“Use no way as way. Use no limitation as limitation.” —Bruce Lee
The Earth 100,000 years ago might be hugely different from the Earth we live in now, but scientists conclude that the human genome remains unchanged. Our bodies are meant to move, hunt, cooperate and adapt to stress. Whether that stressor is coming from a stalking lion in the Savannah, or the daily traffic going to the office, our bodies have built in mechanisms to respond, adjust and move on. This is the process of adaptation and we humans are highly adaptable creatures. It’s how we get faster, stronger, smarter and better. We are very tough and durable and can almost figure a way around any obstacle.
As highly adaptable and intelligent as we are, we’re not so gifted with one thing–our physical strength. Humans are weak, literally. We can construct sophisticated weapons from spears to flamethrowers, split atoms and reach the moon, but compared to the beasts of the wild, the physical strength of the strongest athlete in the world is no match.
Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson won the Strong Man Classic title at the 2019 Arnold Sports Festival. He got a world record deadlift of 1,046 pounds. An average adult gorilla can easily lift 10 times its bodyweight, which approximates to 4,400 pounds.
Indeed, what keeps us on top of the food chain is our remarkable intelligence and our genius for making life easier. In order to survive our harsh environment, our powerful brains compensates for our weak bodies. We wove thick clothing and invented vitamins to upgrade our resilience. In the 16th century, it took Magellan three years to circumnavigate the globe. Today it only takes days. We need vegetables for our smoothies? No need for grocery shopping. Grab Food delivers right at our doorstep. Our modern lifestyles of comfort, speed and instant gratification is the epitome of our evolution. Our genius ultimately lead to how we are living today.
“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple” —C.W. Ceran
Unfortunately, as convenience and safety improve, the humam body declines. An easy life does not equal a better life. Because our brains can pretty much do all the work for us, we’ve become more inactive, lazy and entitled. Our Paleolithic ancestors did not suffer from obesity because movement kept them healthy. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that 41 million people die from chronic disease (a.k.a. lifestyle diseases) every year. That’s 70% of the world’s population suffering from highly preventable conditions.
That is why for me, it is necessary to seek out a challenge. It doesn’t have to be too extreme. Working out at home or simply going on a hike is more than enough to keep our bodies healthy. Your workouts do not have to be intense all the time. You don’t need to break personal records in every lift and you certainly don’t need a gold medal to start creating a positive impact in your life. Sometimes just getting active for even just for a short amount of time everyday can stimulate our bodies to become more healthy and resilient.
Paolo tries on the slippery Z Wall, a common obstacle in the Spartan Race.
In fact, according to Dr. Josh Axe, “Even if you just walk five to ten minutes a day, adding a fitness element to your lifestyle can increase endorphin levels, metabolism and balance hormones.” Overloading the body with a great challenge is important, but more important is knowing the right dose. Aim for smaller, achievable goals then nail those goals one step at a time.
Get Out, Get Dirty and Move!
Regularly exercising in the gym can be easy once you’ve already gotten the habit. Working out is one of the most effective ways to give the body and mind the challenge it needs to grow. But I’ve always believed that our bodies are meant to move beyond the four corners of the gym.
More than thinking creatures, we are natural hunters–always looking to get outside, get dirty and move. Deep within our reptilian brain, we have an itch to run like the wind, climb trees, jump off cliffs, dig holes, throw spears and just go full savage!
Team work and strategy is important. The Atlas carry never felt so easy!
Of course, that is not so easy to do in our modern society. Suppressing or being ignorant about this innate need is no good for our well-being either.
To achieve wellness, we need to release. We need to express what our bodies are made of and capable of. We literally need tear our muscles down to build them up. Renowned fitness trainer and biohacker Ben Greenfield tells us about the concept of “hormesis.” This principle states that what is bad for us in large doses is actually good for us in small doses. Take cold showers, for example. Being exposed to cold for a long time can lead to hypothermia, but a quick cold shower in the morning has shown to drastically improve the immune system. Also, studies show that the more muscles we carry in our bodies, the more we can burn fat and a lean, muscular body has a stronger immune system.
“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” —Mark Twain
Celebrate Your Body
Since 2013, I’ve enjoyed participating in all sorts of fitness challenges from fun runs, hiking, bike riding, obstacle course races and CrossFit competitions and attending fitness conferences to satisfy my hunger for an adventure. However, for a year, I’ve been in off season in competitive CrossFit, the sport I chose years ago to challenge my physical capacity. During my competitive hiatus, I stayed regular with my workouts and somewhat kept my conditioning. I was consistently building my fitness but over time, I felt a burning itch to express my fitness. My body was full of energy but had no means to express it. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to celebrate what my body is capable of.
