I heard a story from a friend about someone he had hired to work in his mechanic shop.
The man had spent the bulk of his career as a race car driver, a profession that seems to add a bit of electricity to a conversation. A race car driver? Well, that’s not someone you meet every day! I could visualize a huddle of middle-aged men recalling their glory days, their eyes twinkling as they angeled for stories from the pit, transported back to being little boys enamoured with the roar of an engine.
(Girls could have had that dream too. I’m just saying that in this case it was boys.)
Eventually my friend got around to explaining how he came to hire the race car driver in the first place, and it turns out that racing cars was just too rough on his body. “Even with all of the modern technology in cars these days,” the men asked. “Even with all of the padding and reinforced clothing they wear?” Yes, my friend said. The race car driver told him that driving the car was no problem at all. Stopping, however, was a different story.
Stopping, said the race car driver, had put him in retirement.
When my friend got to this part of the story, I pulled out my little notebook because he had just given me a great way to start a new year of health and wellness advice.
The reason stopping had been so hard on the race car driver’s body is because even with the latest technology and best gear, when you’re driving at top speed and then suddenly a parachute pops out behind you, even when you were expecting it, there is impact. The latest and greatest technology can only go so far when dealing with physics like that. Over time, the residual effects of that impact on his body became more trouble than it was worth, and he retired. In a sense, stopping over and over again had put him in retirement.
I wonder how often we are speeding through life and have something come up that stops us in our tracks, like a family crisis, an illness, a job loss, or some other game-changer. Those events aren’t usually nice gradual decelerations that arrive safely in a new destination. No, there are skid marks, screeching tires, and all manner of chaos! In my line of work, that translates to more fast-food meals, more workouts being missed, and less sleep at night. When the healthy habits come to a screeching halt, there is impact. Keep up that cycle long enough, and it will deteriorate your body, too.
So then I guess the solution is to just never stop, right? If the race car driver had just kept speeding around the track and never stopped, he wouldn’t have gotten run down and needed to retire so early. Tempting, yes, but we know that’s not the real answer. Eventually he would run out of gas, the tires would shred apart, and the engine would dry up. Not ever stopping is not the solution, either.
You know what the answer is, don’t you? Of course you do! The answer is to keep the car moving at a slower speed so when the need arises, changing course doesn’t mean slamming on the brakes and jolting everything out of place. Yeah, it’s the same slow-and-steady healthy living advice dressed up in a new way.
Here are some ways that can be true in your life this week:
In your “new year, new me” zeal, you may be tempted to commit to rising early each morning to go to the gym and exercise, and even enroll in a 90-day fitness challenge to really motivate yourself to get in shape. Woah! Too fast! Three to four challenging workouts a week is a great pace, and less likely to result in burnout or injury.
Having finally gotten the leftovers, ahem, put away, you may be ready to purge the pantry and fridge of all temptation, buy the latest diet book, adopt the culinary ways of your ancestors, and never eat carbohydrates again. Watch out! You’re going to crash! Lightening up your favorite recipes and eating out less often is a clear path to progress, and easier to maintain while also having a social life.
Because here’s the truth: stuff is going to come up. Life is going to happen, and you’re going to have to course-correct, and if you’re careening around the curve at top speed trying to do the extreme version of your healthy goals, you’re going to crash and it will be awhile before you are back on the road again. And that would be a shame considering how much work you did.
So, take a lesson from the race car driver, and remember that constantly stopping and starting took such a toll that eventually, he couldn’t do it anymore. When you get into the driver’s seat of your healthy goals, take it nice and slow. Sure, it’s not as thrilling or exciting as being a race car driver. But, you get to keep going for a lot longer.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!