You place certain unique demands on your own body throughout the course of the week. “Fitness”, then, refers to how phyically well-adapted you are for that environment – not what’s on the cover of the magazine next to the Snickers and TicTacs.
By now, you’ve likely listened to the previous five lessons in this series and so far we’ve talked about creating wellness. Now we’re gonna change gears and talk a little about resilience.
Dictionary.com’s second definition of resilience is the ability to recover readily from illness or adversity. If we’ve focused so far on only increasing our health potential or life force or adding light to eliminate darkness, now we’re focusing on being tough within your unique environment or being resilient and more specifically increasing your level of fitness. In other words when the light begins to dim, increasing our fitness has to do with improving our ability to realize the light is dimming and then turning it back on as soon as possible up to its normal brightness.
The concept of being fit in your environment acknowledges that there are limitations to physical matter, including healing potential. This short section is all about surviving, in contrast to thriving. Just remember, both are essential for health success.
In the movie “Rocky Balboa”, Rocky says to his son “It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Boxing is a great metaphor here because many times the winner of the match is determined by the judges and it is often the one spending less time on his back on the mat that is the winner even though the other boxer may have thrown more punches. The same is true in life, whereas the one who endures and is disciplined wins in the end, just like the Tortoise beating the Hare.
Everyone’s work, play, and down time is different from the next person’s. Each person also has a unique set of genes, and physical, chemical, and mental/emotional stress. Therefore, there is no easy cookie-cut way to implement everything we’ve talked about so far. In addition, each person’s “normal” might be different from the next person’s.
Let me explain. We’re told that 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is normal body temperature, and that 120/80 is normal blood pressure (although this number has changed a little lately). But in actuality, those numbers are the averages of the normal values of supposedly healthy people of a population. But what about the Inuit person from the Canadian Arctic or a field worker in Panama? Is it possible that their “normal” should be different when taking their vital signs?
Another common misconception is that if someone has a very chiseled physique or six-pack abs then that must mean that they’re healthy. But sadly, it seems that every year a well-known athlete collapses and dies without any warning at all, only later to find out that their heart was too big, probably from exercising too hard. When now 75-year-old former NFL great Mike Ditka was asked a few years ago how much fun it is to see his former teammates at Super Bowl time, he said that it is usually sad because so many of them are in such rough shape years after banging it out on the gridiron every other day over a football career. And many marathon runners, although healthy in vital signs and exceptional in performance, are not really healthy as we have defined it, which raises the question, at what point does good, hard physical exercise become destructive and stressful to the individual?
Clearly there’s more to physical fitness than what meets the eye. Fitness, by the way, also has to do with the mind.
As mentioned in the previous lesson, physical exercise can help the mind by stimulating the hippocampus or memory center of the brain. But it’s also true that retirees who are committed to and enjoy learning new things also have better physical health and can continue to enjoy many of the physical activities they’ve been doing all their lives.
In increasing your fitness and survivability, it is important to address the weaker links in your chain. A Chinese proverb states: “If you know your enemy and yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred wars. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
A good place to start, of course, is getting your spine and nervous system checked for interference since it’s ultimately your brain that decides what “normal” is for you. After you do this then it is a good idea to spend the next few days finding the average values of all your vital signs. That’s right. Take several readings of your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate over the next few days. Establish what is normal for you and do the same thing every few years. It’s a good reference, just in case.
Then take an inventory of your physical, chemical, and mental/emotional stress levels and focus on improving your adaptation in the weaker areas first. For example, if you sit at a desk all day and you eat healthy and have a good attitude but your rhomboids are weak and your shoulder blades look like that of a malnourished cheetah, then you should spend time working at strengthening your spinal extensor muscles and improving your posture. There are online stress surveys that can help you discover your weaker areas.
Remember that, in a way, chiropractic is like training like a boxer. A lot of the same thing time and time again. The same evaluation tools and usually the same type of spinal adjustment. During a routine visit, the question is ‘Is your back on the mat? Did you get knocked down?’ Although there are signs and signals that you may notice when you’re subluxated, you really don’t know and I don’t know until the measurements are made. That’s what determines if you’ve been knocked down. Then we get you back on your feet as soon as possible with a specific adjustment.
Start working on your weaker areas and then maximize your stronger areas, and of course get the wisdom to know what your weak and strong areas are. Iron will naturally sharpen iron over time, just like a boxer’s knuckles get heavier and harder over time. Rocky’s trainer knew this before he was about to go up against the much younger heavyweight champion when he said, “To beat this guy you need speed. You don’t have it. And you’ve got calcium deposits on most of your joints so sparring’s out.”
Labeled by the press as a “Balboasaurus”, Rocky Balboa is a story about a person’s lifetime commitment of discovering and correcting weaknesses and working out your God-given gift. Rocky’s heart and heavy-handed punches from thousands of hours of training is what made Rocky go the distance in his final match. Yes, it’s fiction but who says it can’t be a reality in your own life?
The only tragedies come from unrealized potential. Work to increase your fitness and become more resilient.