Three Steps To Better Health: Part Three- Movement
"...we have life and move and exist..." Acts 17:28
Movement is fundamental to living things. Plants move to take advantage of sunlight and nutrients. Animals wriggle, squirm, crawl, run, jump, climb and migrate. Human babies are not content with the movement basics. They struggle like tiny superheroes to sit up, crawl, toddle, climb, and run. Young children, too, (although increasingly less so) explore their capacity to move, stretching the boundaries of locomotion as they wander their world.
Sadly, somewhere along the continuum to maturity, many humans lose their appreciation for the love of movement. They become desk or vehicle bound slaves to a torpid cultural norm; adults who can no longer squat curiously around an anthill or run as if all the joy of life were contained in their legs.
Why does movement often diminish as we grow older? There are a variety of reasons. Among them are: job, family, social or religious obligations, and the advent and popularity growth of sedentary recreational opportunities (Netflix, Blu-ray, Xbox, etc.). Added to these potential “movement killers” is a shameful cultural paradigm. Society tends to tell us that, after about the age when one obtains his drivers license, individual athletic movement is “weird”.
When I was a kid, it was considered perfectly normal for me to run, climb trees, and engage in other beneficial expressions of physical curiosity and delight. Exercise was fun! Now, unsound cultural taboos tell me that, as a 40 year old man, I am a weirdo if I do a handstand in my front yard, that if I am going to run, it should be done very seriously, with special clothing and shoes, and that climbing anything is dangerous. (More dangerous than stuffing my face with junk food and watching 5 hours per day of TV? I beg to differ!)
Exercise does not require special clothing or a membership to a large room full of strange contraptions than allow a person to run without going anywhere! What it does require is a willingness to let your inner kid out to play. Getting more functionally fit demands that you refuse to accede to the moronic notion that adults should remain seated at all times.
The third key to better health is better movement. Movement strengthens the muscles, lubricates the joints with synovial fluid, and improves mental well-being.
Rediscover how to do it!
Part one of this series discussed the importance of forming healthy habits. This concept can be applied to movement with excellent results. Here are a series of simple habits that can help you become stronger, healthier and slimmer:
- Every time you brush your teeth (at least twice a day, right?) do as many pushups as you can. Mentally connect toothbrushing with pushups. Benefit: stronger, leaner arms, shoulders, and core
- Every time you open the refrigerator, do as many bodyweight squats as you can. Refrigerator door makes you think of squatting. Benefit: stronger, leaner legs and hips
- Sprint to your mailbox everyday. Getting your mail becomes a running habit Benefit: improved metabolic conditioning, weight loss, explosive power
- Every time you turn on the television, drop to the floor and plank for as long as you can. It’s cheating and grossly wasteful to leave the TV on all day! Benefit: stronger, more muscular waist, belly, and chest
- Get yourself a set of gymnastic rings or a suspension trainer and learn to do basic bodyweight exercises at home. Everytime you go near your rings, do a set of inverted rows. Benefit: complete upper body development and beginnings of a home gym
Fitness is Free!
Exercise has become big business. A friend of mine recently lamented that he thought he’d never become strong and fit because he couldn’t afford to buy a popular high protein shake mix which costs $120 for one 2.5 lb plastic jar. He worried that without this supplement, he wouldn’t be able to intake sufficient protein to build muscle mass.
I pointed out that each serving of the powder, according to the manufacturer, provides 16g of protein for about $4 per serving and that he could get 28g of protein from eating a $1.49 can of tuna fish. Nutrition and exercise do not have to be expensive!
What has happened, however, is that people in the exercise business have realized that by “branding” something, they can make a lot of money. For example, one popular exercise program at the time of this writing is Insanity. Adhering to the exercise programs promoted by this corporate juggernaut can make you fitter, but not because there is any magic in the name or the expensive DVD’s.
It is the movement, the exercise, that makes a person strong, slender, fast, agile, etc. Insanity is essentially a branded version of a venerable movement modality called interval training. You do not need to buy $120 worth of DVD’s to engage in interval training.
The purpose of this article is not to bash any exercise program. If Crossfit, Zumba, Curves, P90X, or any other of the 1001 other branded exercise programs are working for you, have at it!
For those who don’t have or want to pay a lot of money, try some of the non-brand name, independent, free-range, radically countercultural ideas below.
- Tabata Thrusters– Get a tabata interval timer app for your smartphone. Iphone here, Android here. If you don’t have a smartphone, use the Gymboss or a partner with a stopwatch. Grab a dumbbell, kettlebell, block of wood, concrete block or watermelon. Hold it in front of you against your chest. For 20 seconds without stopping, do this: Squat down until your hamstrings touch your calves, keeping your feet flat on the ground. Stand up explosively at the same time thrusting your weight overhead to arms length. Pull the weight back down to your chest. When you have completed 20 seconds of exercise, you get 10 seconds of rest. Each interval totals 30 seconds. Do 8 intervals for a total of 4 minutes of movement. Leave a comment about how easy this was! The Tabata protocol was developed by a Japanese sports scientist training Olympic speed skaters. It will accelerate fat loss, forge unbelievable lung power, and make you sweat more than you thought possible in 4 minutes!
- Ladders– Pick an exercise. Get a partner. Pullups are my favorite for this one. Do 1 pullup. Your partner does 1 pullup while you rest. As soon as he finishes, do 2 pullups. Rest while your partner does 2. Then do 3 while he rests, etc. The idea is that you work your way up the ladder until it becomes a struggle, then start over. For instance, suppose you work your way up to 6 pullups (for a total ladder of 21 reps). Then , you would start over at 1 rep and work your way back up the ladder as far as you can. Try for 3-5 complete ladders. This is an excellent program to pack in more reps than you would normally be able to do because you have a steadily increasing rest period corresponding to the number of reps you are doing.
- Weighted Carries- Old fashioned and extremely effective, weighted carries build muscle, stamina, and grip strength. The concept is simply to carry something heavy. You could carry a heavy bucket full of sand or water in each arm hanging by your side (Farmers Walk), a heavy bag of sand on your shoulder, a heavy kettlebell in one hand hanging by your side (Suitcase Carry), a set of heavy kettlebells or dumbbells pressed out overhead (Waiter’s Walk), a heavy log cradled in front of you like a baby (Zercher Carry). In case you haven’t noticed, the key word is “heavy”. Weighted walks are fantastic for weight loss, core strengthening, and general injury resistance. For men, they also tend to pack on muscle mass.
For a very solid full body workout which will build strength, eliminate fat, and make you a better woman or man, link the above three exercises in reverse order. First, do 10 minutes of HEAVY weighted carries, then the pullup ladder program, and finish off with Tabata torture! It will take you less than a half an hour and can be done three times per week.
It’s All You
When all is uttered and accomplished (I hate hackneyed aphorisms), you have the authority over and ability to better your own health and wellness.
In this day and age, our Mind is assaulted with vile, idiotic and enervating input which seeks to mentally and intellectually geld us. Our Mouth is insulted by a plethora of pervertedly artificial products posing as food. Movement has become something that adults aren’t supposed to do except within the confines of a gym.
Such tyrannical folly must be resisted! Strengthen your mind by cultivating it. Read, explore, watch less TV. Put appropriate quantities of quality real food in your mouth. Get moving wherever you are regardless of your age!“All men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears.”- Rebecca West
Let your “drop of treason” prevent you from betraying yourself. Refuse to become a “sleepy pear” and instead choose to be strong, healthy and vitally active!