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Most people don’t think of themselves as athletes or competitors. The fact is, we’re all in a race: the human race. We run to work, ...

Human Race and Fitness

Most people don’t think of themselves as athletes or competitors. The fact is, we’re all in a race: the human race. We run to work, rush through business, race through lunch, dash to the store and tear through our errands. As we get older, life seems to get more complicated rather than easier, and more time-consuming. We wonder how we’ll keep up this pace for the rest of our lives. The truth is, most people don’t. The average person spends the last dozen or more years of life in a state of gross dysfunction, relying on others for care and just waiting to die. Many spend a lifetime of savings to maintain a few more moments of a poor-quality life. Instead of enjoying the road to life’s finish line, most people reach it only after an agonizing death march. Welcome to the human race. It’s analogous to a very long journey, say, of 1,000 miles. If you were going to go that distance, you’d have
to prepare for it, following certain rules. You’d have to find the foods that best match your individual needs for optimal energy. It would require physical preparation. You would need to assess for dysfunction to prevent injury and disease. You would have to make lifestyle adjustments along the way that increase your fitness, health and human performance. If your life is like a 1,000-mile journey, just how are you preparing for it?
A healthy person has enough body fat to fuel a 1,000-mile journey. And, I’ve actually trained athletes who successfully completed long endurance races, including 1,000-mile ultramarathons, Ironman
triathlons and others. And many, including Mark Allen and Colleen Cannon, continue to be successful following their careers as professional athletes. To achieve their athletic feats, their training wasn’t excessive. In many ways, these athletes employed a basic program similar to the one you can use in your life’s journey as discussed in this book. The human race is a true test of endurance. We are all endurance animals, and must use the natural endurance we all possess by unlocking our aerobic and fat-burning systems through proper nutrition and conditioning. Most patients I’ve seen — athletes and non-athletes alike — initially had gross deficiencies in their endurance. They could not keep up in life’s journey. Endurance is fueled by the aerobic system, encompassing, in part, the heart, lungs, blood vessels and especially the aerobic muscle
fibers. Here, the energy is provided by nutrients obtained from the right kinds of foods, including fats, and generated by aerobic activity. If you “turn on” this aerobic system with easy exercise and the right foods, you will burn more fat and perform well in the human race. There’s another system at work in the body, which burns mostly sugar: This is the anaerobic system used for short-term speed. This is what you use when sprinting for the train, or chasing after a toddler. It’s also the system that revs up when you’re under stress. Too much anaerobic activity will cause the body to burn more sugar, and reduce the burning of fat and even store it. This fat may accumulate in the
blood vessels, abdomen or hips. Overuse of the anaerobic system will produce symptoms that may include mental and physical fatigue, moodiness, low blood sugar and recurrent or chronic injury, to name a few. And, it reduces your endurance. If you try to get through life’s journey using this system, you’re apt to have a very hard time. Imbalances in the aerobic and anaerobic systems result from poor
lifestyle habits, including under- and over-training, and are often instigated by popular but dangerous social trends and misinformation. Examples include “get fit quick” programs and fast weight-loss
scams. We must all run our own race. Beyond the basic rules, everyone has individual requirements. Each of you can discover your own needs for a personal best in life’s journey.
If you try to run life’s race in a random way, things won’t go well. But if you’re properly prepared for life’s long journey, you can achieve a world-class performance. This is a book about preparing for
life’s journey. In the following chapters I’ll discuss specifics of food and nutrition, physical activity and self-health management that can help you succeed in the human race. I hope to see you at the finish line.

Role of Fitness in Assessing Function and Preventing Disease

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