How Healthy is Too Healthy ?
At my last visit to the gym I was struck by a rather stark contrast. Walking past the weight room I saw a chiseled young man doing pull-ups in front of the mirror, his face strained as he pumped his godlike physique up to an even-greater level. Then walking past the outdoor track I saw a husky girl running laps, her face red as she huffed and puffed through the pain of her jog.
In my irregular, biweekly trips to the gym I saw the young man there almost every time, no matter when I seemed to show up. The young woman I had never seen there before. Their physiques would certainly indicate that the young man spent most of his days at the gym and the young woman visited very infrequently.
These aren’t the people that need to be here, I thought, I’m the person that needs to be here. When you are a natural mesomorph with next-to-no body fat to begin with, spending hours every day in the gym is just excessive, and I doubt that you are doing your body a favor. Packing on more and more muscle is just going to increase the amount of work your organs and bones have to do, putting more and more unnecessary strain on your system.
On the other hand, when you are an obese person with a sedentary lifestyle, you can’t just expect to hit the gym with a vengeance one day a week and be able to balance out your otherwise-unhealthy lifestyle. And it isn’t healthy for you to try to do so. You are likely to hurt yourself by pushing too hard.
The ones that need to be in the gym are the average people like me, with 1-50 pounds of extra body fat and little-to-no visible muscle tone. People who are overweight, but not so much that a short jog makes them think their life is flashing before their eyes. People who are healthy enough to move around, but who are not particularly athletic.
Let me borrow a metaphor from Ben Franklin, who said: “A speckled axe is best.” If a woodsman tried to keep his axe completely shined and sparkling all the time, he would spend all day on the grindstone. If a woodsman never cleaned and sharpened his axe, it would cover over in rust and the blade would grow unusably-dull. The practical woodsman carries a speckled axe—one well-tended enough to function well, but not one that must be doted upon constantly. Franklin’s statement evokes a broader philosophy: trying too hard to be perfect is impractical, but not trying at all to improve will let entropy overtake you. The proper way is the middle way. Work hard, but don’t kill yourself working. That is the approach I take to fitness.
Health is about how well your body and mind function and how healthy you feel, not about how your body looks. If your body is unusable, like the axe covered in rust, you need to set gentle, reasonable exercise goals and get yourself back into decent shape, so that your body can function right and you can feel well. If your body is highly-tuned, like the shining, razor-sharp axe, you are probably too busy maintaining it to get any trees cut down. Exercise a few times a week to maintain your decent shape, but stop trying too hard. You should be out enjoying your healthy body, not indulging in an unhealthy obsession for perfection.
Do you agree with Chris’s take on some people being too healthy? How about finding a happy medium? I agree that being ‘healthy’ is a commitment not a trend, I consider my way of eating and exercising as a lifestyle not a diet or ‘plan.’ What do you think? We’d love to hear your responses in the comments below!