The secret three letter word to optimal health

If you’re like me, you wolfed down more than your share of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans and beer last week for the 4th. So, here’s a quick post 4th of July overindulgence pop quiz… Which environment is more conducive to working off last week’s patriotic bacchanalia?


Or this…

(No, that’s not me… At least not yet. I need a couple more hours of practice.)

Let’s consider the gym option first: You’re at the office… Drowsy… Indigestion…Feeling like a slug… Planning to hit the gym after work. It has all of the pleasing aesthetics of an early industrial age assembly line. It’s crammed with exercise drones, almost all of whom ignore each other — most with earbuds jammed into their ears as they listen to their iPods… Others watching the video screens attached to their stair-steppers or treadmills as the talking heads on FOXMSNBCCNN yell at each other.

You wait in long lines for your chance at 30 minutes of repetitive and mind-numbingly boring “stationary” this-n-thatting… stepping, jogging, bicycling, pushing, pulling, lifting on contraptions that measure, flash, beep, take your heart rate, speed, distance, elevation while instantly squirking out your “progress”.  Some of the newer machines these days actually have video monitors that display an avatar of you jogging or cycling around some digitally-generated pastoral setting (a New England landscape or Southwestern U.S. canyon), just so you can imagine what it might be like were you actually outdoors.

When you’re done with your 30 minutes (unless you want to risk some serious stink-eye from the next industrial exerciser), you dutifully wipe down your assembly line machine with an antibiotic, antimicrobial, diaper wipe from the convenient dispensers strategically placed around the assembly line machines.

And for all of this, you’re locked into $50-75 per month contracts loaded with cancellation penalties and other nefarious fine print.

Is it any wonder we have an obesity problem? The modern industrial gym isn’t designed to optimize your health, it’s optimized to separate you from your money.

Now, let’s consider the latter option… We’ll call it “fun”. Surfing, running, biking, hiking, walking, playing.

Here’s a real life personal example: Over the fourth, we spent 7 enjoyable days at our friends’ house here.

A beautiful house on the side of a hillside overlooking a sweeping ocean bay. The house is 45 steps (I memorized the number) up the side of a brutally steep hillside. In other words, not what you’d call “convenient.” We lugged surfboards down each morning and cases of beer and groceries up at night. I had to run down the stairs with a big empty tank of propane and then back up the stairs with a full one. Up, down, down, up. Great exercise in an unbelievable beautiful place. Incidentally, the residents of the home are the picture of health — fit and trim — no doubt because of the daily hike up and down the stairs.

And the fun part? Here was a typical day: Two hours of surfing in the morning. Breakfast. Check email, make phone calls. Lunch of freshly caught fish. Another hour of surfing. Conference call with clients. An afternoon barbecue at a friends house, preceded by a 45 minute sea kayak excursion in a non-digitally generated REAL ocean, followed by another 1 1/2 hour kayak excursion in a mangrove swamp with a bottle of rum and 5 very rambunctious 8-10 year olds.

The next morning every muscle in my body was aching.

The point is this… Unless you’re a masochist, going to the gym is no fun. Sure, they can tart up the experience with lots of lights, gizmos and neat contraptions, but it’s nothing like exercising the way we were designed to exercise — running, leaping, swimming, jumping, playing a game of soccer, or even tag with the kids. In fact, the modern gym is a DISINCENTIVE to health precisely because it’s a great big drag. It’s just no fun.

The big secret to optimal health is a simple three-letter word: FUN. Add some fun to your fitness and believe me, you’ll get results.


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