We’re f#cked

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:

cause and effect logo

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.

Pulley logic… 

 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

Sustainability revisited…

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…

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19 responses

  1. As usual, a very down to earth and practical point of view. Just one question, if you’re wearing a diaper…who cares if you make it to the bathroom? Oh, and the musuc is superb. 😉

  2. Roy, you know that I’ve been dealing with injuries lately and thinking hard about the idea of sustainability of continuing to teach the classes that I’ve been teaching for years.

    I think that ‘sustainable’ changes over time. Although I know that sounds contradictory, I feel like we need to think of our lives in stages; long periods of time over which a particular form and intensity of activity is sustainable.

    Once the next period of time arrives, what’s sustainable may look a little different (although I hope that for me, it doesn’t eventually involve a diaper…). What’s important is to recognize when it’s time to move from one sustainable point to another and do so with self-compassion and appreciation for all that we’re stay capable of doing!

    Long comment (nearly a blog post in and of itself), but love that you made me put these words to paper! ~ Tamara

    • Excellent thoughts Tamara, thank you very much. “Sustainable changes over time”. Love that, and yest it does, and it will for me too. This is great food for thought on a follow-up to this one.

      As always, your opinion means much to me…

  3. Great thoughts here Roy!! I love Tamara’s comment! Yes, I have found how I work differently over time & with aging….. Like you Roy, I am all about being able to do this for as long as I can – I don’t care if the weight is heavy or not as long as my form is right & I get some results & I know that I can come back tomorrow & do it again. This is why I have made choices not to do certain exercises & challenges & other things as I age. I see some crazy shit out there & I can say is who cares if you can lift 2 reps at that heavy ole weight if it does not do something for you long term or you hurt yourself… I also see a ton of runners doing damage but will not step back to rest or even cross train…

  4. Great post, as usual. I like the form of ability to sustain. When you stated: 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——I have yet to find that with exercise but my writing and my art is what gives me that….Clearing my head, finding some confidence provides the avenues to walk or ride a bike or play on my Wii…and lift my mini hand weights.
    I hope that one day that will change for me but in this moment…this is what is my ability to sustain…..and that is better than bad form or pushing beyond my abilities in pursuit of “looking good”

    • Well Jules, someday maybe you can make the roadie down here for a fitness mini-camp. Seriously, could be life changing.

      As far as the writing thing goes, increasingly that helps clear my head too, but not quite like challenging BUT ACHIEVABLE EXERCISE 🙂

  5. I like the way you put it…sustain-ability…that’s what exercise helps you do. I think of my older sister who died four years ago at age sixty. No one knows for certain why. An autopsy was inconclusive. She was, however, overweight, did no exercise, and hadn’t been to a doctor since her last child was born, I’m sure. Though the store she & her husband owned & operated together was comfortably within walking distance of their home, she would not walk to work. I’m sure her habits had a role to play in her death. I don’t want that to happen to me. I’m coming to that age in just a short while. I hope that the things I do to sustain my ability will carry me past that and into a healthy state from which to enjoy my “golden years”.

  6. Lots of common sense and wisdom here. 🙂

    Your sheep remind me of the ones I “became friends with” in Stonehenge, once. So cute. And yes, they all follow each other.

    Sustainability is my latest fad in fitness. My personal trainer has pushed me out of the nest for me to fly on my own, and this is something I think about every day: what level of fitness/healthy eating is sustainable for me in the long run?

    Love the music!

  7. This is exactly what I talk about as well. I see people who are literally hurting themselves trying to do exercises beyond their ability or running before they are physically ready in an attempt to shed pounds or get fit more quickly.

    I am all about sustainability because just temporarily losing weight or achieving a fitness level without being able to maintain it is fruitless and frustrating.

  8. Pingback: Smooth Pavement… | Contemplative Fitness

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