Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Road to Anhedonia

There is something quite invigorating about an 'outdoor workout' - whether it is running through the woods or over hills as opposed to a treadmill, or swimming in the seas and rivers rather than an indoor pool. It feels somehow more 'organic' and refreshing.

My workouts involve a variety of exercises and modalities and are kept brief and vigorous. I use compound movements that I believe reflect the play of children and the skills of a warrior (....ok there is a bit of poetic licence there!).

My food is real food- that which you would recognise in its 'original' form. It is now approaching winter so I have cut back on my fruits and am consuming more flesh and fat, more nuts and more winter vegetables. Come spring, fruit will be back on the menu, along with salads...but for now I try to follow mother nature's menu.

On leaving the gym the other day I was struck by the stern faces all around. I could see excessive effort and training to failure from some individuals, and a more sedentary 'going through the motions' from others. Most of the people there were in the gym before my arrival, and were still there after I left. Jeez they looked miserable.

And why wouldn't they be miserable? When I think back, I too was in that same situation but two years ago. However on this day I had been training outside bathed in sunshine under a blue sky- the thought of which brings a smile to my face. It was pleasantly cool. My routine was demanding, novel, fun and varied enough to sustain interest and commitment.

The other day I walked out of the gym smiling. I loved the workout - and strode back to work with my head held high in the warming sunshine, feeling relaxed and ready for anything. That evening I ate a meal which left me with a similar feeling of satisfaction.

My diet contains novel cues to the time of year/seasonality. As such it has in-built variety and is always tasty/flavoursome. I look forwards to eating. I enjoy my food. I eat without guilt or gluttony. There is no post-prandial low. No bloating or sluggishness. No sickly sweet protein shakes to imbibe.

I write these words simply to illustrate to myself more than anything that there is 'another way'. That health and fitness should be stimulating and rewarding. Not draining and mundane. Modern dietary and fitness advice leads to anhedonia.

We seem to have reached a point in exercise where we can never do too much. Conversely, our diet has reached a point where we can never eat to little. I can look back and see my journey to this point. A bit of me longs to have found the paleo way much sooner, but you can't change the past. I am just happy to be at a place where I am excited about my next workout rather than fearing that I didn't work hard enough in my last one. I am happy to be in a place where several days between workouts is intuitive rather than a source of stress less my muscles begin to atrophy. I am happy to be in a place where food is a pleasure in which I can indulge rather than a battle ground.

The biggest challenge for me was to let go of my previous convictions with relation to diet and exercise. If it was tough (chronically so), then it must be good. "That which does not kill us makes us stronger...!" I refused to see how bad the traditional model was. It was only with a bit of personal experimentation that I eventually succumbed to letting go of what I knew, and tried a something new.

I am determined not to be so closed-minded in future. We all seek confirmation bias. Having said that, I don't see anything better to paleo coming any time soon...

...the worst mistakes are truly those repeated.


Marc said...

Great GREAT post!
Life was never meant to be a struggle.....


Asclepius said...

Hi Marc - I 'sort of' agree with you. My view is that life IS a struggle, but we are not meant to go actively looking for a struggle (which is what I think you might mean).

This does not say we shouldn't seek out a (tough) challenge, but the way people make themselves suffer with exercise and nutrition is akin to drinking a poison or performing some other act of willfull self-harm and then proclaiming some derived benefit once you have recovered.

Exercise does cause damage, but this leads to a positive adaption. Self harming is not driven by the self same intention to derive a 'positive' - if you get what I mean.

Alot of modern exercise I see, I would classify as a form of fact you have just given me an idea for a future post! Cheers.

Marc said...

We are in agreement ;-)
Years ago, this commentary below made such an impact on me that I remember it like I read it yesterday;
If you look at nature, it expends a big time effort in sustaining itself, but it does not struggle.
Does the tiger get up in the morning and say "I'll struggle like crazy today and hopefully by dinner time I'll get something to eat? No Way! It just rises, has a litte sniff under it's tigers armpits or does whatever tigers do at breakfast time, and heads out.
At noon there on the path is lunch, provided courtesy of the great spirit. Okay the last 30 yards invoves the tiger in a bit of rushing about, but that can hardly be construed as struggle.
There is a big difference between struggle and effort. Our physical condition as humas involves effort, but struggle is effort laced with emotion and desperation.

Hope that is some more fuel for your next post.
Keep up the great posts.


Asclepius said...

Marc - excellent comment!

I may well be using that anecdote for a future post....!