“Mens sana in corpore sano.” – Juvenal from Satire X
Since living in Guinea (West Africa) I could not help, as a coach and health guy, notice how many Guineans just naturally have bodies that we, in the West, seem to spend a great deal of money on trying to attain. Now there is a whole host of reasons for this. Diet, genetics, more genetics, and diet. But even with such admiration, the adults here fall prey to the same main issue we fall into. Lack of activity leads to a loss in flexibility, balance, and coordination. I made this discovery a couple weekends ago when I had the honour of being MC at the US Embassy’s inaugural “Fun-Olympics.” A day with some fun physical challenges (Burpies, Chinups, etc.) Which included both American staff as well as Guinean staff. Overall it was a huge success and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was a great way to build comradery between both nations who work at the Embassy as there has been some turn over in US staff; as there tends to be every couple of years in the Foreign Service.
So here is what I noticed which is like home. The kids here are generally very athletic, light on their feet and play a lot therefore exhibiting those key fitness components of balance, coordination, flexibility and to some extent power. As adults, we lose this and it happens here as well. During some of the events we had more than our share with the adults experiencing scrapes and bruises, falling, tripping, and face planting into the pavement with a couple hamstring pulls in the final race event. The solution is obvious in avoiding this from occurring and, the good news is, if you have lost it, you can get it back. Don’t stop being a kid! Really! We should be sprinting intermittently while on our walks. Even if others think were nuts. Horse playing in our homes or in the yards with or without the kids. Sports help in this, but it is not necessary. Dancing is great for this too. The point here is as adults we do have to grow up (I suppose,) and keep growing, learning and developing both intellectually and emotionally striving for wisdom. But when it comes to play… Don’t grow up. Keep playing! That is what will help keep your body young and in good condition allowing grace and functionality as we climb in years.
Along this train of thought, I was listening to a podcast featuring Arthur De Vany. He has a PhD in Economics, but is most famous for his “Evolutionary Fitness” approach to diet and exercise resulting in being one of the “Grandfathers” of the Paleo movement. His Power Law Training, which emphasizes HIIT and specifically targeting our fast twitch fibers is also moderate regarding diet focusing on a plant based diet. (Links to both the podcast and a short PDF will be below.) I gleamed a lot of wisdom from both and learned what he still does now as an 80-year-old that keeps him looking in good shape. He still plays Ultimate Frisbee during the week. It will be worth the time to listen to and read both.
He also happens to provide a great example of the “Greek Ideal.” I have been watching a lot of videos from the “SchoolofLife” YouTube channel created by Alain De Botton. He has a wealth of material worth listening to, one of them being, “History of Ideas – Ancient Greece.” The ten-minute video discusses 5 key ideas the ancient Greeks were known for, one of them being, the “Greek Ideal” which extended beyond the mere proportions for body building and beauty, but also responsible for the mantra/belief that “A healthy mind could only reside in a healthy body.”
Milo of Croton was a famous wrestler of the 6th century BC, but he was also an associate to the great Mathematician Pythagoras. In our times, there has been a real division of these ideas. Computer programmers generally being guilty of such poor posture they can barely keep their heads up. Athletes being dubbed “Jocks” who take “Basket Weaving” in College to keep their GPA’s high enough to be allowed to play. Even our public schools, despite an overwhelming amount of research proving its value, cut P.E. and after school sporting activities in the misguided belief both the time and money would be better spent raising math scores through more class time, etc.
Although we are very aware of the mantra and throughout history great thinkers and philosophers point to the importance of having a healthy mind in a healthy body. We are currently failing, on-the-whole, to put this into practice. So, to conclude I’ll simply say, don’t grow up.
History of Ideas – Ancient Greece