Human beings are flimsy and breakable. We don't think we are, but we are so delicate and fragile it's pathetic. We grow up with the sense that we are indestructible. As kids and teenagers we jump off from stupidly high places, do crazy stuff with bikes, skateboards and cars. We use our bodies hard, straining them, running them, pulling them, and going as far as we can go to work them, to put them through every kind of test. As adults we're told that working out is important, we've got to go to the gym and work up a sweat.
We call it "building up our bodies." Stretching muscle tissue, increasing heart rate, pounding our feet and legs, breathing hard, forcing tendons, joints, and our vascular system to perform beyond normal endurance. "This is healthy," we are taught. "No pain, no gain." Keep going until you find it difficult to breathe. Keep straining until your muscles ache. Keep lifting weights until you're as tight and hard as a concrete wall.
We think we can put our bodies through almost anything without too much damage being done. We are the human race, after all. We need to build up our bodies because if we do, well maybe we'll live forever. Or at least to a healthy three figure age. We hear about it all the time, don't we?
The guy in Taiwan who still drinks whiskey at the age of 108. The black woman who just turned 116 and still eats bacon and eggs every day. The French woman who died at 122 and smoked cigarettes from the age of 21 to 117 and ate a diet rich in olive oil as well as a diet of port wine and eating over 2 pounds of chocolate every week. Interestingly, you never read about any of these senior seniors attributing their longevity to pumping iron or daily five-mile runs, or Pilates classes.
It's nice to think that we can control the chances of making it to a ripe old age and still be relatively healthy, but the dirty little secret is we really can't. Much of what determines how healthy we will be and how long we live is already preprogramed into our DNA by our parents. And there's not a thing anyone can do about that. Sure, eat smartly, don't be sedentary, curb excessive use of drugs and alcohol, and look both ways before crossing the street. After that it's pretty much good luck and good genes.
Beating up your body through excessive power exercise doesn't really do much for good health. Take major league baseball, for example. Today's ball players do much more exercise and spend more time in the gym working out with weights and machines then the ball players of 40 or 50 years ago, and yet the old timers never seemed to have the frequency and severity of injuries that today's guys have. I have never heard of so many "pulled hamstrings" not to mention elbow, Achilles, and shoulder injuries like we hear now all the time. And remember, today's players have the benefit of high-paid trainers and physical therapists, and also wear all sorts of protective gear that the oldsters never wore.
So why are the pro players getting injured more often than yesterday's players? Maybe, just maybe it might have something to do with incorrect workouts, like too much muscle building. So many of these guys are hard, bulked out, and tight instead of agile and loose. Hard and tight might be great for lifting weights and playing the front line in football, but in baseball it's far better to have physical flexibility and endurance.
Dodger pitching great, Don Newcombe, once said that the best physical training for a ball player is running. Just running. Newk might be on to something there. I know running plays a big part in Clayton Kershaw's training regime and it seems to be working out pretty good for him. Maybe less pumping iron and more emphases on moderate exercise would keep some of these guys off the DL.
What so many people don't get is, the human body is not unbreakable. While our bodies can withstand quite a bit, they can't take unrelenting stress forever. Like everything else in the world, the human body has a shelf life. But don't look in your bellybutton for your individual expiration date.
Only Heaven knows that.