Work or work out?

Ages ago, I developed a hypothesis that I wanted my work to be my work out. At the time, it was a wrongheaded attempt to ignore the fact I was doing neither, but it turns out I also wasn’t completely wrong about the notion.

As part of my effort to improve my health, I have been researching, learning about, and engaging in the idea of natural movement, especially as it pertains to the fact that, even when we work out, we’re often incredibly sedentary in the intervening time, effectively undermining some of the best benefits of our work outs.

Now, I grant, it’s nearly impossible for us moderns to return to our hunter-gatherer roots, but I think we can make specific changes to how we approach physical activity that allow us to utilize some of their genetics we inevitably carry.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made pursuing that goal is to make sure I eat after I engage in physical activity. In short, I work out first, then I eat. It turns out, that’s the pattern our bodies are designed to follow rather than the bell schedule three meals a day. In fact, that’s where exercise “hangry” comes from, and we would do well to listen to it.

The second thing I have changed is how I exercise. I walk a lot, but I have made my walking less structured and more free-form. I sometimes carry awkward things. I have the benefit of having a 185 acre farm with few dedicated paths, so I force myself to walk in the unimproved areas to get the benefit of climbing and having to work my way through.

The result of these changes is that I am working my body more the way it expects to be worked, thereby increasing my overall fitness.

My goal from here is to increase the amount of manual labor I do on the farm, meaning that I intend to forgo the use of labor saving tools when it is possible and safe in favor of doing the work by hand. This labor follows the same pattern as the rest, and I expect it to magnify the results I am already achieving.

In the end, the answer of work or work out is yes, do both. Do as much as you can. Get up and move around often. Lift and carry heavy things. Eat when your body says it’s hungry. Sleep when it says it’s tired. The benefit is there. Pursue it.

DLH

Movement vs Exercise

A long time ago, I started getting fat and it started getting me in trouble with my job in the Air Force (Air National Guard). At the time, I adopted an exercise routine that, despite what some people believed, was quite focused and rigorous. There was a point where I was walking several miles a day for months. During that time, I lost maybe five pounds but ended up gaining dozes over the long run.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that adopting a sleeping habit that actually fits me and adjusting my diet to fit my metabolism and nutrition needs has paid huge dividends, but one of the most important changes I have made is to stop exercising and start moving.

What do I mean by that? Well, I still walk a lot, but what I’ve discovered is that the things I am doing that I can feel almost every time I do them are not exercise in the classical sense. I do body weight squats, modified push-ups, simple getting up and down off the floor, Tai Chi, and Yoga, and I am convinced that these activities help me as much as all the walking I do put together.

And the fact is that the science supports that it is our lack of general movement over aerobic calorie burning that has gotten us all into trouble. One of the reasons that exercise programs like CrossFit end up being so effective is because they so often focus on movement over other kinds of things.

So, my challenge to you is to just get up and move. Don’t worry about duration so much as frequency, and make it movements you don’t already do. Try it for a couple of weeks, and see how you feel. I’m convinced you’ll thank me for it.

DLH

2018 goes out a lot better than it came in

With the year drawing to a close, I would be remiss if I did not revisit where I find myself now after the past couple–and really the past few–years of illness and struggle.

One of the most important health changes I have ever experienced happened in the form of starting a mild anti-depressant at the end of September. The changed I experienced upon beginning that medication is real and enduring and has enabled nearly everything else that has happened since then.

The biggest subsequent change has been to dedicate myself to a series of dietary and exercise changes in the hope of wrestling my life back from my health. I have virtually given up process sugars, modern grains, and processed foods. I have begun an intermittent fasting regimen. I have starting moving more than I have in years.

Specifically, I am walking and using a bike trainer, and plan to start running and attending a yoga class after the first of the year. If those efforts go well, I plan to start trail hiking and purchase an e-bike for longer-distance rides sometime in the next year.

I have begun using light therapy as part of a daily program that involves waking up using light instead of sound and also using a therapy panel as part of my daily routine. The effect this has had on my mood and energy level cannot be understated.

Perhaps most importantly, I am confident that I can do the things I plan for the first time in a really long time. I am hopeful for the new year, and those are strange words coming out of my mouth.

More will follow.

DLH

Natural motion

One of the ways I am increasing my daily activity is by using a concept called natural movement exercises. You can research the internet on the topic, but basically put, the process involves repeated sets of transitional actions like getting up from laying on the floor, standing up from a chair, and the like.

You might think these would be easy exercises and wonder what the point is, but if you’re at all out of shape, you’re likely to discover they’re not easy at all and are going to be the first step toward fixing the problem.

I have started a routine wherein I do about five minutes of these exercises every hour (I use a timer on my phone to keep me honest). My goto exercises are getting up from a laying position on the floor, crouching and standing, and walking up and down my stairs. The number of repetitions I do varies depending on my stamina at the time.

I can already tell the difference in the fact I am doing them in two particular ways: first, I am more mentally alert that I would otherwise be, and second, my back does not hurt as much as it normally does.

Granted, these kinds of exercises are not a replacement for dedicated exercise like walking, but throughout the course of the day, they help teach my body to be more active and, therefore, to use energy better. In the long run, especially as I am more able to do other kinds of exercise, these activities will help promote overall health.

DLH