When it comes to fitness there is no conflict between what’s good for us as individuals and what’s good for us as a species. The better we take care of ourselves the better things will be for others. When we have the strength, capacity, and desire to use muscle power rather than fossil-fuels, for example, we are contributing to the welfare of one and all. That’s why fitness represents such a planetary possibility. There’s really no telling the good we can do once we find the energy and the nerve to start.
At this point in our series on optimal wellness we have described the basics of both nutrition and fitness. In both cases we have gone back to basics, way back. All the way back to our Paleolithic roots. This was the age, extending from 2.6 million until about 10,000 years ago, when our bodies, minds, and spirits evolved into the marvelous creations as we know them today. All of modern civilization stands on the shoulders of that mysterious unfolding.
Optimal wellness, then, depends upon our ability to eat and live in accordance with that genetic heritage. The human organism, like all organisms, thrives when it is in a hospitable environment. Without bamboo shoots to eat, for example, pandas risk extinction. That’s why bamboo harvesting has led to such a dramatic decrease in the worldwide population of pandas that they are now an endangered species. When the food an organism has evolved to eat disappears, it’s not long before the organism disappears.
So, too, when it comes to fitness. When the activities an organism has evolved to do become constrained or even impossible, life itself is at stake. Global warming, for example, has impacted the activity patterns of Polar bears and seals such that they too are now endangered species in many ecosystems. As polar ice melts, changing the salinity of sea water, a wide variety of aquatic animals worldwide are having to move, adapt, or die.
Human beings are no different from pandas and Polar bears. If our nutritional or fitness requirements are not met, we suffer. If that goes on for too long, we die.
Unfortunately, the environmental changes of the past 10,000 years, and especially of the past 100 years, have gone against the grain when it comes to optimal wellness. Most of us no longer eat or live in accordance with our genetic heritage; as a result, we suffer from the “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression. These are not accidents of living longer; these are byproducts of living on foods and in ways that our bodies, minds, and spirits were never meant to eat or live.
The Optimal Wellness Prototype Click swings the pendulum back in the other direction. When it comes to both nutrition and fitness, we have encouraged you to eat and live like Stone Age people in the Space Age • recognizing full well that that takes a high degree of understanding, commitment, intentionality, and planning. Modern habitats and lifestyles no longer support Optimal Wellness; we have to make them so on our terms and in our own way.
Fortunately, that’s not impossible. For months, we described the principles of evolutionary nutrition as the basis for the input side of the Prototype Click. If we want to be free of the diseases of modern civilization, then we need to be free of the foods of modern civilization. The two go hand in hand. What are the foods of modern civilization? The answers may have surprised you. They include grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, conventional meats, and all processed foods. We described the problems with these foods, as well the healthy alternatives, in our series on Optimal Nutrition.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., at the University of Colorado is one of my mentors and guides when it comes to evolutionary nutrition. I would encourage you to visit his website, www.ThePaleoDiet.com, and to sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can read back issues of his newsletters, in PDF, by following this link. Dr. Cordain has identified seven universal principles of an evolutionarily correct diet:
- High Lean Protein Content (ideally from wild sources)
- Low Intake of Carbohydrates with a High Glycemic Index
- High Fiber Intake
- Moderate Intake of Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats with a balance of Omega 3 & 6 Fats
- High Potassium and Low Sodium Intakes
- High Intake of Fruits and Vegetables with Low-Moderate Glycemic Indices
- High Intake of Plant Phytochemicals, Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
After describing and incorporating these principles into our Optimal Wellness Prototype, with a few modifications, I went on to observe the paradox that the planet cannot support even its current population, let alone any increased population, on an evolutionarily correct diet. What’s good for the individual is not good for the species, and vice-versa (unless you take a long-term perspective).
I called this a Planetary Predicament in a Provision that was filled with dire statistics. I concluded with the following paragraph:
“So what’s a person to do? We can exercise the power of choice. Just as we can choose to eat healthy, organic, local foods without overeating, so can we choose to reproduce ourselves without overpopulation. Replacement-size families would enable the planet to gradually recalibrate without the pain and suffering associated with a mass extinction. That has already happened in many countries. It needs to happen everywhere in order for the planet to heal and to support a high quality of human life for one and all. As co-producers on the planet, it’s not too late and it’s not beyond us to make that happen.”
Fortunately, there’s no planetary predicament when it comes to evolutionary fitness. Whether you take a short-term or long-term perspective, the more we sleep, live, and exercise like our Paleolithic ancestors, the better off we will be both as individuals and as a species, both now and in the future. There is perfect complementarity when it comes to Stone Age and Space Age fitness requirements. The more we sleep, and the more we move our bodies with muscle power, the less fossil-fuel energy we consume. It’s both good for us and for the planet.
That’s the beautiful thing about optimal fitness: it’s good for one and all. Let me give you a personal example. The nearest post office and bank to my home / office is about 10 miles or 16 kilometers round-trip. I have reason to make that trip at least twice a week. In the course of a year, that equals about a thousand miles or 1,600 kilometers which, if I drive my car, translates into 40 gallons or 150 liters of gasoline.
All that gasoline is spared, of course, if I make the trip by cycling or running. And if every car on the road today were to consume 40 gallons or 150 liters of gasoline less per year, the energy crisis as well as the threat of global warming would both abate. So that’s what I do. As often as possible, I make the trip by cycling or running, rather than by automobile. It helps to keep both me and our planet fit.
In order for this to work, I obviously need to be in decent shape. You don’t just cycle or run 10 miles / 16 kilometers without training. So there’s a connection between my exercise regimen and my daily activities. The two support each other in mutually synergistic ways. By paying attention to aerobics, strength, flexibility, and balance in training, I open the door to new possibilities in life.
That’s what I love about optimal fitness: it’s good for so much and for so many. I’ll never forget the transition I made back in 1998 from being obese and sedentary to being thin and fit. So much more became possible, both for me and for others. Even though I was still living in the same place, it was a place transformed. As I became fit, I started hanging out in new places, like trails and the Metro Park System, discovering all kinds of pursuits and people that I never realized were out there.
What makes this possible is an evolutionarily correct lifestyle. Perhaps I could follow Dr. Cordain lead by identifying seven universal principles on the fitness side of the equation:
- High Sleep Patterns (ideally 8 or more hours per night plus naps)
- Low Intake of Stress with a High Pressure Index
- High Air Intake
- Moderate Personal Hygiene Routines
- High Exercise & Physical Activity Levels
- High Intake of Fun & Recreation
- High Intake of Engaging Work that contributes to the Well-Being of Others
Those principles underlie not only the Optimal Wellness Prototype but also the mission and purpose of LifeTrek Coaching International. It is how we seek to live and what we assist others to live through our coaching and consulting work. Whether you pick up the path through LifeTrek Provisions, or retain us professionally to work with you and/or your organization, you will see these principles poking through in all that we do.
Coaching Inquiries: Which of the seven universal fitness principles do you incorporate routinely into your daily life? Which ones would you like to develop more fully? What would increased fitness mean to your lifestyle? How could you make it so? Who could become your fitness buddy in the pursuit of both personal and planetary possibilities?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..
It’s funny, but I routinely enjoy the message of your signature, that we might be “filled with goodness, peace, and joy.” Your Provisions do that for me, and I am grateful. Thanks.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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