Excess is the Enemy of Nature: Report from the Field
“…Excess is the enemy of nature.” But athletes pay no attention to these or others of his wonderful sayings which they transgress., and their practices are in direct opposition to his doctrines of good health. Furthermore, the extreme conditioning of athletes is treacherous and variable, for there is no room for improvement and it cannot remain constant, and so the only way which remains is downhill. That’s their bodies are in good shape while they’re competing, but as soon as they retire from competition degeneration sets in. Some soon die, some live longer but do not reach old age.”
Galen, Exhortation for Medicine, circa 200 CE
I have always loved sports. I paid for my education throwing the discus and traveled the world after college through athletics. My friend, Mark Reifkind, makes a great point, echoed here in Galen’s quote, that the first step after a peak is a cliff.
“Degeneration” is obvious with some of my friends. Triceps and bicep tears, poor knees and backs and inevitable belly spread that comes from years of training and little moderation in diet. Sadly, their attempts to get “back in shape” tend to make them try to get ready for the World Cup or Combine again.
And, that just leads to more immoderation and issues.
A friend of mine, Maurice, just gave me a program that works wonders for people who are trying to turn things around. Now, I like insane challenges as much as the next, but if you are trying to turn the corner back to feeling good, his ideas make sense to me.
It comes in three steps, diet, exercise and reality. Don’t miss that third one! First, Maurice tried an old and dusty “Way of Eating” that I used to have my older athletes follow: Meat, leaves and berries. Basically, it is a diet of fish, fowl, eggs, meat and anything that “had eyes.” Avoid the lunchmeats for a while. Next, eat all the leafy veggies you can shove in your mouth. And, finally, eat the in-season fruits. For many of us, that is apples in the fall, citrus in the fall (I know, weird, but true) and the berries in the summer.
Maurice couldn’t follow this exactly and still had pizza with the kids. No matter: he still lost fourteen pounds the first month!
Next, each and every morning, he “jumped” out of bed and went for a 45 minute walk. Following that, he did 100 swings with a Kettlebell. The reps varied every days, but usually it came in around five sets of 20.
And, then he drank coffee with heavy cream, worked, lived and strives to be the best husband and father he can be every day.
That’s it. He continues to lose weight and feel better every day. It’s not the magic of the MLB diet or something in the 45 minutes walk or voodoo in the swings.
It’s the reality that turning your life around is more about taking the time, the steps (45 minutes worth!) every day to walk the walk back up the hill.
Don’t worry about getting to the peak and don’t try to worry about the details. As my college coach, Ralph Maughan, used to say: “Little and often over the long haul.”