Normal isn't Always Healthy - or Wild

Greetings, League of Wildness!

Monday marked the first day of spring and I hope you’ve been able to enjoy it! 

Since launching our Kickstarter for the Ruck Backpack, we’ve had questions and comments from people who are nervous about walking around with a backpack. They wonder if it might look weird or what other people will think. It’s completely normal to worry what others will think, but is “normal” all we really want to subscribe to for our health goals?

Some average statistics in the US:
77% of us do not get enough exercise even based on minimum recommendations
75% of us report stress levels that impact our health
67% of our calories come from processed food
50% of us have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
The average office worker sits for 15 hours per day, not including commute time or sleep time. If they sleep an average of 7 hours that means 22 hours of their day is spent in seated or prone positions.

This is what “normal” looks like today. This isn’t what I want for my life and I hope it’s not what you want for yours. 

Just because something is normal doesn’t make it ok and normal definitely isn’t always wild.

I encourage you to step out of the box and take control of your health. An activity like rucking allows us to combine walking and carrying weight, both of which have been a basis for human activity since we first stood upright 3 million years ago. The fact that some people consider a normal human activity to now be weird or even dangerous just speaks to how far we’ve deviated from what is normal for our human bodies. Fifty years ago, half of all jobs provided adequate daily movement. Today, fewer than 20% of them do, and as technology continues to automate our world, that number continues to decrease. Our sedentary behaviors continue to increase year after year and along with them, so do our incidences of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic pain. Is that the normal we are striving for? 

When we combine spending 8+ hours a day seated (not including sleep) with the fact that 77% of us don’t get enough exercise, 75% of us are stressed to the max, and 67% of our calories come from processed foods, it’s a recipe for a health disaster and that is exactly what we are seeing. This is not what our human bodies are designed to do and the fact that we are normalizing it is madness.

Our bodies are designed to move in a large variety of ways and they are capable of carrying weight while doing so. Our ancestors weren’t carrying grocery bags with handles containing a pint of berries and a pound of meat. They moved in groups carrying baskets of foraged goods, babies on their backs, rabbits hanging from their pants and large animal haunches on their shoulders. The only reason we think walking with weight on our bodies is abnormal is because we’ve normalized sedentary behaviors and the resulting cascade of health effects to the point that someone doing a perfectly normal activity is seen as odd. 

We all laugh at the scene in Wall-E at the Buy n Large where everyone can shop on a hoverchair without having to walk and buy all the things that make them "happy." But more and more that seems to be the world we are moving toward and we’re all laughing along while going down with the ship. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

This sounds awful! What do I do?
Live. A. Wild. Life.
That’ll look different for everyone but I included some ideas below. Our blog also has a year’s worth of posts that should bring some more inspiration. 

Move wildly
Use your human body in all the ways it was designed to move.
Get off the couch and sit on the floor, better yet go sit in the grass outside.

🦶 Combine a work call with a walk. 
🎒 Zoom call? NO! Zoom Ruck.
🚫 🚗 Walk instead of drive.
💪 Carry and lift weight more often in a variety of ways.
🕺🏼Move your body through its full range of motion every day.
🐵Hang by your arms.
🧗‍♀️ Play at the park! They offer equipment we don’t usually have at home like balance beams, monkey bars, and climbing walls.
🪑 Look up ideas for chair stretches and desk yoga for those days you have no choice but to be a keyboard warrior.

Eat wildly
Decrease processed junk and normalize wild, whole foods. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the oceans clogged with trash. We do the same thing to our bodies when we eat too much processed food. Aim for 20% or fewer of your calories from processed foods. If you can’t find it in nature or create it easily with something from nature, then it’s processed. There are no protein bar trees and you’ll never forage Lucky Charms.

There have been times in my life where I tried to tell myself I was eating well because ⅔ of my meals were healthy, when in reality that one processed meal accounted for half or more of my calories for the day. You can have the world’s best salad for lunch but if you follow it up with an entire frozen pizza it tips the balance heavily in the wrong direction. Beverages count too, drink more water and less soda and energy drinks. 

Connecting with the food we are eating is something I think we should all do more of. It reminds of us of our place in the world and the value of life and what it takes to keep each of us alive.

De-stress wildly
I’ve only recently come to understand that reducing stress has to be an active choice. For much of my life – like many people – I thought chilling in front of the TV counted as relaxation and de-stressing. But it doesn’t. TV and movies are just more content that we consume. They require engagement from our brains even if we feel like we are zoned out and they don’t meaningfully reduce our stress. In fact, some things we watch or video games that we play can engage our fight-or-flight system which is not what we want. That raises our cortisol levels – along with blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure – when we want to lower cortisol to reduce our stress levels.  When we are stressed out, the resources our body needs to rest, recover, and heal are not available because they are being utilized by the fight-or-flight system instead.
Actively reducing stress requires that we consciously choose to engage in things that are proven to reduce our stress levels, such as:

🧘‍♂️ Meditation (this can take many forms and doesn’t require you to sit staring at a wall)
📓 Journaling your thoughts
😂 Connecting and laughing with people you care about
🚫 Setting and enforcing personal boundaries
🍃 Time in nature
🏃‍♂️ Exercise
😴 Prioritize sleep
🎨 Create something

My favorite thing is to take a meditative walk in nature while focusing on my senses to note what I see, hear, smell, and touch and then write about the experience. Time in nature almost always ensures I sleep better, so it ticks almost all the boxes with one simple but very effective activity. There is never a time I don’t come back renewed after making a conscious effort to connect with nature.

Care for yourself wildly
If you are dealing with a health concern, look at some valid sources, such as the Mayo Clinic, for ways in which you can improve your health alongside medical intervention. The medical world has made some truly amazing advancements, but no one knows your body like you do and sometimes there are things we can change in our lifestyle to help move the needle. Don’t rely solely on your doctor to tell you how to care for yourself. It’s a full-time job to manage our self-care and it takes time to learn all of the nuances of our own bodies. Communicate what you learn about yourself with your doctor, and if they dismiss you or don’t listen to you, find a new one.

Sleep wildly
We can’t expect to live a wild day if we don’t set it up with a solid night’s sleep. Proper sleep has a major impact on how our body and brain recovers from the demands of the day.
🌍 Aim to match the planet’s cycles of light and darkness as closely as possible.
☀️ Spend time in the sun and fresh air every day, ideally get out in the sun first thing in the morning.
🌡 Set your bedroom temp lower.
📱 Have a reliable bedtime routine that includes putting away devices at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack. 
💡 Limit light in your bedroom at night, including covering the charging lights on your devices. 
🍲 Don’t eat too close to bedtime. I aim for 3-4 hours between my last food and my bedtime, but something different might work better for you. 

Living a wild life can – and should – be the norm. What we’ve accepted as normal in our world and the impacts those things have on our health as astounding. It doesn’t have to be that way. Be the weird one who walks around with a weighted backpack, does walking lunges around the block, and orders steamed veggies instead of fries at dinner. It might feel awkward to buck expectations initially but you’ll be better for it, and you never know when you inspire someone else to do the same. Don’t be afraid to live a wild life. The alternative is a normal life and personally, I don’t find normal something to aspire to. 

Be wild, friends. Your body is built for it.


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