MND Fitness

Core Principle 9

Exercise, incorporate natural movements, use variety and moderation

Move your body. It’s pretty simple really, you don’t have to run marathons or climb the highest snow-capped mountains or swim across oceans chased by sharks, but you must move your body. Use it or lose it folks, it’s that simple. When you see those folks, maybe in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and they walk awkwardly, they look stiff, can’t bend over properly, struggle to anything very physical, those people who can’t run twenty paces, can’t tie their own shoes or pick something up off the floor without a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ as they stretch and try to bend. Those stiff immobile people, they didn’t use it, and they have lost mobility, lost flexibility, lost the movement in their bodies.

The human body is an amazing, intricate, broadly-capable, multi-functioning, engineering miracle, and we can apply our physical attributes to an incredible range of skills. Walk. Run. Swim. Climb. Ride a bike. Lift a few weights. Move your body. Find a sport you like and enjoy it. If you don’t, if you spend your time sitting on that big fat soft squidgy couch, before long your body will look and feel a bit like a big fat soft squidgy couch.

We all know the old adage ‘You are what you eat’ – well I would add ‘You are what you do’ too. Train hard, include variety, and your body will be hard and adaptable. Adaptable means fewer injuries and a better, more balanced physique.

Muscle

I see obsessive body builders who are huge, and they think they look great, but they are not always really healthy. Many body builders take drugs; all of them take heaps of supplements, most of which are crammed with sugar, artificial sweeteners, chemicals and additives. Many bodybuilders train insanely hard, strip their bodies of water for competition and put their hearts under immense strain. I take nothing away from their skill, knowledge and dedication, and I would bet many good body builders know far more about nutrition and fat burning that most qualified doctors know.  However, just because these guys know how to build muscle and burn fat, I do not think they are particularly healthy, and heart problems are way too common within the body building world.

Marathon man

I have done my fair share of endurance sport, run a few marathons and logged a few miles on my bike. I love running, especially off-road in mountains, over hills, in woods and forests, fields and rivers, because I love the feeling of my heart pounding and my breath heaving as I am completely wrapped up in the wonder of nature, it’s truly sublime. But I look at a lot of other marathon runners’ bodies, and my own, and I am not keen on that scrawny runners look. Many of my friends, female friends in particular, agree that they don’t like the look of a scrawny endurance athlete any more than they don’t like the ridiculous over-development of a pro body builder. In terms of ‘looking good’, most of my female friends tell me they like a guy to look lean, muscular, athletic, but not huge.

Also, endurance athletes can be fit, but not healthy. Too much endurance sport can be very hard on your joints, and marathon runners are infamous for trashed knees, hips, and other lower body structural injuries. Later in life, these damaged joints become arthritic, mobility is impaired and life can be difficult. Keeping off excess weight later in life is harder if you are immobile, so trashing your body in the first half of your life isn’t a great idea. If you do want to run or engage in other endurance sport regularly, I strongly urge you to get a coach and learn about good form, especially for running – learn about barefoot running, it’s a much healthier, long-tern sustainable way to run.

Balance and variety

As you know, the primary goal of MotherNaturesDiet is to achieve supreme good health. So we are not trying to look like body builders, with huge muscles, and we are not all trying to be ultra-fit marathon runners or Ironmen. While MND offers a set of principles that may help those people build muscle, or run an Ironman, those fitness goals in themselves are not the aim of MND.

MotherNaturesDiet is all about supreme good health, staying free from disease and injury, staying fit and active far into old age, longevity, and abundant energy. In order to achieve those goals, we should engage in a variety of exercise and sport, we should keep our bodies supple, flexible and adaptable using a variety of movements, and we should vary the intensity of exercise, sometimes exercising ‘light and easy’, sometimes ‘hard and heavy’. Obviously the level at which YOU can exercise varies greatly depending on how old you are, your size, weight, previous experience and your level of ability. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to exercise.

So to meet the objectives of MotherNaturesDiet, we should engage in a variety of movements, doing different things on different days. It is almost impossible for me to describe something for everyone. If I said you should go for a 2 mile run, to some people that would be a major challenge, to others it’s a warm up. For the purposes of keeping this text brief, I will describe here the level of activity that I like to achieve, in broad terms I will use myself as the example. If you are very fit and active and you exercise regularly, adapt and scale-up the level to suit you. If you are unfit, much older than me, if you are immobile, excessively over weight, terribly out of shape or have not worked out in years, you will need to dramatically scale-down the level to suit you.

Later, my free exercise book will be available for download from this site, and there will be more advice and detail there. If you are very unfit and not used to exercise at all, the best thing for you to start with is walking. Just get out and walk, often. As you get used to it, build up the distance, the speed, the frequency, vary the terrain, and just keep going.

