Fitness for a Full Life

One of the most interesting things that I have watched during the past several years has been the rise of the health and wellness industry. Grossing in the hundreds of billions of dollars, even during the recent recession, it is easily one of the juggernauts of our current economy. Several pundits have connected the baby boomer generation’s desire to stay young and enjoy a full and rich retirement to this segment of the economy. Whether or not that is true, a gentleman of style and substance does well to remember these five things regarding a lifestyle of health and fitness.

Your health is in your hands. While it is true that none of us can predict whether or not we will be afflicted with a significant disease such as a form of cancer or involved in a life changing accident, everything outside of that is in our control. What we eat, when we eat it, how frequently we exercise, all of these things are well within our immediate control. And each of these things has a dramatic impact on the quality of life that we live.

What we put in impacts how we look. By that, I mean far more than the obvious implications of how we look when wearing a bathing suit or how our favorite suit hangs on us. What we eat and drink also impact things like our skin, hair and nails. Just because a man is no longer in the throes of puberty doesn’t mean that his complexion is no longer impacted by the pizza he had earlier that week. And the liquids we choose impact our smile, our skin and our voices, all aspects of how we are perceived by the world around us.

With that in mind, let me say something about supplements. Supplements have been part of my life ever since I had my first Flintstones chewable vitamin when I was five years old. Chances are the same may be said for many of us. But in today’s world it is wise for us to remember that supplements are supposed to be an addition to food, not a replacement for food. Too many people seem to be adopting the idea that they can eat all the junk they want at mealtime and undo the damage with a pill or five later in the day. This just isn’t wise.

Select a supplement that compliments the way that you currently eat, but remember to keep your eating habits sensible in both content and quality.

Exercise impacts the way we think and feel. When we are moving regularly, our blood flows more freely through our veins and makes it to the brain more easily. Several studies have been performed that demonstrate a correlation between exercise and learning, but a man of substance need only conduct his own test to see the value. Before the big meeting, go for a short walk, and maybe even include some push ups or other standard exercise. See for yourself if that simple test doesn’t aid you in being more successful in the meeting. Additionally when you take the time to work out, you will find yourself feeling more calm and confident around your peers, to say nothing of how you feel when confronting challenging situations, like a friendly game of pickup basketball or a quick football scrimmage in the back yard.

Get some sleep. Few things impact every facet of our lives as much as the sleep we get. When we were young, we were constantly being reminded that bedtime was important, and that 8 hours of sleep were necessary for a successful day. As we grew older, a badge of manhood became a shrinking need for sleep. It was nit uncommon for my friends and I to try to see how little sleep we could get by on. My record was 3 hours for 8 days straight.

What a foolish plan.

Sleep is critical if we desire to thrive. It allows the body to recover from the exertions of the day. Current research indicates that during sleep our bodies secrete human growth hormone, essential to the repair of damaged tissue. Weightlifting and other workout regimens are focused on breaking down muscle so that it can be rebuilt larger and stronger. There is also a growing body of evidence that indicates that during sleep our brains construct new neural pathways, making events and information learned during the day more permanent. As part of a fitness regimen, don’t forget to factor in time for sleep.

Play! Most of the fitness plans that I have seen have emphasized the importance of selecting activities that you enjoy. For instance, if you really hate running, setting a goal of running a marathon may be a tad unwise. And while I totally agree with the advice of selecting something that you enjoy for your fitness activity, can I add one extra thought to it? Focus on play.

Activities that burn calories and involve others can easily be found. And what better others to involve than your children. Play catch in the back yard, set up some small nets for soccer goals, let them come with you for a run or a ride, whatever you like, but give some serious thought to consider adding your children to the mix. They will love spending time with you, develop habits and appreciations that may last well into their adult years and, most importantly of all, form connections with you that will become bridges for future involvement in their lives. After all, no matter how old we get, we all need Dad sometimes.

So there you go. Five things to think about when it comes to a lifetime of health and fitness. I hope you have enjoyed this, and I hope you will find ways to implement these suggestions I your life.

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The Road Trip

When our sons begin to grow into men, fathers come face to face with the enormity of the undertaking of being a father, along with how much we may have failed to prepare them for the challenges of being a man of substance. I know I have been feeling this, as I have been watching two of my boys turn 16 (yes, twins) and trying to find ways to help them make the transition to men in a modern world. I sedond guess myself, wondering if I should have put more emphasis on this or that, berating myself for the choices that I made (or didn’t make) and bemoaning the lost hours when they were little.

I can’t get them back.

I can’t hit rewind.

I won’t get a do-over.

But I can take a road trip!

Road trips are part and parcel of life in America. A car, some gas, a destination, and snacks, and you have the makings of an adventure worthy of a novel, or at least a post in an obscure blog.

My son and I took my 97 Sebring convertible (not a midlife crisis car, but fun, none-the-less) and filled it with gas and gummi worms and pretzels and headed for Vegas. No, I wasn’t planning that kind of trip! It just so happened that Vegas was hosting the NHRA event on this particular weekend, and my son and I are both into that kind of thing.

