In my opinion, If you want to grow old but maintain an agile, stable and strong body, youthful skin and a sharp mind; you have to struggle a little bit. or “make an effort.” In a way its about creating stress, but just the right amount.
While we may be able to find happiness in extremes, it is fleeting. Sustainability of love, health, happiness or interest is usually found somewhere in the middle. I think we all know this yet we are attracted to extremes and so this is what is often sold to us. You don’t make money in the middle.
I think it is a mountain of youth rather than a fountain. The fountain idea suggests a passive way in obtaining or retaining our youth – the modern day idea being a pill or super food. The mountain can represent challenge. I think overcoming challenges, no matter how small, give rise to joy, appreciation and development of further motivation to seek out more challenges. The right amount of challenge keeps us engaged, allows us to momentarily forget the unwanted stressors of our days and in the end probably better prepares us for those very stressors that we were trying to escape from.
Finding Balance is an overused catch phrase that I don’t want to use but this is essentially the whole idea. Homeostasis is defined as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.” I like this phrasing – relatively stable equilibrium. It allows for moments of extremes or at least deviations from the middle. This is where the challenges exist. The occasional intense challenge is also important. Failure and perseverance are integral parts of human achievement and progress, but no one thrives in a state of constant failure.
I am not a fan of the trend towards extreme fitness, nor extreme diets (anything that eliminates foods completely – unless you are allergic to that food).
I just don’t think that overly complex movements, extreme loading, or long periods of high intensity exercise supports longevity. I do think that there is place for all of it in a training program, but I don’t think it should be the focus. All of these elements fit into the Glamour Training idea. Focusing on how you look or what kind of crazy movement you can do for instagram rather than what will keep you feeling young well into your old age will get you hurt. Stress is a killer and constantly loading your body with physical stress as well as psychological stress is probably going to age you. I do think that you need to exercise often. I also think that most of your workouts should be difficult but never to a point where you are compromising form. That said, push yourself and really make an effort to maintain proper posture. All the benefits come in the reps or seconds that your body and mind find challenging. If you always stop when it gets hard, you will never progress.
The same goes for foods. We have begun to try and identify ourselves by how we eat. I think this has happened because the “average person” or average diet is looked at as unhealthy and in order to separate ourselves from the “norm” we have radicalized nutrition. Only raw, only meat, no sugar, no animal products, all fat, etc.. Can we survive this way? Some can. Can we thrive? I would guess that some could, at least temporarily. But to extend life and optimize health throughout your entire life, I believe we need to come back to homeostasis. I am not saying we should eat processed food as a way to find balance but I am saying that longevity is almost never found at the end of a spectrum. So if your nutritionist wants to eliminate all sugars, including fruits so that you can lose weight..this is an unnecessary extreme to try and force metabolic change. When you force something, you tend to break it. If you eat too much processed sugar then that is challenging enough as it is. Lowering that is where you start.
The equation for health and physical fitness is simple and it always has been. Move more, eat whole foods, get quality sleep and reduce unwanted stress. The only thing I would add to increase well being is to seek struggle. Go challenge yourself, be it by getting to the gym, trying a new sport, learning an instrument, or a craft. Joy keeps people young and lasting joy seems to be found more often on the mountain rather than in the fountain. Unless its a chocolate fountain..