Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthy, fit and happy: Pick two

A while back I blogged about the balance we strive to maintain in our ultra endurance lives.  Things seldom fall into place as we would have it.  On most occasions, we shuffle the deck and push forward with the cards we are dealt.

Bicycling pioneer and wheel king Keith Bontrager developed the mantra "light, strong or cheap, pick two."  If you're into bicycle wheels, it's fun to play with the combos - you can have light and strong wheels, but they won't be cheap.  You can have cheap and light wheels, but they won't be strong.  It's a wonderful comparison model that can help you reason through how to design the product.

Our bodies are not that different.  I'll bring forward the "healthy, fit and happy, pick two" scenario for your review and enjoyment.  For on most any given day, you'll find yourself on top of two dimensions, but crashing and burning on the third.  Let's play with it for a second.

Being healthy becomes a near impossibility for a master's age competitor.  Injuries are nagging and sometimes heal slowly, if at all.  I blew out my shoulder in a mountain biking accident and had an anaphylactic reaction to a wasp sting; two ER visits a month apart is not what I had in mind this summer.  And, I've been fighting through a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot for the past eight months.  It ebbs and tides but never releases me to run free once again.  I received an email from ultra icon Eric Clifton this week and he disclosed he was dinged by PF for 3 years! We may aspire to healthy, but on a 1 to 10 scale, many of us train and race at a 5 or 8.

Fit is elusive.  I'm 6 feet, 1 inch tall and can range from 160 to 175 pounds.  Some of the elite ultrarunners are my height and hit the scales at 145 or 150. I aspire to be lighter, which translates to faster, but it depends how engaged I am in my sport. Many times it comes down to a battle of the attitude - food or fit? At one point this summer I was carved at 5% body fat/160 pounds but then work realities and injuries hit.  So as "fit" increases, so does the risk for injuries and that will pull one down on the healthy dimension.

That leaves happy.  It's a positive, all is well with the world mindset that comes and goes. Take away healthy or fit and watch the happy man dissolve.  There's a verse in the bible that says we shouldn't build our faith on a sand foundation.  I can't help but parallel that to how I build my personal life - that a solid training base and clean diet are the rock solid cornerstones to my existence.  I don't always like this about myself and wish that life could be measured on a more diverse scale, but after 28 years of daily adherence to the endurance sport lifestyle, it's a core part of who I am.

So we march forward, imperfect yet making sense of the world around us.  I'm not completely healthy, not completely fit, and working on being content, but despite it all I'm glad to be facing each day.  Despite our shortcomings, we stay in the game and enjoy what we have to work with. The clay may be lumpy, but we mould it into an interesting work of art.

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