Health Journey

How Inertia prevents us from feeling better and being more physically active, but can also be weaponized to help us have more energy, feel better, look better and THRIVE!

When the Dalai Lama was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present”.  

In the united states 60% of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions. Prevalence of overweight and obesity has tripled since 1975.  Today 65% of U.S. adults, and 33% of children are considered overweight or obese.  Almost half the adult population is trying to lose weight, and more people are in the process of dieting than at any time in our history, yet obesity is at epidemic proportions. Check out the infographic below comparing obesity in US adults between 2011 and 2021. 

So what is the issue? 

Not only are we less healthy as we age, but we are becoming less healthy at younger ages.  What is the real problem causing the deterioration of health in this country, and how can we shift our mindset to address this cause.  How can we prevent illness in the first place, because our healthcare system is really a sickcare system.  We hear over and over again that diet and exercise help prevent cancer, heart disease, mental illness, depression, obesity, and all sorts of other ailments.  Yet when we use words like diet and exercise we subconsciously think negative thoughts such as calorie restriction, or some slog to a gym for a boring, exhausting, time consuming workout.  We are doing chores.  It is this mindset that dissuades us from committing to and embracing healthy habits because they have become chore like activities.  It’s far easier to have a doctor prescribe us a pill and send us on our way.  Yet those pills come with tons of side effects, cost money, and simply help us survive not THRIVE.  What if we could find a way to embrace our health, and respect our bodies with the proper care they need, to help fulfill our potential and increase our quality of life. 

How I got stuck in the negative health vortex and created negative inertia:

As a young baseball player, it was always my dream to play in the big leagues.  I started working out in high school to help me compete with the better athletes. I started learning how to eat better to complement all the time in the gym.  In college I realized that I wasn’t going to make it to the big leagues as a player, but thought that I could perhaps use my passion for human performance to help others get there.  I changed my major to exercise science and began the journey that eventually led to me getting to the big leagues as a strength and conditioning coach.  I remember the day I landed my dream job after almost 2 decades of working towards that goal.  I was married, had a one month old newborn, and the job was in a place where we had no family or friends.  As a family we decided to embrace the challenge and in the middle of winter we moved from Florida to Milwaukee, and I immediately dove into work.  After a month in a new place with no friends or family, I left my wife and newborn for 6 weeks to go to Arizona for spring training.  Again, I dove into work, putting in 10-12hrs a day.  This went on for the rest of the season. I didn’t want to ruin this opportunity and I put everything I had into making sure I didn’t let the team or this once in a lifetime chance fail.  I’d be home for a week and then go back on the road traveling with the team.  We made the playoffs that year for only the second time in roughly 30 years, and were 2 games away from the World Series when we were eliminated.  After the season it was finally time to regroup and have some family time.  But I kept working, wanting to get a leg up on the next season.  By the time the following year came around I had put on 20lbs (and not in a good way), and my energy levels had slowly started to decline.  I had sacrificed my health for my job.  

One small push can cause an avalanche:

The following season was no different.  I’d work 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week (there are very few off days in baseball).  I’d get home and wouldn’t have the same energy for my family, and just started going through the motions- I was surviving, not thriving.  I knew better, yet still fell into the trap that a lot of us do as we prioritize our career over our own health.  I stopped exercising (and I was a Strength and Conditioning Coach for a professional baseball team!), disregarded healthy eating, and allowed myself to get caught up in some of the finer things that came along with the Job.  That next offseason I had a 2yr old to take care of with another one on the way. During that offseason we were moving from our condo into a house and I was huffing and puffing moving a couch with my buddy.   He commented, in the way friends do, how hard I was breathing and as a strength coach shouldn’t I be in better shape (he wasn’t breathing hard at all). I realized right there, that if I didn’t make some changes to how I cared for myself I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with work or family in a meaningful way. Plus, I felt like crap.  

It’s never easy getting into shape at the start.  The chains of habits are always too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.  Inertia works against us- the tendency to remain unchanged is a fundamental law of physics.  Couple that with the bodies natural survival mechanism to conserve energy and those chains are strong.  The good news is that once you turn that inertia into movement, you create momentum, and that momentum can keep you going.  After a time, you start to feel better, and you look forward to what used to take a tremendous amount of energy to do.  It becomes a habit instead of a chore.  

