I’ve been ruminating heavily on a word we hear, and read more and more in this age of increasing complexity; sustainable. As the world changes, complexity increases and begets more complexity in all aspects of life, the idea of sustainability in anything seems less likely.
We see leadership in technology, government, and business using the term sustainability to support their ambitions, or to push their agenda. If one steps back, and takes a big picture look, the idea of sustainability becomes more an illusion than an outcome. George Harrison wasn’t the first, but he said it well in his song, All Things Must Pass.
Too often something we see as being sustainable comes with hidden costs that only become disclosed after the fact. This has everything do with our collective misunderstanding of cause and effect. The example I like to use when discussing unintended consequences is this:
In the late 1980s there was a huge push to end the use of disposable diapers. Science had proven that disposable diapers (like many plastics) would take hundreds of years to break down in our increasingly dense landfills. In the long-term, it would have a negative effect on our environment. So the push was on for parents to use reusable cloth diapers, and diaper services.
As this movement took hold, science took a closer look at the short-term impact of cloth diapers. There were harsh chemicals used in the cleaning of these diapers; chemicals which might enter water systems, and perhaps leave residue which might harm a baby’s skin. There were the effects of fossil fuels used in the transportation of those diaper services which entered our atmosphere.
All of the sudden, disposable diapers seemed to have a lesser impact on the environment than the reusable diapers. Still, there is that landfill issue. Also, what chemicals are used in the manufacturing of disposable diapers…?
Face it, either form of diaper is going to have a negative impact on the environment, and neither may be sustainable in the long-term. All things must pass.
Sustainability in fitness…
As in business, government, and technology, complexity in what we call fitness has increased as well. Trends have evolved, picked up momentum and become as sexy as the idea of cloth diapers. People get on board with these trends, and like cloth diapers, the trends take off.
Then, a little time passes, someone takes a closer look, observations are made, and the consequences of the trends become exposed.
· Excessive cardio (may) lead to increased appetite.
· Artificial sweeteners (may) disrupt the function of insulin.
· Weight loss surgeries (may) hold long-term digestive consequences.
· Weight loss drugs (always) have negative side effects.
· Hardcore exercise trends (may) lead to injury, overuse syndrome, and fatigue.
And so it goes. I guess we’re not so smart after all. All things must pa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ss.
Complete this form, please…
It had been nearly a year since I worked out in a public gym. In this instance, it was an LA Fitness in downtown Chicago. Within seconds of entering the facility I began to cringe. I saw every poor-form exercise stereotype imaginable – simultaneously. It was chaos in the flesh. I wanted to set myself on fire right there, either as an immediate escape, or to call attention to the problem, I’m not sure.
Despite the less-than-sustainable self-abuse I saw going on around me, I completed my strength training session, hopped on the StepMill for 30 minutes, and walked away feeling improved for my investment of time and effort.
I say this often,
“Exercise should make your life better, not worse.”
I felt like the only person in that gym who was connected to that ideal. The workout I did was challenging, yet safe and sustainable.
Among the primary tenets of my exercise philosophy is this:
The car with the most, and the hardest miles on it, will likely go to the junkyard first. Of course this is relative to the maintenance of the car, the fuel used, and the intelligence used to select the course. I believe, because I have seen, exercise performed without a logical and intelligent approach may do a body more harm than good, and may not be sustainable.
But there also comes into play this question: Is it about the length of the journey, or the enjoyment of the ride…? I want my own journey to be both long, and enjoyable.
Not a huge weight, but challenging, and sustainable
Rigorous exercise enhances my life for a variety of reasons. Above all, it clears my head, and provides me with a confidence not otherwise experienced. Though at times it can take a physical toll on me, and may have effects which won’t become disclosed for years to come, I believe my current workout scheme is sustainable in the long-term – at least until I’m in my 70s, and perhaps longer with a few modifications.
At the end of the day I know these are true:
- If I die from old age, I will not die with 6-pack abs.
- At 83, I will deadlift much less than I can today, but I will still deadlift.
- At 89, Full Beast Mode will mean that I won’t be using a walker.
- At 93, my triathlon might consist of undoing my belt, pulling down my diaper, and running to the bathroom simultaneously, that I might make it in time.
Straight up, a lot of trends I see in fitness and wellness these days may not be sustainable for the practitioner. Though I understand that sustainability may not even be a consideration for many, I’ll suggest that it become part of the conversation because we’re all getting older. Be well… rc
Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from local musician, Jacob Montague. Enjoy…
Learn more at http://jacobmontaguemusic.com/