A Very Modest Idea—About Human Fitness

At Hitching Post last weekend, it`s easy to see about 8-10 cross country jumps from the knoll where most spectators gather. It`s also easy to see that many of the riders get tired, especially galloping up and down those steep hills, so tired, in fact, that instead of being able to maintain a galloping position, up off their horses` backs, some ride the course as if sitting on a chair.

Adult amateurs, and some kids as well, aren`t strong enough, or fit enough, to safely and competently ride the cross country phase of an event, because, as the saying goes, “they run out of gas.”

I know that there are 1001 reasons and excuses that we all make about why we aren`t better athletes. We are parents of time absorbing kids. We have full time sedentary jobs. We commute two hours a day to work. We are so tired when we get home at night we have no energy left over. We are old. We are recovering from injury or illness. We just don`t have the time or the energy or the whatever to do any more than we already do.

But that`s not really true, except, insofar as we make it true. What IS true is that we have made inactivity a habit, and the only way to break out of one habit is to create a different habit. I call this “A Very Modest Idea”, because my idea isn`t to join a gym to pump iron, or to need special equipment, or to do sit ups or push ups, or to gallop racehorses, or any of that. No, it`s to start, today, by adding 15 minutes of WALKING to what we normally would do. That`s it, nothing more. You absolutely do have, somewhere in the next 24 hours an available 15 minutes that you would normally have spent sitting, to walk instead.

Walking means that you go for a walk, or climb the stairs in your office building instead of using the elevator, or walk down the corridor at the airport between flights, or walk around  your house, or park farther away from where you work, or SOMETHING to get you started on a new routine. Make yourself do this every day for a few weeks, just 15 little minutes out of the 1,440 per day. Then add 5 minutes. Then add 5 more, at some point. See where it goes. Maybe you`ll walk faster, at some point. Or walk up some inclines, or add more minutes, but the point is to do something more physical than you do now.

Sitting is a treacherous habit. It ruins our athletic abilities.  It ruins our health. It`s not easy to change a habit. (“Habits begin as cobwebs, and end up as cables.”) So don`t try anything so dramatic that you know there`s no way you`ll keep it up. Fifteen minutes every day, that`s it, for now. Three five minute walks. Five three minute walks. You can do this.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Very Modest Idea—About Human Fitness

  1. tidy mary

    Amen, Denny! You know what helps to motivate more walking? A great audiobook! All those books that you wish you had the time to read? Check out the audiobook from your library and rip it to your iPod/smartphone/whatever and listen to it only when you walk. A good book will have you pawing at the door to go out so you can listen more! Speaking of which, there’s an old saying: if your dog is fat, then YOU aren’t getting enough exercise. So do it for your dog’s sake, too!

  2. Kerry

    Denny, I’ve been listening to these exact words from my father my entire life. He is 70, and ultra runner, but more than that, he’s an advocate for the average person getting and maintaining a modest amount of fitness for their own well being. Your article could have had his byline… kindred spirits in two different sports, the two of you. Although you’ve both been over the same hallowed ground many times… he on foot, you on horseback. If I could manage to get the two of you together, to share your stories, your experiences… I think I need to arrange for my daughter to come take a lesson with you and for my dad to come watch. Anyway, thank you for the wise words. All people should follow your advice, our lives, our communities and our healthcare system would be better for it.

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