Learn to organize an efficient, immune-boosting march with your tribe here.

When in doubt, walk it out

The Kennedy March as Civil Disobedience

Health journalists have reputation for blatantly contradicting themselves.

Whether it’s alcohol, cardio, salt, or saturated fat, you can find at least one study to confirm your bias that [fill-in-the-blank] is either a panacea or potent toxin.

With COVID, we’ve been told:

And last, but not least:

  • Stay indoors | Get plenty of Vitamin D.
1984 TIME Magazine cover vs. 2014

The sheer volume of contradictory advice is enough to make one wonder whether it’s all a kind of ideological subversion — the subtle art of misinformation perfected by the KGB to discourage opposition parties from forming any coherent response to communist suppression.

As an aspiring Health Rebel, I’m frustrated by the acquiescence to lockdown restrictions that fly in the face of common sense about immune health. Perhaps the only claim that has not been contradicted by the self-appointed health experts is that walking is good for you.

Beyond this, everybody knows that fresh air, exercise, and sunshine are good for you in appropriate doses, yet many have been shamed or even arrested for exercising their right to go the beach. I’m not about to go to the barricade over the on-going closure of bars, restaurants, or gyms, but outdoor group movement is a hill that I may be willing to die on.

Toward that end, I am moving forward with a second 50-mile march across all three bridges of San Francisco Bay with other members of my “tribe.”

I’m also inviting movers, trainers and coaches of all kinds to lead their own marches (length of your choosing) some time this summer. I have a guide to efficient marching technique and a checklist for organizers who want to host their own with their extended family and friends.

How Not to be “The Soft American”

“𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚕𝚎𝚍𝚐𝚎, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚕𝚎𝚍𝚐𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚑𝚢𝚜𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝚠𝚎𝚕𝚕-𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚣𝚎𝚗 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚟𝚒𝚐𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚟𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚟𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗, 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚜 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚜 𝚆𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚗 𝚌𝚒𝚟𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚝𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏.

𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚕𝚎𝚍𝚐𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚝𝚘𝚍𝚊𝚢, 𝚒𝚗 𝙰𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚗, 𝚠𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐.”

– John F. Kennedy, *The Soft American*

In December of 1960, John F. Kennedy—then President-elect—penned an essay for Sports Illustrated in which he took Americans to task for becoming lethargic and weak.

The 50-mile march was originally Teddy Roosevelt’s challenge to military officers, but Kennedy’s version spawned an international craze of knock-offs that continue—albeit increasingly rarely — to the present day.

Like Jesus commanding the invalid to rise, take up [his] mat and walk, Kennedy inspired countless Americans to get off the couch and march farther than they thought they could.

As a recovering soft American, I’ve tried to retrace the ancient path that made our ancestors strong and to rediscover the forgotten knowledge of vigor and vitality. This journey began over 10 years ago when I discovered that I felt more alive when I sprinted outdoors or lifted a log rather instead of running on a treadmill or lifting weights inside.

Today, my journey continues in the form of more enduring and functional challenges like the first 50-mile march, which I completed on March 22 with my friend Ben to become the first people to cross all three bridges of SF Bay on foot in a single day. This event was supposed to be in a larger group, but lockdowns forced us to scale it back to just the two of us.

I rescheduled the group march for May 29 (JFK’s 103rd birthday), thinking the lockdown would be long over.

Yet just as the “temporary” suspension of freedom after 9/11 stealthily became permanent, and the “temporary” incursions into the Middle East spawned the Forever Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the “temporary” lockdowns are turning into a vitality-sapping New Normal.

Rubbish!

California is set to re-open gradually, but how that happens depends on what we the people demand. While exercise has been considered essential, it has so far been limited to solo activities or those with other members of your household.

Based on what we know about the relative risks of transmission from activities like walking, jogging and bicycling — as well as the exceedingly small mortality rate for otherwise healthy people under the age of 65 — this restriction on group outdoor exercise is no longer justified.

Nature’s Immune Benefits

If you are not convinced, I am compiling research into the myriad immune benefits of being outside among the trees, sunshine, and “open air” factor.

Open-air movement is our duty, our right, and our inheritance.

Our inheritance, because our bodies are calibrated to nature — right down to the frequency of UV rays that make our cell function optimally.

Our right, because freedom of movement is fundamental to securing health and happiness.

Our duty because “herd immunity” means more than not infecting others — it means being robust, resilient, and helpful in all circumstances.

Rebels with a Cause: Calling all Fitness Pros

When Kennedy made his famous “ask not what you can do for your country” speech, he was referring to this duty — not a blind subservience to a faceless bureaucracy, but a helping stance towards our fellow countrymen and women.

JFK would be shocked to see how much farther we’ve slipped as a nation into softness since his untimely death — despite a booming “fitness industry” which has presided over the largest and longest obesity epidemic in world history.

There has never been a more pressing need to bolster our natural immune capabilities than now. Coronavirus is no match for a healthy population, while a sick population is doomed to fail regardless of whether we dodge the next big pathogen or develop a vaccine in time to prevent additional economic devastation from COVID.

As the world retreats to stuffy indoor comfort, gym owners, trainers, etc. should be planning for a future of fitness that relies less on indoor spaces where viruses spread more easily.

Fitness leaders must take up the banner of physical culture and outdoor exercise to help their tribes adapt.

Not everyone can take up the challenge of a 50-mile march, but walking is accessible to people of all ages.

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Sign up for the guide to efficient walking and start your journey today.

Walking may be the most responsible form of civil disobedience available to resist becoming a nation of Soft Americans.

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