Functional Fitness: Part 1 – Diminishing car dependency

Contrary to a lazy bum’s perspective exercising, commonly resulting in vain half-naked mirror pic or wearing tiny clothing, is primarily to maintain a healthy longer lifestyle. You never know when there will be a situation that arises that you need your fitness to get on with your daily life. There is so much to talk about when it comes to “Functional Fitness”. The mantra is based on mastering a skill that will make your daily tasks more time, energy, and effort efficient.

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For instance, many people drive to a gym 2 miles away to run on the treadmill; why not bike to the gym to warm-up, run on the treadmill, and bike back home. You need the exercise, so exercise!  Let’s say, the post office closes in 10 minutes and you need to send out a package but you are 2 blocks away – if you can run, you can meet your deadline; if you can’t, you lose. Or, you are on a cruise and the ship sinks… better know how to swim; Sorry, but tarzan-style swimming to one end of a pool is not swimming, this style will tire you out causing you to sink as well.

True, referring to physical activity vs. quickest transition from sitting to sitting again is not very American. We began dating in Holland as expats with no money.  The budget needed to own a vehicle was outrageously high. The transit system is very good, but inner-city is slow, sparse and expensive as well. Our only option for transport was bicycle, for all tasks: grocery shopping, commuting to work, going out for dinner, etc.  These trips were within 3-5 miles from the house; so you wear your regular clothes not this.  You either waste your monthly check on silly metro passes, or you find a bike and go.  Even if the trip took just as long as a bus/tram would take, it was no cost, you control your arrival/departure, and you check-off exercise from the To Do list.  Eventually, thanks to the very well-built infrastructure of Netherlands / Belgium, we travelled around on bicycle as well – which built our fitness up.  This was such a great way to be a tourist as we got to see beyond the typical cookie-cutter tourist areas. If we saw something interesting, we just hop off/park… no parking drama which is buzz kill big time.

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We brought this lifestyle back to San Diego with us, even though now we do share one car.  The transportation network here lacks options; lack of interconnects,  and this being a country run by big oil, there are situations when the car will be the better choice.  As in the time during my quest for BQ,  I would drive out to the race destination, sleep in the car (a hatchback civic!) and race the next morning only to drive back after the race.  I was inspired, by a local Triathlon Club of San Diego member  to do this, since I could avoid the airline and unnecessary foo foo lodging – while not affecting my performance.

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I have achieved my goal…. but what did Bessy do during this time?  Since she works weekends, she biked to and from work, a 36 mile round trip most of the days; if she was tired she would push herself to go to a trolley station and train back.  The point is she would make it happen.  I laugh when people who don’t have a car and job present the chicken and egg problem that they can’t work because they don’t have a car to get there.  First of all, why did you choose a job that would be outside of reasonable biking distance? (That will be another post to come)   Back on topic, if you can make fitness functional, you can prevent mental burnout and continue living a healthy and fruitful life, rather than wasting it in an auto void.  The car position & continued time in it is killing you via the stresses in driving, which have been shown to raise cortisol levels, that are signs that lead to heart disease.

When considering how to arrive somewhere, unfortunately the first common ideas are: car, bus or taxi. Maybe you haven’t gotten on a bicycle since you were 10, like Bessy, when she first got to Holland. She fell a few times remembering how to turn, but now loves it. Once you use your bicycle for errands, and try going to work via bicycle for a week… when you get into your car you’ll feel it’s like a spaceship. Seriously, why would you need an entire entertainment center if you’re not a coach bus doing cross country Greyhound trips?? Do I need TV to go to the supermarket?? Are you doing errands, or migrating? Realize how vital it is to breathe fresh air, whether you walk, cycle, or skip.

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Stop wasting your paychecks/savings that would pay off your mortgage and pay off your college loans, on a spaceship payment… get back into middle class and wipe the dust off your bike.

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