An Answer to the Plinky Prompt, “What do you do to stay healthy?”

“A bicycle does get you there and more…. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive.  Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal.  And getting there is all the fun.”  ~Bill Emerson, “On Bicycling,” Saturday Evening Post, 29 July 1967

“Healthy” is at least a three-ring circus (maybe more) for me. Circuses are fun, entertaining, and beneficial if taken in moderation. Moderation, I readily admit, is defined relative to the activity undertaken and the actor who’s undertaking it (the “undertakee”).  “Undertakee’s” age may be one of several relevant factors.  So here’s how I look at staying healthy.

Road cycling race in Hilversum

Physical health, mental health, and emotional health are indispensable members of a team, a team that lubes the running gears of a synchronous, synergistic and vibrant organism — my body — for maximum enjoyment and productivity. In my opinion, there is no team star; to neglect any one of the team members is a sure recipe for disaster, sooner or later.  And the team manager is courage, without which the team will never take the field.

The only “special diet” that interests me is the one that includes a well-proportioned intake of plenty of fresh vegetables & fruits (complex carbohydrates), whole grains, proteins and healthy fats, with a significant percentage of the fruits and veggies ingested in raw form. Raw juices with no pulp removed and no sugar added may be part of that mix. The sugars I eat (okay, I confess to the rare Snicker bar, Almond Joy, pastry and holiday pie) are raw honey, maple syrup (on Saturday pancakes or waffle) and all-fruit, no-sugar-added jellies with breakfast. Oh, and did I mention pure drinking water — lots of it? These days, I’m trying to drink 96 ounces per day.  The rule of thumb is that your intake should roughly equal, in ounces, half your body weight, so I overdo it a bit for my 170 lbs. For kicks, I drink a double shot of espresso every morning with breakfast — just to keep things moving. And a little red wine with the evening meal is not required, … nor frowned upon.

For me, the main ingredient of a workable physical exercise plan is and always has been sweat — and lots of it! I like to sweat when I’m working out; I know it’s one indicator that I’m accomplishing my goal through a consistent and sustained expenditure of energy under a stress load. If I work out right, hard enough and long enough, I’ll be sweating, and when I do, all my body’s systems — organs, muscles, endocrine system, skin, etc. — flush themselves of toxins. So I’m cleaning inside and improving/maintaining my cardio-vascular health. My favorite physical workout is a strenuous bicycle ride, riding rolling hills, doing hill climbs, or going all out on the flats. I love the singing of my tires, the wind and sun in my face, and the awareness that I’m working lots of muscles to the max! When other friendly cyclists are along, it’s even better.

This is also one of the surest ways to support optimum mental and emotional health, because as I rev up my physical motors, I increase blood circulation throughout my body, and especially my brain. This makes for better all-round vitality, and I know of no other way to achieve that. But good mental and emotional health also require other inputs and conditioning of a far less physical nature. I read much, I try to learn something every day, I engage in robust conversation with people of all ages and “stripes,” listening and sharing. I attempt to stay grounded or centered on who I am and what I want to be — both to myself and to others. And although I struggle in the process, I do my best to get adequate rest and downtime. Sometimes I listen to music or read; I often do creative writing, sketching or some other “release” activity to stay balanced and in touch with the rhythms of my life.

Remember when, in 1985 at the Washington Press Club’s “Salute to Congress” black-tie dinner, Washington Redskins player John Riggins told U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, ”Loosen up, Sandy baby. You’re too tight,” and then took a 45-minute nap on the floor during VP George Bush’s speech?  He was on to something, notwithstanding his public drunkenness and inappropriate familiarity/disrespect toward Sandra Day O’Connor.  Atrocious public conduct [Note: Riggins was arrested for his misconduct], but still apt for making my point that too much seriousness and uptight attitude toward life are not healthy.  We all need rest and relaxation — downtime — even a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  No one is immune to the need for good health habits.

I’m happier when my health is good, when I live like this.  And everyone around me is happier because I’m not as likely to be a grump. Go for it!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

©  May 9, 2011, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work are reserved.  Photo courtesy of Plinky.com.

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