Saturday evening near Oslo, Norway, I had dinner with several outstanding people and the one sitting next to me was, very few years ago, a top Norwegian long distance skier. He's now a top-ranked elementary school teacher.
As an Olympic contender and at the top of his sport, he realized he was not physically fit. The discovery came when he spent the day with a farmer. He'd gotten interested in the soil-nutrition connection, and the food-health connection and simply wanted to experience a day on the farm. He went to bed at 8 p.m. at the end of the day because the physical activity of the lowly farmer wore him out.
This was a bit of an epiphany for him. Here he was, a top athlete, and he realized he was not physically fit. Furthermore, as he spent time in that elite spot, he realized most of those top athletes were actually not physically fit. They were all on something. One thing I learned on this trip is that all ski jumpers take asthma medication to help them breathe better, as a respiratory enhancement. It doesn't qualify as drugs since it's over-the-counter. Remember Mary Lou Retton, olympic gold medalist, at about 30 years old needed two new hips and two new knees.
This elite athlete realized that fitness is about food and balance. Of course, Crossfit workouts are an attempt to duplicate the myriad movements of regular physical work--the kind of movement our ancestors did every day. But that's still make-up stuff.
And so he found a tribe called NUTRITIOUS MOVEMENT. Just like we don't want junk food, we don't want junk movement. Every element of nutrition, these folks apply to exercise. He started an organization called ATHLETES FOR FARMING with the tagline HEALTHY SOIL, HEALTHY ATHLETES and the logo is the silhouette of a runner high fiving a farmer with a shovel over his shoulder.
I was fascinated by this notion of NUTRITIOUS MOVEMENT. I've never been a fan of walkathons and similar fund raising techniques because they seem like such wasted physical energy. Every day on the farm I know the limits of physical energy. I've always thought that if you want to sell donations for physical energy, why walk around the park? Why not sell fence post holes, or chopped out thistles and multi-flora rose? Why not sell picked up pieces of firewood or rocks?
A farm has a host of physical activities that are meaningful and intention-filled--why not sell those? Hay bales stacked in a barn. Green beans weeded. A farm is filled with important work; here on the farm, we don't need to contrive fitness programs. We ARE a fitness program, but it's meaningful work. It's nutritious movement. It's not junk movement; it's not empty activity like empty calories. It's work carefully sourced, constructed, and served. It satiates way more than just a gym workout.
As valuable as a gym workout is, it only feeds the person exercising. Real, honest exercise feeds other people and a mission bigger than ourselves. Exercising consciously is akin to eating consciously.
That an entire movement is now promoting and encouraging such thinking is music to my ears. In a day where everything seems segregated, integrating our physical activity with purpose-driven work connects our bodies to their sustenance in a profound wisdom. Why doesn't the church youth group, instead of spending the day at Busch Gardens, spend the day working on a farm? Or instead of rock climbing, how about planting some veggies, or installing urban garden beds, or planting some fruit trees? Maybe prune some trees and burn the branches to make charcoal, elixir of health for both plants and animals?
Nutritious Movement offers a cornucopia of opportunities if we just take a moment to think. Perhaps we need a recipe book for Nutritious Movement to go along with the one about nutritious eating. Most people don't even know enough about what should be done with physical work to get started. The parallels between our nutrition in the kitchen and our nutrition in exercise are infinite, and I deeply appreciate being introduced to this idea.
How about you?