My inertia was disrupted by a tiny little push from my friend.  I had just a tiny bit of positive movement to help slowly get the ball rolling.  I also had a large foundation of knowledge to help me take advantage of that tiny bit of movement.  I realize that most people don’t, which is why I recommend utilizing someone to help you as you get started to help make the process more efficient, and give you little pushes if momentum slows down.   Another thing that helped me was that my goal was to feel better, and by feeling better I would be able to keep going.  Too often we either take on too much at once which breaks us down, or restrict ourselves so much that we feel so deprived that we are compounding what we are trying to escape.  

I wanted to feel better, but knew I had to set systematic goals, otherwise I’d end up burning out or getting injured- I wasn’t going to be able to pick up where I had been when I was in peak shape.  So I set a goal of riding my bike 2X per week for 30min during spring training.  The previous couple of years I was so exhausted from the 10hr days I said I’d just start when the season began, and then find more excuses when the season started.  But as I looked for ways to accomplish the goal, I realized that there were a couple days a week that maybe I wasn’t so exhausted. Here it wasn’t only the goal that was important, but how to accomplish the goal- and with a little thought, found out ways to overcome challenges that had prevented me from starting in the past.  And those challenges weren’t as big of a barrier as I made them out to be. Sundays for example were always a later arrival day- Sunday Funday it’s called in baseball.  So, on those days I got up at my normal time and did my ride before work.  Then there were times during the week where I would get home a little earlier due to a shorter game or practice, which provided another day to get the ride in.  At the end of spring training I didn’t meet my goal every week, but still had a little positive momentum going into the season.  

Success is rarely a straight and without obstacles:

When season started our first series was in Chicago.  There is a real nice bike path along the lake, so I was ready to keep things going.  My goal was to do a ride on day 1 of every series (a series could be anywhere from 2-4 days against a team). Only problem was, Chicago in early April is not the best bike riding weather.  Plus, we just came from Arizona where it was 2 hrs earlier.  So that first morning I woke up tired, and as I set out on my ride, freezing.  I think I did like 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back, hating every second of it.  I didn’t ride again in cold weather (I know, take my man card)- I lost some momentum.  After a couple weeks I realized I needed an alternative to the bike ride in case it was raining, cold, or I couldn’t get it in for some reason.  I decided I would do the elliptical for 20minutes at the hotel or in the weight room at the stadium.   When I did this, I realized I was able to get my workouts in at home as well because I had been skipping the bike rides to help take care of the kids.  So now I had a couple tools in my toolkit to work from.  As the season progressed and weather got nicer, my rides got longer, and I really started to notice a difference in how I felt- plus it felt good to be outside breathing fresh air.  It was way easier now to get the rides in- I would look forward to them and started riding 3-4X week.  However, what started happening (and I am educated to notice these things) is that with the increased riding, my low back was starting to hurt.  Just a little at first but was slowly getting worse.  Being in that riding position for longer periods of time was putting a strain on my low back.  The longer, or more I rode, the more I felt it.  Now if I hadn’t had the skillset to understand what was happening this could have been a huge limiting factor.  I would plateau and potentially lose my momentum.    After all, maybe I’m getting older, and my body just can’t take it anymore.  Yes and no.  What was happening was the longer periods on the saddle of the bike were causing my hip flexors and one of my hamstring muscles to shorten.  This was causing my pelvis to anteriorly rotate and put pressure on my back.  So I needed to stretch those muscles out, and strengthen a few others.  I needed to tweak my routine based on the added miles and time I was spending on the bike.  That year I went from a very exhausted 20-30 minutes of bike riding 2X week, to 60-90minutes of bike riding 4X week.  By the end of the season, I craved those rides for how they helped energize my body and clear my head. I also dropped a lot of weight, but was a side effect of my physical activity.  There were other tweaks I had to make to ensure I could handle that load, like cleaning up my pre ride nutrition and tweaking my nighttime routine to sleep better.  But it all started with setting a low hanging fruit goal that snowballed into other habits.  It’s why the best thing we can do is to just start.  Break that negative inertia and turn it into positive inertia, even it’s just so subtle.  

Building on the foundation and how a ceiling becomes a floor:

That following offseason, I added a couple more things to my health tool belt- yoga and swimming.  Because of the low back experience, I took up Yoga.  I had heard so many great things about yoga not just from stretching, but mind body connection, to mobility, to stress relief that I really wanted to give it a try.  After all it’s gotta be the oldest form of physical activity for a reason. Again, I set a goal of 2X week.  And let me tell you it sucked in the beginning.  It’s amazing how much your body fights itself when doing something new- especially as unique as yoga.  Even training baseball players- they can dominate weights and plyometrics, but you take them through some yoga flows, and they are sweating more than if they did a 20 minute run.  But once you learn how to connect your mind, body, and breath with the movements it’s a game changer and one that really helps your body feel years younger.  I found yoga also helped me become more connected to my body, allowing me to recognize and soften mental stress.  Once I overcame that initial learning curve, it was much easier, even if I missed a week here or there- my ceiling had now become the floor.  

