Back to Fitness: Finding Your Inner Athlete

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By John Andersen

In the 2011 book Born to Run, Christopher McDougall profiled the Tarahumara Indians from Mexico’s secluded Copper Canyons. The Tarahumara are an incredible culture of endurance runners living a very simple and primitive life. Some may call their culture “undeveloped”; however, these people rarely suffer from heart disease or obesity and are known for running 100-mile-plus races through their rugged canyons—wearing homemade sandals—and doing so well into their 60’s and 70’s.

The Tarahumara offer a resounding lesson that the answer to living a healthy and fit life has nothing to do with modern medicine, trendy nutrition plans, or specialized training routines. It is much simpler than that. The Tarahumara are an example of humans living as humans were made to live. How we have strayed from that!

The Tarahumara’s incredible endurance running (with a diet mostly of corn and beans—no sports drinks or gels!) is actually not the best part of the book. The profound tale in this book is that of McDougall himself. He describes his transformation from an overweight, 6’ 4” inch tall, 200-plus pound man who couldn’t run a mile without chronic pain, into a fit and trim athlete who within a year completed a 50-mile trail run in the Copper Canyons. “If I can do this, anyone can do this,” he wrote. His transformation was made simply by eating better and learning to run like his body was made to run.

Let’s face it, most of you reading this article are very busy. We are earnestly trying our best to balance parenting, work, our home, relationships, and other commitments and we can very easily find ourselves in a physical and mental rut.  Overweight, overtired, and overstressed, we wonder when life got so hard and when we started to get old. And just when are we supposed to find the time and energy to exercise, not to mention eat right and get enough sleep?

I get this. I’m 37 years old, raising a seven-year old boy, working a demanding job, starting a new business (second job!) with my wife, and on top of that balancing a million other commitments (like writing a few newspaper columns) and trying to get enough sleep. And yet, I am the healthiest and most fit I’ve ever been in my life.

Like McDougall, I have found that the answers are simple. The hard part is weeding through the plethora of information out there on health and fitness to find what is right, what is wrong, and what works best for you. This column intends to explore this journey—your journey—to get back to fitness. By applying evidence-based science as well as common sense to topics such as nutrition, exercise, and weight loss, we can clear the fog together. So if you are in a physical or mental rut, make time for yourself to get back to fitness. You are definitely worth it!