You Don’t Have to Sweat to Work Out

To me, good health is all about alignment. Aligning mind, body, behavior and spirit (if you’re religious) promotes good health. My belief is based on personal experience.

When I was in my early twenties, I was profoundly unhappy. I thought I was just “not happy” and going through the daily routine of life. I was an engineering graduate student at Stanford and dreaded what I was doing without even knowing it. As Tony Soprano says, I was probably too lazy to think for myself.

I was also ridiculously fit and “healthy.” I didn’t touch alcohol, didn’t eat red meat, exercised like a fiend. I played 3 hours of basketball per day. I had 7% body fat. My physician was literally shocked at my HDL/LDL counts – he had never seen such great metrics. I was a specimen.

I soon became extremely sick – Stage IV Hodgkin’s Disease. There is a happy ending to this story so that’s beside the point. Today, I eat too much red meat, drink too much alcohol, exercise moderately and am really happy. My wife, in particular, makes me laugh every day like no other. We have two great children and an unbelievable community of friends. I’m by definition middle-aged so I should exercise more, drink less, eat less red meat. But I feel 10x “healthier” then the Asian Adonis I was in my 20’s.

Thus my belief that good health is alignment between the different parts of the human system: mind, body, spirit (for some) and behavior. (Or, as Gandhi would say: thoughts, words, actions, habits, values.) I need this belief to help me answer the nagging question – how did I get so sick? Why do some of the “healthiest” people die “too early”? Why do some of the unhealthiest people live the longest? The right answer obviously is “no one knows” but in my attempt to make sense of everything, I cling to this belief about good health being foremost about alignment. You can eat all the plant-based meat in the world, sleep 9 hours a day, drink 2 gallons of water per day and be unhappy as shit while doing so. That’s not good health to me.

In the 90’s, people started to explore this idea of alignment (or the mind-body connection). The mind-body connection is more mainstream now but back then, most mainstream folks (e.g., doctors) thought it was a bunch of shit. Books like “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” were fringe – a little hocus pocus-y. Today, these concepts are more mainstream. When I was a meathead in my 20’s, my workout split was “weights” and “cardio.” [1] As a 50 year old today, strength and cardiovascular health aren’t enough – alignment practices like yoga and pilates are important as well.

Thanks to Tom Brady, there’s more awareness around stretching and pliability as almost a third rail of fitness. Strength and cardiovascular health are really important. From a functional standpoint, people now understand that stretching and flexibility is vital as well.

These ideas led us to invest in Outer Reach a few years ago. Being an LA native, I had seen and been to many “stretch gyms” but when we met them but for some reason felt like all were lacking. The founders Aimee, Jon and Alex took a deliberate approach to build something different than the then-current options. They created a new regimen based in Tribeca, NYC centered around the idea that alignment promotes health. They understood that you don’t have to sweat to do something healthy.[2] Today they got some mainstream acknowledgment and a great review from the New York Times. The author concludes, “Adherents of anatomy-based routines like yoga or Pilates will readily take to Outer Reach’s methods. Treadmill worshipers may need to be convinced…They can have their sinew, and I’ll be in TriBeCa doing side twists and emerging a little bit taller each time.”

It’s awesome to see this recognition for everything they’ve accomplished so far.

[1] “Strength training” was hitting the beach muscles 4x per week (chest, tri, back, bi, abs), legs 1x per week (“That’s why you wear pants!”) and cardio maybe 15 minutes per week.

[2] One of my beliefs (again, based on anecdotal data and no science) is that meditating for one hour a day, stretching for one hour a day, etc. is a “workout” just like running 5 miles a day. Not sufficient for “being healthy” but an essential component. I also am the person who believes “tech neck” is a real thing and people will take active steps to fix it.