Vail Daily column: Gratitude for our lifestyle |

Vail Daily column: Gratitude for our lifestyle

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the things we are privileged to in the Vail Valley. The benefits of healthy living are second to none here in the central Rocky Mountains. I hope you will feel encouraged today as I shed light on why you should be grateful.

A few years ago as we were visiting my wife’s family in southern Florida, I drove to the grocery store to gather food for the week’s visit. Publix is a worthy retailer that isn’t so dissimilar to City Market — a reputable food dealer that sells quality ingredients that are sure to please culinary aficionados and picky eaters alike.


As I entered Publix through the eastern most entrance, I expected to find an abundance of fresh produce as you would in any other grocery store across our great nation. Most grocery stores are outfitted with produce, meat and dairy around the perimeter. Processed food and chemicals crowd the aisles.

This is not the case at the Publix in Stuart, Florida. The perimeter is filled with meat and dairy all right, but the far ends of the store perimeter are filled with candy, potato chips, cookies, donuts and other sugar laden items such as pop. (Ohioans say pop — soda is a traditional vernacular we are not familiar with.)

That day, I purchased strip steak, asparagus, cauliflower, parsnips, salmon, butter, chocolate, potato chips, beer, orange juice, milk, cheese, cereal, bread, a few condiments, diapers and yogurt pretzels. This is a very benign grocery list that most health enthusiasts in Vail would criticize as containing sugar, meat, dairy, wheat, alcohol and processed food. These food items would put a good friend of mine in the hospital from severe gastro-intestinal distress. My message about diet is always about common sense moderation, and I avoid the extreme ends of the continuum.


Here’s the interesting part of the story. When I checked out at the counter that day in Florida, in the deepest Southern twang you can imagine, the clerk said, “Gee, somebody’s sure eating healthy!” This was despite the fact that I had purchased potato chips, beer, wine, orange juice, condiments, chocolate and yogurt pretzels.

At Publix in the Deep South, they have a tiny section in the grocery store in the back left corner that contains a small table with limited produce. Grocery stores aren’t indifferent to the most basic statute of economics; there’s no need to stock the shelves with a supply that isn’t in demand. People outside of our culture of wellness in the Vail Valley don’t necessarily care one way or another whether or not there is gluten in the proverbial bagel.


I also witnessed a portly woman sitting in front of me at the Pepsi Center in Denver last weekend sift through a pill box with no less than a dozen medications. She washed down a large pink pill with a 24-ounce Diet Mountain Dew and a family-sized bag of Doritos.

Many people are so far gone that they don’t know what they don’t know, and they sure as heck don’t have any idea where to begin. This supersedes physical fitness and wellbeing; we live in a broken world in need of great hope.


Vail Valley residents aren’t usually victims to the consequences of poor lifestyle choices that others around the globe may face. Even though we have to overcome many orthopedic issues that sideline us, shouldn’t we be grateful for the world class health-inspired environment we live in? Our surroundings inspire healthy living, and I encourage you to stop focusing on your ailing knee and realize that it beats the alternative.

It can be difficult dealing with the loss of mobility as we age or because of the consequences of hard play here in the mountains. But rest assured that we are surrounded by the best orthopedic doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, nutritionists and fitness professionals in the world. This is not a bad place to be if you have a nagging shoulder injury.

The bottom line is that we must press forward with gratitude for the great health care and food options that our valley has to offer. It makes the quest for good living easier. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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