I read two articles recently having nothing to do with abs that made me think of how to fit crunches and exercise into a busy life…and all of us have busy lives.

David Brooks wrote a piece for the New York Times describing two ways to live a life: as a Well-Planned project and as a more fluid exploration, the Summoned Life, that starts with the particular circumstances one faces.

“Once you have come up with an overall purpose,” he continues, “a person following a Well-Planned life has to make decisions about allocating his time, energy and talent. When he is done, life comes to appear as a well-designed project, carefully conceived in the beginning, reviewed and adjusted along the way and brought toward a well-rounded fruition.

“The person leading the Summoned Life starts with a very concrete situation: I’m living in a specific year in a specific place facing specific problems and needs. At this moment in my life, I am confronted with specific job opportunities and specific options. The important questions are: What are these circumstances summoning me to do? What is needed in this place? What is the most useful social role before me?”

When I say I want to crunch abs at least twice a week, I am often disappointed at failing to reach this goal. I visit kids and friends, see a movie, dine out, travel. I don’t hit my target. Other people do make and exceed those goals. I saw the gym rats who said they were pumping iron four times a week. I was never ever one of them. I made different life choices involving others I have relationships and obligations with. I am also playing tennis five to 14 hours a week. The muscle builders are probably not doing that also. But I want to have the muscles too.

I’d be a lot happier, I am concluding if I could just adopt the more relaxed attitude of accepting my circumstances and the time-limited opportunities in my life to: carry out survival functions, work for money and causes, write for this site, spend time with loved ones, play tennis for fun and cardio, handle car and house repairs, and also squeeze in some crunches. I always think I can do it watching TV, but usually I am too tired to do much more than eat a snack and push the remote.

Any suggestions? I actually have friends who don’t watch TV, hardly use a computer. They have time to exercise every day an hour or two and also get up with the birds and the sun. I have to stop wanting it all and learn to accept my limits. But it’s almost impossible. Too greedy for a closer step toward perfection. Too interested in tennis over gym exercise. But when I was younger and working full steam, I barely spent an hour a week some years doing any kind of physical activity

The second article by Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, talks about “the three leading causes of death that we have control of: tobacco use, poor dietary pattern and limited physical activity. Interestingly, as the toll of tobacco use has been declining over recent years— it’s down to about 20 percent of the population—the toll of eating badly and lack of activity — represented in obesity among other adverse outcomes — has been rising.”

Katz also points out that “A healthy person is healthy — in whole, not in part. Recent studies have shown that people who don’t smoke, eat well, are active and control their weight are roughly 80 percent less likely to get ANY major chronic disease than their counterparts who do the converse in each case.

“So, a healthy person doesn’t smoke. A healthy person eats well. A healthy person is physically active. The question we should be asking is: what interventions for individuals, families, schools, work sites, communities and more will encourage, promote and empower the adoption and maintenance not of some single preventive strategy, but of healthful living?”

One has to wonder what is there in the makeup of some people—genetically, emotionally, attitudinally—that allows them or enables them to be healthy. Clearly they are avoiding the destructive parts of living a life and carrying out the positive parts that others are unable to control and manage. They may not be going to the gym four times a week to build abs and biceps, but they are at least avoiding smoking, bad food, too much alcohol, and are somewhat physically active.

As for me, as long as I am interested in being alive, I’d like to be fit, without physical pain, and able to enjoy the life I want to live. We all realize that a few more ab muscles may look good in the mirror, but it hardly matters in the overall plan or situation.