Before I say anything about the trip, it is important to remember that the point of a road trip is the adventure. Sure, we started with a loose plan, but the goal of the experience was just, well, going. We went. It was a blast!

It was not without challenges, including a break down, repairing a car in a parking lot of an auto parts store in North Las Vegas with a mobile mechanic who spoke no English. Sleep deprivation was part of the equation, as was sunburn on the first day and blizzard conditions on the drive back home.

The whole trip took less than 48 hours, but the memories will, I hope, live much longer.

During the road trip, we talked. We talked about cars, about faith, about family, about the beauty of the world around us and sometimes about nothing.

We took a few moments out of both of our busy lives and just hung out, being together, having a wonderful time.

I got a new patch for my jacket, he got signatures from racers on his hat, and we made memories that, I hope will last a lifetime.

Guys, you take time to do road trips with your buddies. Don’t forget to take time to do them with your sons. Because in those quiet moments, bonds are forged that become more powerful than time or distance.

We’re already planning the next road trip. . .

Dad, I crashed the car. . .

Recently my daughter has begun driving. And when she got her license, all kidding aside, I thought she was doing just fine. Speed control, check. Lane positioning, check. Turn indicator usage, check. Hey, when I was in the car with her, she seemed to be doing just fine. Better than fine even. So when she got her license, I let her go with a smile on my face, basking in the feeling of having done a fine job as a dad.

Then the phone rang.

The first time the phone rang, I handled it pretty well. The second time? Well, the second time, the phone didn’t ring. I just found the car parked in the driveway with the hood all munched and mangled. A hood, mind you, that was brand new, as a result of the repairs after the first call.

So what do we do? As dads, we want our children to know that we love them unconditionally. Additionally, most of us want them to not keep crunching cars. Not only are cars expensive, after all, to say nothing of insurance and repairs, but the more frequently our teen drivers are involved in accidents, the more their view of what it means to drive becomes colored by those events.

This is all on my mind, of course, because of the second crunch. What did I do?  I’ll tell you what I did in the hops that it will be of benefit to others out there, who either have yet to experience the call or who have done so in the past and wished they had done it a little different.

Keep in mind, I did these things only after I knew that she was okay.  Obviously, if your children are injured, everything else can wait.  In this case, she was fine (physically) so these steps made some sense.

Vent 

The firs thing that I did, when someone was finally home, was blow off steam.  Not at my daughter, mind you, that would have made things worse.  No, I blew off steam at my wife, at the other kids, at the cat, at my steering wheel, at friends I met a little later. . . basically at anyone except my daughter.

I needed to express the anger and frustration that I was feeling, but I needed to do it in a way that didn’t aggravate the damage that had already been done.  After all, my daughter was feeling bad about crunching the car.  She didn’t mean to do it, I knew that, getting angry at her would have made the situation worse.  But if I bottled up the anger, it would be like shaking up a soda.  It would go everywhere when I finally let the top off, which would be when I spoke with my daughter later on.

Assess the damage 

When I got a good look at the car, I started to go through all the parts of the vehicle that were damaged.  My wife phoned a friend of ours, and he came over and we started talking about possible solutions.  By this time, My daughter was home, and while we didn’t talk about what happened or how it could have been avoided or any of the other things that normally go into that type of situation, we did include her in the discussion of fixing the damage.  We started talking about options and challenges, and agreed that we would have to wait for a few days.  After all, visiting a junk yard for spare parts shouldn’t be done at night, regardless of what you see Hugh Jackman doing in a movie.

Debrief 

For those in the military, this word holds a lot of meaning.  For those not, let me explain what I mean.  A debrief is a chance to sit down and go through a series of events and see if there is anything that we can learn from the experience that will ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes again in the future.

We talked about being 100% present when we drive, about making sure that the most important thing is traveling safely.  We talked about speed control and how deceptive speed can be.  We talked about the hidden costs of driving and car ownership, and how this time she would be paying for the repairs pretty much on her own.

And we talked about it over JaMocha shakes from Arby’s.  After all, when you’re hurting, you need something to take away the hurt.

Sleep 

We went to bed with things unresolved.  This was perhaps the hardest part for me.  I don’t like to leave things undone.  I like to have things finished, if possible.  I like to have a plan, something to guide me when I wake up the next day.  But this time I just went to bed.  I slept on it.  And when I got up the next morning, we did a couple of things to ensure that the car could be driven until we could get the pieces to get it repaired.

Moving forward 

I think the best part of the entire process was the debrief.  Especially the part where I shared with her a time when I had a similar accident.  I hope she realized by my doing so how important it is to be present when driving, to ensure that nothing gets in the way of the act of driving.  Hopefully it also helped her figure out what she will need to know for the future, when I’m not able to be there, so that when she has to do it on her own, she can.

Well, that’s all for now.  I gotta go to a Pick and Pull and find a hood for a 2001 Sebring.