and – Voila! – you’ll be fit.
This is anathema to those trainers who hold fast to a particular modality – running is best!, or dietitians who hold fast to a particular diet – hi protein/low carbs, or a particular way of training – HIT, anyone? For commercial success depends, it seems, on filtering, sifting, titrating all ideas and concepts to the simplest, maybe dumbest but for sure most dumbed down, ideas one can market for one’s personal benefits, usually money.
So to read from an degreed exercise physiologist with now 30 years of experience as a personal trainer that there’s not only no one way and that composting may be the best way may require more massaging in order to accept.
Here’s the simplest version of that idea: some cardio, some strength exercise, some stretching, and some moderation of diet will lead to a longer, more fruitful, less diseased, less injury-prone, and maybe even happier life. Pick and choose, stir occasionally just to mix things up, don’t just toss in veggies and think you’ve covered your wellness needs. A good, productive compost heap requires some TLC but mostly it requires a good base, some heat and some moisture. It may not look good on the surface but your garden, your life will love it.
It is why I try to avoid absolutes: because no one way works for everyone every time all the time. But keeping in mind that compost, even if you occasionally throw in some s..t, will ultimately devolve into the basics of life, the fertilizer that transports nutrients that make life possible.
And while it, in and of itself, won’t solve all your problems, will at least absolve you of life’s greatest problem: how to live in a complex world of interconnectedness and mystery. Compost your exercise and nutrition strategies, and get out and enjoy your day.