I took up swimming because every year I would go back home to Santa Barbara for Christmas.  One of my favorite hobbies is surfing, and when you live in the Midwest you just don’t do it- so when I’d go home I was only able to surf if the waves were small.  Otherwise, I wasn’t in good enough shape to handle the paddling or hold downs required in bigger waves.  Well, when I started swimming, I was only able to do one lap.  I’d go from one side to the other and need to rest for 90 seconds.  Pathetic.  Eventually I worked my way up to 2 laps, then 3.  I never made it farther than 3 laps that offseason- although I did shorten the rest periods.  I’d do those 6 times for a total of 18 laps.  That was 8 years ago.  I can happily say I am now up to 70 laps which is a mile.  Adding swimming also required some tweaks to my routine as the lats get a lot of work in swimming and they started to pull on back and creating some discomfort.  So I used some of the things I learned from yoga, and would spend 15minutes after each swim loosening things up, and getting my body back into alignment.  

Free 30 day challenge to help give you that positive inertia:

Coming up on 50 I would be in a much different place right now if I hadn’t reinvested in taking care of myself. I admit I have a large advantage over most in that my knowledge base allowed me to adjust and not get stuck falling down rabbit holes of health trends that may derail or slow others down.  The biggest thing was to just get started.  Break that negative inertia, set small realistic goals to get momentum going, and understand that you need to honor your body by taking care of it or it will break down- current state of health in this country is proof of that.  You don’t need to exercise and diet to be successful- but you do need physical activity, and proper nutrition to make sure your body works optimally for you.  Physical activity can be anything from a walk to mowing the lawn.  It doesn’t have to be in a gym- in fact it’s probably better to find fun stuff to do that involves moving that’s not in a gym. There’s a lot of research coming out now identifying the benefits of nature on physical and mental health. And nutrition should be about learning what foods are healthy that you like, so you’re putting things in your mouth that nourish your body.   Not starving yourself from foods that are designed to be addictive and are horrible for you.  The crazy thing about all this is, if you work on the skill of taking care of your body in a reasonable progression, you won’t only feel much better, but you will look much better.  The weight loss and muscles are a side affect of taking care of your body.  Our current methods of trying to look better through the chore of exercise and restrictions of dieting are clearly not working, and only have the side effect of making you feel worse.  There is no possibility of long-term success because you are treating symptoms not causes- the causes being mindset.  

Here’s the thing, and this is important: Taking care of ourselves is a skill.  Most of us don’t learn it for many reasons- focused on work, society focuses on not being sick rather than being healthy, our idea of health is so watered down that we have no concept of how good we can feel, our idea of health is represented by six packs and bodybuilder physiques that seem unobtainable, multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns of unhealthy food companies, no clue where to start, etc…..  But we’ll never learn this skill if we don’t get started.

The way we need to approach looking and feeling better is how can I learn to take care of myself so I can be healthier longer. As I start to feel better, that acts as positive reinforcement, instead of the deprived or beat up feeling we have when we turn to the traditional model of gym and diets.  If we approach the situation with this mindset, we understand that our slips and slides are lessons rather than failures.  Perhaps most importantly, if we approach caring for ourselves and our bodies, the same way we approach learning any other new skill, we would treat ourselves much more kindly along the way. 

Getting healthy is a learning process. Most people don’t get it on the first (or second, or third, or even fourth) try. The important thing is to keep practicing, to keep learning, to keep trying, and before you know it, you’ll have enough small habits that you found work for you, that they’ll add up to a much healthier lifestyle, almost without realizing it. You’ll have a huge amount of inertia.

Keep practicing, my friends, and be patient with yourselves. It takes time to get it right. But living healthy in an unhealthy society is an art worth the practice. This is your life. You don’t have to simply survive, you can THRIVE!! 

Help overcome your inertia, create some momentum, and be on your way to living better by signing up for this free 30 day challenge.  A month from now you’ll be on your way, and if you feel like you want some help to make sure you keep the inertia going, feel free to reach out, I’d love to be part of the process as you transform your life.