No chain is stronger than its weakest link. Take, for instance, society. Imagine a thriving, highly developed city, filled with content citizens. Then remove electricity. Or drinking water. Or waste management. Things would probably get real ugly, real fast. If the infrastructure breaks, society breaks. At least eventually.

Same goes for your infrastructure – your body. It doesn't matter if you have an athletic body and all the money in the world if you end up with chronic pain. Or cancer. Or Alzheimer's. You just won't enjoy the things you used to love doing if your body hurts while doing them.

In fact, it can be something as trivial as foot chafing. Last December, I got myself a pair of new snowboard boots. They felt great in the store, but after a couple of laps on the mountain, my foot began to hurt. The bump on the outside of the ankle (lateral malleolus) didn't get enough room in the boot liner; with severe chafing as a result. Another two pairs of boots and two months later, I still haven't found a boot that fits.

The net effect? I find myself feeling reluctant to go snowboarding. Which is pretty sad, since snowboarding has been my greatest passion for the last 20 years.

What do you do – no matter how much you love doing something, it's just not the same when it feels like someone is carving away at your foot with a blunt knife while you're doing it.

Now, of course, I realize what a ridiculous luxury problem this is in the grand scheme of things. And I can't but imagine how things would be in a more severe condition.

On the other hand – just because a condition isn't terminal doesn't mean it can't be an impediment, and things like plain, ordinary back pain can easily render physical activity impossible.

Problems and solutions

So what can we do to prevent these conditions from developing? Or, in other words, to avoid future infrastructure breakdowns?

As far as cancer and the likes go, there seems to be so much randomness involved that all we can do is pray and hope. I mean, some people are as healthy as can be and still get ill, while others get away with smoking, drinking, and generally abusing their bodies without any consequences whatsoever.

But seriously – it's usually not the Big C that makes people give up their dreams and ambitions.

Instead, it's far more common that the culprit is a chronic pain in the back, neck, shoulders, arms, or legs.

Which typically originates from one or more of these factors:

  • Working long hours at a desk
  • Obesity and bad nutritional habits
  • Lack of strength, mobility, and overall fitness

All of these affect your physical infrastructure as well as your energy level, and the worst offender, at least when it comes to chronic pain, is, without a doubt, lack of mobility.

The good news is that all of them can be mitigated, at least partly. Let's take a look at them one by one.

Working long hours at a desk

For starters, get a standing desk. And get into the habit of taking micro-breaks. One favorite technique is the Pomodoro method, where you work focused for 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break. During which you – surprise, surprise – preferably leave your desk and walk around.

Bad nutritional habits

While obesity not only stems from bad eating habits, it's no exaggeration to say that most people could improve their health a lot just by cutting out sugar. Skip candy, soda, and fast food, and dust off that old lunch box.

And instead of doing some boot camp diet, try to eat on a calory deficit of, say, 500 kcal a day. That will cut 2 kg of body fat each month, and it's a lot more sustainable than semi-starving yourself.

Lack of strength, mobility, and overall fitness

If you're already pressed for time, you probably won't be able to fit five one-hour workouts a week into your life. The good news is that you don't have to; at least not if you're just starting out. Start small, and focus on mobility first. There are a ton of free, high-quality instructional videos on Youtube, with exercises you can do at home.

Physical progress takes time, so be patient. Especially when it comes to rehab and mobility training. And remember that abs are the result of a proper diet, not of doing 1000 sit-ups a day.

Utilize the Slight Edge

In the book Slight Edge, author Jeff Olson advocates that you should utilize the power and effect of compound interest on your day-to-day life.

Let's illustrate the principle with a couple of examples:

You don't immediately become obese if you eat a can or two of your favorite Ben & Jerry's ice cream every week. And since there's no obvious penalty, why shouldn't you indulge once and a while?

Conversely, you don't get abs from a couple of months of working out. And since you don't get immediate visual feedback, a skipped workout won't hurt your progress that much, right?

Both conclusions are valid – in the short term. But over time, the effect compounds, and your actions form habits that do affect us, both visually and internally.

Only you can decide the right mix of indulgence and restraint for your life, but realize that everything you choose to do – or not to do – will affect your well-being in the long term.

So – stay focused, and keep in mind that there's no such thing as instant gratification when it comes to building a strong and durable infrastructure.

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