Variety is important. A healthy lifestyle will include some form of physical exercise, lasting at least 20 or 30 minutes minimum, ideally 5 or 6 days per week.

  • Go for a walk
  • Run
  • Ride a bike
  • Go for a swim
  • Lift some heavy weights
  • Do some bodyweight exercises
  • Play fight, wrestle with your kids
  • Walk on the beach and run away from incoming waves
  • Enjoy plenty of sex
  • Climb on a climbing wall, or climb a tree!
  • Get a dog, go out walking every day
  • Take a spinning class
  • Take up yoga

I enjoy running, cycling, rock climbing, hill walking, yoga, rowing, squash, weight training, martial arts and a few other sports too, as and when I have the time. I stopped running completely for a year, from late 2011 to late 2012, while recovering from a knee problem, which led to surgery. (see My Story page) I love being on the hills or in the mountains. I love any sport in these environments, so I am passionate about rock climbing, hill walking and mountain walking/running. I even built a home climbing wall up the side of my house, I love it!

I would encourage everyone to get out hill walking. Hill walking is one of the very best all-around exercises we can get. It’s more strenuous than walking on the flat, but not as strenuous as running. Hill walking is the perfect human activity, pushing your body just enough to achieve the optimal rate of effort to burn fat reserves. Unlike running, you don’t need any kit, just stick a pair of old trainers on, or walking boots if it’s winter weather, and get out walking in hilly places. Unlike swimming, you don’t need a pool and you don’t need to change your clothes, you can walk wearing almost anything. Unlike cycling you don’t need any expensive equipment or a safety helmet, you can just go walk. It’s easy, free and perfect exercise.

Whenever I can, I try to take a full day off work (ideally at least once every month) and go hill walking. It is truly one of my all-time favourite activities and it’s great for my health. If you march over those hills at a fair pace like I do, then it’s an excellent stamina builder, and it’s a great fat burner. It also means you get to spend the day in beautiful natural places, which nourishes your soul and helps relieve the stress of working life…and a day away from a computer screen is always good for me!

Bodyweight exercises

I am a big believer in bodyweight exercises. The mighty push-up is my absolute favourite exercise, as there are so many ways to do push-ups, it makes for endless variety. Bodyweight exercise enable you to work your whole body without any expensive equipment, no gym fees, no over-priced Lycra clothing, fancy running shoes or costly hats, gloves, drinks, etc. Any time, any place, in your pants or wearing your suit, anyone can drop and do a set of push-ups.

Try sumo squats, lunges, chins, pull-ups, push-ups, plank, sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts, tuck jumps, star jumps, back dips, bar dips, shuttle runs…the list goes on and on, there are literally hundreds of ways to use your muscles to train and workout using nothing more than your own bodyweight.

In a typical week, I try emulate the major categories of activity that our bodies were designed for – walk, run, climb, swim, fight, crawl, etc. I work my muscles in ways that seem as natural as possible, and among my gym equipment, I have some heavy rocks, old car tyres, sandbags, things like that, and I will often design workouts that involve lifting rocks and sandbags and hauling things around, climbing on my home climbing wall, dragging heavy things, pushing, pulling and lifting my own body weight, and boxing on the punch bag.

These exercises feel to me like they are working my body in natural ways. I think about how caveman would have spent his day – he would have had to run to catch his ‘dinner’, and once he caught it he would have had to fight it and kill it. He would have climbed trees to pick fruit and steal eggs. He would have had to lift rocks and logs to build shelters, fires and protective ‘walls’, and he would have walked a lot, tracking animals and gathering roots and plants and berries, etc. I try to train in ways that emulate these natural ways of using our bodies.

Finally, remember to stretch. Modern humans spend too much time sitting – arms chair, sofa, car, office, etc. We were not designed to sit around most of the time, so try to move every day and try to stretch regularly. If you don’t have time for a regular yoga class, at least find ten minutes at home 2 or 3 times each week and work on your flexibility. If you can’t touch your toes, make it a goal to reach them. If you can, make it a goal to get your hands flat on the floor. Stretch and move for life to stay supple and flexible, so you don’t pick up needless injuries while stretching to a high shelf and so that you don’t end up as one of those stiff people we see out and about, waddling awkwardly along the street.

Summary

  • Your body is the most amazing thing you will ever own – use it or lose it
  • Exercise at least 5 or 6 days per week
  • Walk. Run. Swim. Bike. Lift. Just move
  • It’s about variety and keeping it fun – out in the fresh air and sunshine
  • Try bodyweight exercises – be your own gym!
  • Stretch, often.