Solutions for Self-Reliance

Resilient Fitness: A Killer App for a Successful Life

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My project to build a no-till, no-water garden bed is nearing completion.

NOTE: for an overview of how I’m building that garden bed, give this earlier letter on the Austrian technique of Hugelkultur a read.    I’ll share some pictures and details of my Hugelkultur prototype when I get it completed.

As I mentioned in a letter last week, the small, frequent and relatively random contributions of physical work I am putting into building this new garden bed  — shoveling top soil, raking compost, and carrying wheelbarrow loads of wood/dirt up and down slopes — has done wonders for improving my body and mind.    I’m feeling stronger, lighter and happier than I’ve felt in years even though I’m not really working out.   I’m just practicing resilience by making my home and community more productive.

To find out why “resilient fitness” works so well, I asked my brother LTC Joel Robb, a highly regarded physical trainer for some insight.

NOTE:  Joel’s affectionately known as “Dr. Hamstring” for his work on helping professional athletes and special operators prevent or recover from hamstring injuries.  Joel’s also been experimenting with many different physical training regimes for years, apparently to great success since he has the body of a person 20 years younger than he is.  Joel is currently a participant and a part-time instructor in John MacGuire’s very rigorous SEAL Team Physical Training program.  This program has three outdoor workouts every day, rain, snow, or shine, in public parks around the country.

Joel says:

  • Anything that combines fitness with a productive task completion is great.  “Two birds with one stone concept”
  • Anything that allows a variety of movements (squats, lunges, lifting overhead, balancing) as well as increased heart rate/breathing is good.
  • Regular movement throughout the day is good.
  • Being outdoors in the elements is good.  It stimulates the brain and nervous system, sunshine, oxygen, better mood, fresh air, and stops you from being soft.

Joel:  Working out with my SEAL team buddy every day, every morning at 5:45 AM at the Washington Monument made me realize that:

  1. Outdoor exercise had benefits
  2. We are a lot tougher than we think we are, because we just never really test ourselves.  Rain, snow, sleet, or wind really doesn’t bother you if you are a) moving b) with a purpose.
  3. You learn to plan and trust your gear to protect you.  John MacGuire’s quotes: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear”  and  “You can put a man on the moon with the right gear.

Joel:   Farmers pretty much have a basic version of a crossfit workout (in fact, there are many exercises named in honor of their profession — carrying kettlebells in one hand is called a “farmer’s walk” — mimics carrying pails of water or feed to your livestock).  You should put that photo of grandpa with his arm around the cow on the website (see below).

One parting thought for you: There is also a place for endurance activity as well.  You can read the popular book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.

He makes the case that man is built for endurance activity — pursuing game.  The evolutionary biological adaptations we’ve made to improve our endurance ability includes: less hair and lots of sweat glands to keep us cool, our upright posture/forward lean/bipedal gait to allow long distance run.  We’re not so good at sprinting, there is not much game that we can outsprint as humans.

He suggests that our tactic was to overheat the enemy, force them to stop and rest/cool off, and then for us to catch up and eat them.  We as westerners have lost the ability to “run” and now “jog” with our big foot coffins –overly padded and very cushiony shoes that changes the way that we move– probably contributing significantly to the significant amount of pain/frustration that we deal with when we start to participate in endurance running.

Finally, I believe that we need to vary our activity every day, sweat a little (feel a little challenge), get outside, and if you can knock some projects off at the same time — then great!

Thanks for the insight Joel.

Your happy that fitness and resilience are synergistic analyst,

JOHN ROBB

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