Celebrate Your Life
Lo and behold, the Spartan Race in RD Hill, Cebu was upcoming in July. Without thinking twice, I eagerly signed up. The Spartan Race is a great way to unleash that competitive spirit, literally get dirty, taste the earth, conquer obstacles and just go primal. Plus, the venue was in a far away island, the perfect opportunity for a quick weekend vacation with friends.
Luck was on my side because the following month, my relatives invited me to do a mountain bike trail race, the Shimano Grand Challenge 2019, in Pampanga. Again, without hesitation, I easily said yes. It was the perfect adventure as we rode through sand rivers, mountain trails and speeding highways. It was a painful 4-hour ride but nothing beats shared struggle and good old family bonding.
During any tough endeavor, the real heroes are the people who go down and dirty with us. They make us hold on a little longer and give us perspective in their own unique way. They help us embrace obstacles, pedal harder and give us that second wind so we can go the distance.
If you’re a beginner and would want to join a fitness event, or simply be consistent in the gym, here’s an easy workout routine you can do to jump-start your physical conditioning.
5 minute walk (outside or on the treadmill)
20 Jumping Jacks
Rest :30 secs
20 Butt Kickers
Rest :30 secs
20 Plank Shoulder taps
Rest: 30 secs
Goblet Squat + Reverse Lunges
5 sets of 12
Rest 1:00 between
*Increase load each set as tolerated
Bike Intervals (outside or indoor cycling)
3 minutes Slow
2 minutes Moderate
1 minute Fast
*Rest no longer than 5 minutes after each round.
Walk for 5 to 10 minutes
Always start with a warm up to put your body from resting mode into active mode. It’s also a must-do to prevent injuries. If you’re not sure about your form and execution, don’t be shy to consult with a trainer. A reliable trainer should be able to not just teach you the exercise but also explain your progression and your fitness program. If you’re interested in being coached in person or online, I have special offers available. Feel free to send me and email or write a comment down below!
Our True Nature
We are created to create. We are born to move together. But let’s get real. Looking into our biology and history reveals that we have become sedentary strangers to our true nature. We are living longer but not healthier. We are adding years to our lives, but not life to our years. We can’t find meaning because we choose to put a blind eye on the bigger picture. Depression is a lack of direction and has become an epidemic today because people are believing in one thing while following another.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” —Mahatma Gandhi
Wellness comes from simplicity and detachment. The art of letting go and letting God. The ancient Chinese call this “Wu Wei” or “non-doing.” It may seem an invitation to laziness and apathy, but don’t get it wrong. This Daoist principle is not telling us to forego effort or be passive. Instead, it states that wellness is achieved through effortless action. In means being at peace, letting go of things you can’t control and being fully engaged in the things you can control. Elite athletes and masters of their craft call this “flow.” Going with the natural flow of nature makes life so much easier.
“The way never acts, yet nothing is left undone.” —Lao Tzu
Today, modern life is fast-paced, complicated and artificial. We have created so many shortcuts and hacks while exhausting our natural resources. We buy health products that are supposedly good for us wrapped in plastic bags that pollute the sea. We live in an age where we are infatuated with living forever but we fail to live in the moment. We cry for social justice, but have unjust rules for ourselves. We strive to grow our community, but fail to deepen our relationships.
We use exercise to punish ourselves for bingeing instead of celebrating what our bodies can do. We have an unhealthy relationship with food, labeling food as good or bad. We treat it as purely fuel and not nourishment. We eat while watching TV instead of gathering around a meal for warmth and healing.
“There is no such thing as junk food. There is junk. And there is food.” —Mark Hyman
Be Good to Yourself
Getting fit is no easy task. Loving ourselves is no easy task. At the end of the day we need to accept that we are both a masterpiece and a work in progress. The sooner we accept that we are not perfect, the sooner we can strive towards perfection. Finally, once we realize that we are meant for something greater than ourselves we can start accepting what we can and cannot do. If we can’t change the world, we can at least change ourselves and that can change the landscape of the future generation.
Real success is a triumph shared with dear people.
A wise person once told me, “You only have one body–you can choose to hate it for all its flaws and weaknesses or learn to love it for being yours by working towards making it stronger. We have to stop punishing ourselves for the things we can’t do, the things that make us human. We should start celebrating the things we can do and feel because we are alive and human.”