There is a single possession that you will have from birth to death. Something that you cannot leave behind and will always follow you. The way you take care of this thing will also have an effect on everything else that takes place during your life. I am, of course, referring to your body.
Considering the importance of this marvelous machinery that has evolved during millions of years, wouldn’t you agree that it’s worthwhile to make sure it functions at an optimal level throughout your whole life? Your body is much more than just a means of transportation for your mind. It has an enormous impact on your self-image, mood, mental and physical performance, and how others perceive you. So are you taking good care of it?
Ironically, I started thinking about writing this post after having a day that consisted mainly of student initiation rituals involving vodka, a dozen beers and other drinks that I can’t even remember. Not that I have anything against giving in to indulgences every now and then, but moderation is needed if you want your body to work for, instead of against you.
I have been physically pretty active most of my life, but when I left to Malaysia for my student exchange back in 2006 all my routines for going to gym, running and practicing martial arts stopped completely. I was in very good shape when I left, but six months in tropical heat surrounded by Southeast Asia’s best street kitchens can leave its mark to any man.
When I got back to Finland I had bit of a gut already, but even worse was that I just wasn’t able to get back to my pre-exchange workout routine. I tried to go for a run few times, but with my persisting knee problems those remained rather half-hearted attempts. I got stuck in this couch potato condition for almost two years; all the while gaining weight and losing my strength and stamina.
Then two things happened: I was in South Korea for a holiday in August 2008, and when I got back I really saw from my photos – for the first time – that there is no denying I was getting fatter. Before seeing the pictures I was under the impression that I was still of “normal” size, but not anymore. I had gained a gut – and it showed. Clearly.
Soon after the holiday I was on a business trip in Eastern Europe that involved a weekend in Budapest. Coincidentally, there was the Bodies exhibition at the same time. I had heard about it on news couple years earlier, and was very interested in seeing it. It proved to be at the same time illuminating, sickening and delightful. While certain exhibits were rather disturbing and gut-wrenching, the overall feeling I left with was that of amazement. I had never really realized how beautifully crafted the human body is, and how complex its various inner functions are. I started to see myself differently and have a profound respect for the flesh and bones that are part of me.
As a result, I forced myself to get up from the couch and start working out again. Regularly. I wanted to lose the gut that could so clearly be seen on my holiday photos. Before my student exchange I could easily do two hours of martial arts training on 3-4 nights a week, in addition to which I’d play squash and go to the gym or a run once or twice. On average, I was doing physical activities 5 days a week. Now, once again after a two year break I managed to create a workout regime and exercised religiously about five times a week for the whole autumn and early winter.
However, despite my efforts I was unable to gain noticeable changes other than a slight confidence boost and feeling somewhat better and healthier. The gut proved to be of persistent sort and was not going anywhere. I was, however, on the right track. My self-image was starting to change from a person who just sits on his ass and eats packaged foods to someone who leads an active life and strives to be in good physical shape.
Take a moment to reflect. Think about the long way you have come from childhood and how your body has served you the whole time. Instead of stuffing yourself with unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or drinking excessively, try to instead listen and respect it when it tells you that sleep is in order, nutrition is needed or when you receive a message of pain saying that whatever you are doing should be stopped before anymore harm comes to it. After all, your body will be with you as long as you are alive. There are no returns. You have gotten an elegant biological system as a birth gift, and it is your responsibility to take as good care of it as you can.
As for me, I am in better physical shape than I have ever been in my life, and I achieved that after actually reducing the amount of exercise. I have learned a lot about the inner functions of human body during the past eight months, and managed to rapidly lose the extra weight once I understood what to do. That, however, is another story which will be told some other time.