"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Guiding virtues of moderation, part II

A few months ago I wrote about the importance of moderation as a general principle. OK, I'm hinting that perhaps this is leading to an endorsement of Tom Horner of the Minnesota Independence Party. It isn't, because as a general principle, third party movements are ill-fated and idiosyncratic.
Our political system in America wasn't designed to accommodate them. Our system wants you to commit.
The idea of committing yourself to something rather narrow has always been appealing for those of my approximate age (in our 50s). We were the generation that led the way making distance running fashionable, for one thing.
Looking back, it was a rather odd phenomenon. It required great exertion - something that would seem not nearly as appealing today, when you look around at all the severely weight-challenged people. Many people today would have to undergo a lengthy period of denial (denial of calories) before they even started a running regimen.
Our "Bible" (and that's hardly an exaggeration) was that book by James Fixx, a prominent best-seller with that red cover that would greet us at every bookseller. Then again, this was a time when "The Satanic Verse" could become a best-seller too. And "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," apparently a pseudo-deep boomer favorite that I purchased and couldn't fathom at all.
Us boomers could have our pretensions in those days. Or delusions. And it may have been a case of mass delusion when we felt hours and hours of pounding the pavement, running, was some sort of route to optimal fulfillment or immortality or whatever.
Moderation has truly taken over today. Not that Horner is going to take the governor's office.
When I was young, the idea of paying a fortune for athletic shoes was absolutely foreign. It seemed there was less discretionary money back then to begin with. People of the Great Depression would be aghast at what we would end up paying for these things.
"Cross training shoes" gained in popularity. Middle-aged boomers decided that running until great pain set in was no longer part of their zeitgeist. A variety of less-taxing physical activities would do. But the pattern of moderation didn't even end there.
We have become aware of the RFC's financial challenges here in Morris, so now I'm wondering if people are opting for the total common sense approach to fitness, one that doesn't require trips to a special facility.
I have written before and will write again, emphatically: establishing a healthful diet with generous fruits and vegetables is the big step #1. Also, let's establish a lifestyle with reasonable stress levels and proper sleep ("early to bed and early to rise a la Ben Franklin, one of our Founders whom I'll quote without giving credit to Glenn Beck).
Lastly, as a purely complementary step, let's employ some daily vigorous walking. No need to spend a big chunk of change on specialized shoes or other "stuff" or an RFC membership.
We can remember the running "boom" as an historical chapter. It was when nearly every small town out here had a distance event. I mean even Barrett, Ashby, Elbow Lake and Donnelly. Yes, the Threshing Bee in Donnelly had a running challenge for a couple of years.
Most of these towns offered the full-fledged 10-kilometer challenge which is 6.2 miles. Many of them offered both the 10K and 5K, and then as time went by, many opted for just the 5K. I feel that running a good hard 5K (3.1 miles) is as good a workout as you could possibly want.
The "fad" period of running dictated that the longer distances were a special challenge. Fergus Falls had a 10-miler, unusual because it didn't follow the metric system.
As with all fads the luster faded. Boomers moved on to other causes and interests, while new generations had other priorities.
We all still pay at least lip service to fitness. But how do we square this with the high percentage in our population who are severely weight-challenged, who ingest the Big Macs and fries and suck down sugary beverages without hesitation?
A lot of these fat people would have raised eyebrows when I was young. Alas, they are an assumed part of the landscape today.
Yet we have the RFC today.
If your insurance premiums seem high, maybe it's because your company is helping pay health club memberships for people. It's the theory that people will be healthier if regularly visiting the RFC or some such place. But is this pure myth?
How do all these people manage their lives when they're not at the RFC? Is visiting the RFC little more than a way for them to combat guilt and rationalize a lifestyle in which calories and stress are all too much the norm?
To put it more bluntly, I have to wonder how much a person is helping himself, who tugs on a sweatshirt and walks some laps at the RFC, but who also wolfs down Doritos and rice krispie bars without hesitation in idle time.
We are surrounded with food temptations. In the old days you paid for gas by handing money to the attendant who'd then get your change. (This fellow would make sure your windshield was clean.) Today you stand there staring blankly as you fill the tank yourself, then go inside to pay where a nice big display tray of donuts or rice krispie bars greets and tempts you.
These businesses like self-service because they want you to come into the store and buy all that stuff. And lots of people do. Grab a Snickers bar. Or a large size Pepsi.
Go to McDonald's and get yourself two refills of soda pop because nobody restrains you. When I was young, McDonald's had one size of french fries (not large) and if you wanted a second cup of soft drink, you went up to the counter and ordered it.
Unlimited refills? Maybe on Mars.
But today we can seemingly pound down the calories all day. We do it without thinking, mostly, but then we get wakeup calls through the media: America is an obese nation. We see those "headless bodies" on TV, impressing on us this "crisis."
Forget about wearing those old Starsky and Hutch jeans. Today the men need "relaxed fit" or "loose fit." The older style is called "classic" not "slim." "Slim" is a tough nut to crack now. It seems we have decided not to even aspire to that now.
It's unsettling that "full figure" seems to be becoming fully acceptable.
We make a few token visits to the RFC to feel better about ourselves. But it's futile for insurance companies to help pick up the tab.
A better approach would be for everyone to find out his optimal weight from his physician, and then be rewarded with lower premiums if actually achieving it. It may be unattainable for many.
In the meantime, let's just heed moderation and its virtues.
And vote for Mark Dayton.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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