A podcaster and I were emailing about the possibility of doing an interview. He said his podcast was mostly health related. As I summarized for him my health-related activities, I felt that what I was writing would summarize well here, so wrote it more comprehensively than I normally would have.
I like sharing these practices. Note that they are things anyone can do. I mean, if you’re wheelchair bound, you may not be able to do burpees, but you can do some equivalent. My point is that none are things like jumping out of a balloon ten miles above the Earth, where you need teams of people, millions of dollars, equipment few people have access to, and so on. I swam across a river and most people live near rivers. Or cold showers—anyone with access to a shower can take a cold one, unlike walking across burning coals, which require ambulances, just in case. Who sets up burning coal in their yard to walk over?
Here’s what I wrote him:
Regarding health, people have found my lifestyle noteworthy about a few things. When people call me inspirational, more than for the book, they say it about how I live my life by the values most people have but don’t actually live by, principally exercise, diet, not polluting, and adventure.
Burpees: Here’s my blog series on burpees. (My burpee routine has evolved to include stretches, abdominal exercises, and back exercises that I also do twice daily).
Tim Ferris and his guest talked about me on his podcast about my having done burpees every day since December 2011. Here’s my Inc. article on it: 2,192 Days of Burpees. The guest, Dr. Martin Gibala, and the New York Times columnist who wrote about him in 2011, Gretchen Rubin, and I have become friend. Marty wrote about me and my burpees in his book.
Daily habits: besides burpees, I’ve written in my blog daily since January 2011, which means I’ll hit post number 2,500 in a couple days. I didn’t miss posting even during my ten-day Vipassana retreats and trips to North Korea without internet access. I’ve taken cold showers regularly since December 2013. I coined the term “sidcha” for Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activity. My sidchas have led to tremendous results, including the book, my Inc. column, and more.
Diet: my experiments of avoiding packaged food and food with fiber removed, combined with farm shares (deliveries from a farm I pick up from a drop-off point weekly) and experimenting with a pressure cooker have led to a dramatically different, but delicious, convenient, local, inexpensive, low pollution diet that results in me eating all the delicious food I want while having defined abs at 45 years old.
As a side effect, I have garbage to empty 2 – 4 times per year.
A Year Avoiding Flying: When I learned that a transatlantic flight polluted about the same as a year of driving, I decided I would avoid flying for at least a year. That year began March 23, 2016, so I’m almost done, and I plan to continue it. Like many of my health experiments, I learned and grew experientially what no amount of reading or watching videos could teach — about community, simplicity, pollution, the lies we tell ourselves to suppress our knowledge of how we hurt others when we want to see the Eiffel Tower, and the entitlement we’ve developed around this incredibly pollutive practice.
Swimming across the Hudson River: A friend and I just did it. It’s about a kilometer across. Anyone could do something similar. We didn’t die. It’s not that polluted. You don’t have to jump out of a plane, pay for a bungee jump, or follow other people’s instructions for such life-affirming experiences.
Inspiring my mom to run a marathon: never having run more than 5 kilometers before her training, my running a marathon and teasing my mom about how older women than her ran them inspired her to run her first marathon at age 67, as a grandmother of five. A year later, when she was wearing his charity’s shirt that she raised money for and ran in, Michael J. Fox approached her in Central Park and thanked her.
Experience over reading and watching TED talks and other videos: With all the amazing things people do, the vast majority of people don’t do remarkable things, choosing instead to live vicariously through others’ adventures, discoveries, and research. I’ve chosen activities anyone can do. If you can’t do burpees for age or similar handicap, you can do something similar. My mom did burpees for a while in her 70s. Anyone can switch from packaged, industrial food to fresh vegetables and fruit.
I didn’t start with discipline, these activities developed it: a lot of people say, “You must be so disciplined to do all that.” They have it backward. It’s like saying that someone must go to the gym because they are strong. On the contrary, I started as lazy as anyone. I developed discipline by doing these things. My message and experience are empowering, not excuses for complacency.
I’ve also run six marathons (3:51 best time), competed in Ultimate Frisbee at Nationals twice, Worlds once, and in the first Pyongyang International Tournament in North Korea. I was slightly chubby before high school. For most of my life I always had pretzels, chips, and ice cream in my house, now replaced with fresh vegetables.
There’s probably some other health-related activities and experiences I’m forgetting.
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