One run can change your day. Many runs can change your life.
Gardening and the physical aspects give you the exercise you need. Exercise is no different. When you take care of your health and exercise you are contributing to the overall good of everyone not just yourself. It all adds up to the reality that we were not created, not wired, to spend only 1% of our life exercising and certainly not sitting indoors in an artificial atmosphere. Live outdoors.
If an average life expectancy were 27,375 days (75 years), it is said an average human would spend 1% (or 274 days) exercising. 29.75% of their time (8144 days) is spent sitting down. If that is true then more people need to garden. And exercise. It is understood that an outdoor lifestyle with moderate physical activity is linked to longer life, and gardening is an easy way to accomplish both. If you garden, you’re getting low intensity physical activity and you tend to work routinely. Routinely being the keyword there. It doesn’t have to look pretty. So Mom was right all along. As kids she would kick us outside especially if we complained about being bored.
As a runner I read a study with interest that pointed out arm swinging costs energy while running, but holding them steady takes even more energy. I would look rather silly running with my arms held steady. That's because arm swinging reduces the motion of the torso. It takes energy running a marathon and it can produce physical pain, but when you finish it is an emotionally positive experience. Your sense of accomplishment can mitigate your memory of the tough stuff. If a painful activity produces outcomes of value, positive emotions result, and these emotions seem to help ensure that pain does not prevent us from doing it again.
There is no panacea for growing old but gardening does appear to improve our quality of life. Let nature nurture you. The social benefits too can increase longevity. Areas around the world that have the highest ratio of centenarians to the general public population often have residents that maintain personal gardens. It can’t be just a coincidence.
In Japan they say that anybody who grows old healthfully needs an “ikigai” or reason for living. Gardening gives you that something to get up for every day. They combine that with “yuimaru” or a high level of social connectedness. I have found that on my radio show. People love the social interaction that a common interest like plants affords. It helps people feel grounded and connected. Eating more vegetables and plants will also make you healthier. There is a simple truth. And gardeners are more likely to plant what they want to eat.
I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.
-Oliver Sacks neurologist and author
Exercise and time to let your mind wander is so important. A sedentary body or mind is like a plant locked in a dark closet. No matter how well the plant is fed or watered, it will decline and die without sunlight. The same seems to be true of a human body denied regular physical activity and mental stimulation. Like the plant’s position you would need to adjust your hebetude. If exercise were a drug they could market it as a wonder drug. Exercise involves and activates every organ of the body, including the brain. Take care of the three things gifted everyone...Your mind, your body, your spirit and be thankful for the gift given all of us. Forgiveness. Haven’t been doing well lately? Remember it's never too late to start.
I love running alone where the only sound is the sound of your shoes striking the pavement one after another moving forward. Moving forward is the key. Moving forward is easier when surrounded by positive people. There was a point in my life I realized negative influences were dragging me down and I was allowing it to happen. I started running. I now understand how critical it is to surround yourself with positive influences. There is a direct correlation between a healthy active body and a healthy mind. It “grounds” you. I love the quote by poet, writer and essayist Leigh Hunt who grew up in London in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s due to the fact his parents with loyalist sympathies had to escape the colonies during the War of Independence.
“The groundwork of all happiness is health.”
-James Henry Leigh Hunt
I have watched other runners experiencing some of the mind games that I too experience in my head. It is a good lesson on life. Runners are a fraternity of friends who meet at the start and finish line. They understand and accept the fact that people who don't run think we are crazy and a shoe lace short of a well fitting shoe. In between the social aspects at the start and the finish you run a race with plenty of time to think. I don't bring my phone with me and when I run and I don't wear earbuds listening to music. I enjoy the silence of anticipation as you listen to the rhythmic drum beat of hundreds of shoes striking the pavement covering the first mile of the race.
For many the run to the finish line works something like this. At the start excitement and anticipation. What have I got myself into kind of thinking. A sense of uncertainty and twinge of anxiety for the unknown that lies ahead. Some self doubt that you prepared sufficiently. A nagging concern that you should have visited the portable restroom one last time but the line was too long. The starting horn goes off and a mass of humanity moves forward funneled through a starting point in our individual journeys. The chatter of hundreds of people quickly drops off and the silent rhythm of shoes on pavement set the pace. You measure your breathing and your pace to the others that surround you. The first mile or two is shoulder to shoulder progress avoiding the legs of other runners while keeping pace. By miles 3 and 4 the pack thins out and you settle into a comfortable rhythm and cadence debating whether to pick up some refreshment at the initial aid stations or to continue on.
The key is as the miles add up not to allow self doubt to creep in. The lesson I've learned is that in running, as well as in life's journey, when you have miles behind you and miles before you the seeds of self doubt creep in. When you're in deep miles from shore physical fatigue can start to creep in and plays games with your mind. That is the time to train your focus. This is when the mind becomes more important than the legs. In the latter stages of the journey you question whether you can make it. You train your focus on those encouraging you in your journey and you in turn try to encourage others struggling along the way. Directing available resources to encourage both yourself and others is far better than self imposed drama or self imposed medication. Never quit, press on. By the time you cross the finish line you begin thinking that was fun and when do we get to do that again.
Today of course we have "a leg up" on barefoot runners of ages past with my state of the art running shoes and my GPS tracking watch. My shirt and shorts are of wicking material, technical fabrics that blend materials like polyester, elastane, spandex, and nylon. The shirt has moisture wicking properties and even has anti-microbial properties for combating bacteria and odor.
It always seems impossible until it's done.
Maintaining a garden and exercising engages the body, mind, and senses. All three together are a win-win-win for mental and physical health. All three create a position of mindfulness. Being in the moment. If the word “work” is a synonym for “cultivation” then I’m in for the “hoe” thing. In cultivating your attitude remember that culture, nurture and enlightenment can also be argued as closely related synonyms for cultivation. It explains why we have turned to soil in moments of upheaval to manage our anxieties.
Gardening is the antidote to tough times where things seem out of control. If your thoughts are a jargogle hands in the dirt can help ground you. It is tangible and rewarding. The gardener is never without a purpose. The orderliness gardening requires, with its rules and rows, can carry over to a sense of accomplishment and purpose in a indigenous agrestal way. That seems natural. There is a risk-reward ratio inherent in gardening. Dealing with variable weather and natural threats of disease and insects that may thwart your efforts is more than counterbalanced by the reward. The redolent presence of an herb nurtured by our own hands, the promise of a ripe juicy tomato is a tangible sense of accomplishment when we're floundering around, looking for something to focus our minds on. The same holds true for running. There is reward in knowing that unlike life sometimes, they don't move the finish line on you. That accomplishment is dependably there. Hang in there. At the very least it will inspire others.