By Cord Prettyman, MPT


On Wednesday, May 6, 1998, my first Fit & Healthy column was published in the Pikes Peak Courier newspaper in Teller County, Colorado. In it, I laid out the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle as it pertains to quality of life and longevity. Slowly, over the years, those first words morphed into the guiding principles as to how I try to live my life. It also became the foundation of my training techniques and lifestyle counseling for hundreds of clients over the years. I find those principles as pertinent today – here in Bigfork – as they were 23-years ago.

At the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, the health and fitness industry was fraught with confusing messages. Billions of dollars were being pumped into health and fitness research that consistently yielded conflicting information. The good thing was – if you didn’t like the latest research – just wait five minutes and a contradicting study would be published.

The CDC, who had been telling us that being overweight was harmful, changed their minds and informed us that being slightly overweight actually had a lower death risk than being skinny and that, by the way, there were only 28,000 people a year dying from obesity, not the 400,000 they had told us. As the new millennium loamed, we were being told that carbohydrates were good, then bad; caffeine was harmful, no helpful; and alcohol was a death sentence, then a moderate amount became “heart healthy.” Further complicating the choice of “Who do you trust?” was the 12 Food Pyramids that existed.

It was in this vacuum I decided to develop my own guide to a healthy lifestyle that I facetiously called, “Cord’s 4-Layer Cake – Moderation, Body, Mind and Spirit.” The first layer and foundation of a healthy lifestyle is Moderation. It was the Greeks in the 9th century B.C. who established the importance of moderation. America’s society has become the antithesis of moderation. Our food portions are too large, our cars oversized, we work more hours and play less than any other industrialized nation in the world and we sit too much and move too little. The average American has lost balance in his and her life. You can partake of most reasonable things without negative health consequences, as long as you do so in moderation and that includes exercise.

The next layer of the Cake is Body. I place this before mind and spirit because over the years I’ve seen many clients achieve a healthier mind and connect with their spirituality through exercise. The message here is to move. You don’t need to belong to a gym (although joining the Montana Athletic Club is never a bad idea) or own exercise equipment to be fit. Hike, ski, swim, kayak, mountain bike, clean the house, garden, wash the car, take the stairs, park at the far end of the Harvest Market parking lot but – whatever you do – move!

The third layer is Mind. One’s body and mind are intimately interconnected with negative emotions and thoughts having a major impact on one’s health. To achieve a healthy mind, identify your strengths and weaknesses and accept them. Make time for family and friends, manage stress and learn to be at peace with yourself. And don’t forget to exercise your mind. Read, seek out new hobbies, learn to play an instrument, put together puzzles and keep your mind active.

Spirit is the final layer of Cord’s Cake. Whether you find your spirituality in organized religion, during a hike on the Bigfork Nature Trail, at the town’s Festival of Arts, at a Riverbend Concert or fly fishing on the Swan River, do not ignore the importance to your overall health of nurturing your spiritual self. Nothing else makes you so uniquely human.

Finally, every cake must have Icing. Those little pleasures in life like a glass of good wine, a delicious tenderloin steak, a few pieces of chocolate or whatever your little heart desires – in moderation. The purpose of life is not to arrive at death’s doorstep in a well-preserved unused body. Nor is it to go sliding into your grave with a martini in one hand, a box of chocolate in the other screaming, “Yahoo, what a ride.”

Cord Prettyman is an IDEA Master Personal Trainer with 32-years of personal training experience, who works at the Montana Athletic Club in Bigfork, Montana. He can be reached at the club at 406-837-2582 or directly at 719-761-8592. Email: Website: