seasons and years

Most of us have little idea of how we arrived at the doorstep of the year we call 2015. I spent a few hours last Sunday night trying to figure it out, got carried away and missed much of the Steeler game. Sorry dad. And I still don't have a good handle on it. 

It would make sense if our 24-hour days divided up neatly into 28 days per month and 12 months per year. But of course we had to invent the idea of leap year to make up for our 365-day imposition on the sun. Did you know that the earth does not move at constant speed in its elliptical orbit? In the norther hemisphere, spring and summer are longer than fall and winter by about 3 to 4 days. Even our precious 60-minute hours and 24-hour days are in flux. Because of the gravitational forces of the moon and other planets, twenty four hours is only the average duration for the earth to complete a full rotation. We simply don't notice the routine occurrences when a day swings up to 8 minutes shorter or longer than a "day."

The Gregorian calendar was proposed to number our years from the day Jesus was born. Wouldn't it be nice if the year 1 actually occurred on the year Jesus was born? Speaking of Christmas, wouldn't it make sense if the pagan feasts on which it was piggybacked also took place on the first day of winter when the days start getting longer? Why wasn't the winter solstice, the longest night in the norther hemisphere, marked as the last day of the "old" year?

Sunrise at Stone Henge on the winter solstice.
Yes, I'm proposing that the winter solstice and Christmas and the first day of the new year should line up. But then again, the day of the solstice occurs in cycles between what we know as December 20th and the 24th. Still, I say we move January 1st to December 22nd and celebrate Christmas, winter festivals, and New Years day at the same time. That would make sense and save us the holiday fatigue.

Side note: Some scholars say that Christmas was assigned to December 25th a few hundred years AD, when some church leaders started teaching that Jesus resurrection and conception necessarily occurred on the same day (March 25th). From there they arrived at December 25th (9 months after conception) as his birthday.

At any rate, our years are labeled imprecisely from the year that Jesus was born, which itself has been imprecisely layered upon imprecise winter solstice festivals which are based upon the actual winter solstice, which varies by the day and hour. What does this have to do with my theme here at Mental Reps? It's a bit of a leap, but I'd like for you to consider the imprecision of our bodies.

What makes a formal exercise beneficial and unique to other types of formal exercise? In what ways is informal movement better? What is the best diet for fat loss or muscle gain? How many days per week should you train and allot to recovery? What's aerobic or anaerobic training? (Where, for example, does a typical Crossfit WOD or a hard set of 20 squats with high resistance fit into all this?) What's the correct movement tempo, rep, set, and resistance scheme to maximize health versus physical power, strength, or size?

The answers are definitely far less clear-cut and precise than we think. God is apparently no respecter of our man-made divisions, categories and labels. Neither are our bodies.

But I do know that we need to be paying attention to what we eat and how we feel and function. We need exercise and rest. We desperately need rhythm to our days far more than a precise measure of the time and many of things that we do desire.

Please question your sets, reps, timed splits and macros. Be critical of the health and wellness industry (my forte), with it's man-made categories and assumptions set in stone. The 7-minute abs, the 14-day detox, the organic kale flax diet. Some of these are fine and well, but they never exist in isolation. Quick fixes and one-size-fits-all formulas don't exist at all.

Drinking two Red Bulls in order to drag yourself to the gym or ball field is going to catch up with you. Trying to accomplish too many things at once is an easy recipe for failure. One way or another, those sharp abs will come at a cost. And they won't be worth it (or sustainable) when you're arthritic knees can't raise you from the couch. Is the control freak diet and exercise schedule really necessary? Will it be destroyed under the weight of a life that demands more than focusing on yourself? It should.

Us mortals need our categories, divisions, and labels. They're convenient, if not entirely accurate. Anything we do to the extreme is sooner or later going to cause the pendulum to swing back with force. You are not likely the exception. I'm preaching to myself as much as anyone reading.

However imprecise we understand and make use of it, we are given this blessing of time. May 2015 be a year you take inventory of what's important to you. May you move well, rest well, and serve others in honesty and humility. And have some fun!

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