The Massive Fitness Trend That's Not Actually Healthy at All
The world can be a crazy place, we all know that. And giving in to the fear that is endlessly manufactured by the media is a constant temptation on the path to fitness greatness. It’s also true that sometimes sh!t gets real, and we need to be prepared to adapt instantly. Why? Because…
Life Is a Battle!But (and it's a big fat booty butt) just because life is a battle doesn’t mean you have to destroy yourself every time you go to the gym. Any serious athlete knows that rest, recovery, and periodization (smartly modifying intensity based on goals, performance, and ability) are absolutely crucial to optimal performance (aka kicking ass).
There is a massive trend in the fitness industry to glorify exercise as an all-out war on the body. I call it the militarization of fitness—all the boot camps, Marine-inspired workouts, ridiculously intense body building routines, and general glorification of pain. Even our recovery and regeneration techniques are prioritized by how painful they are. (Got a knot in your hip flexor? Go roll that sh!t with a baseball!)
This trend is a symptom of a much larger disease. We live in a culture obsessed with aggression, and it has found its way into every facet of our lives, even our workouts.
Exhaustion Is Not a Status SymbolWell, exhaustion actually is a status symbol in our culture. And that’s the problem—we’re working and training ourselves to death. From a young age, we’re bombarded with the message that to be successful, we must work overtime, sacrifice our health, friends, even happiness and sanity to achieve what we want.
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Being chronically exhausted is not the key to success. It's a race toward disease and dysfunction. And in most cases, it causes suffering that is 100 percent preventable. Some people, like Dr. Meyer Freidman, the doctor who first identified the type-A personality trait, calls this western disease "the hurry sickness."
We never say things like "I bet I can experience kidney failure before you!" But that’s how many of us behave. Even in the fitness industry, there are tons of people who look strong on the outside and are weak as sh!t on the inside. And do you know what we call them? Leaders. Because other people pay them good money to inherit their same warped and superficial understanding of fitness.
Our cultural pathology can be summed up pretty easily: too much yang, not enough yin; too much doing, not enough being; too much work, not enough play; too masculine, not enough feminine.
How Does the Militarization of Fitness Affect Your Workout?In every way possible. It affects your health, happiness, the sustainability of your program, and your ability to reach your goals.
Do you believe any of the following are true?
So What’s the Other Option?Well, there are many options. But one of them is to decide that learning about the body and what it takes to nourish, strengthen, and heal it is a lifelong process, adventure, exploration, and privilege, not a burdensome obligation, nor a military operation.
There are plenty of people who love dancing and dance their way to a new body. Others get a deep satisfaction out of practicing martial arts and kung fu their way to super fitness glory. Then there are the yogis, who use movement as a way to manifest their bodies greatness.
None of these perspectives are right or wrong, but they're all worthy of being explored if you truly want a sustainable, comprehensive, and balanced movement practice. Depth and breadth of perspective, my friends. That’s why you're here, reading this post and not one of those cheesy, superficial robot fitness sites.
Using Intensity Wisely and Normalizing DiscomfortThere is a huge difference between using intensity wisely and using intensity compulsively. To reach your fitness goals, you will need to confront your limits and learn to handle discomfort. So don’t use this post as an excuse to take it easy all the time. In fact, that’s just as much of a trap as working out hard all the time.
Find the middle ground. Be OK with discomfort, and learn to interpret your body's language, sensations, and signals, so you know which days you can/should push and which days you need to back off and recover. This is something you can’t outsource, and the better you get at listening to how your body feels, the easier it is to train hard, reach your goals, and avoid injuries and disease.
I Wonder…Are you willing to destroy your body to look super hot at age 30? Or are you willing to take a deeper look, explore the “less is more” philosophy, let go of your “no pain no gain” programming, and let your health, strength, and goals evolve in a natural way so that you're having new adventures and movement experiences well into your 90s?
All health and fitness goals require sustained motivation. It’s an adventure, not a destination, and you’ll enjoy the adventure way more if you make it your own instead of following the herd.
Now drop and give me 20 push-ups!
This post was was written by Jonathan Angelilli and was originally published on TrainDeep. Jonathan is many things: recovered addict, peaceful warrior, celebrity trainer, elite athlete, successful writer, humble teacher, loving student. Above all, he is an Exercise Alchemist™, someone who is passionate about the power of holistic exercise to transform you into the best version of yourself, and to transform the entire world.
It saddens me when I know that there are women who come to an exercise class, go for a run, or get on some exercise equipment with resentment, or even anger; with no joy or happiness in doing so. It is looked at as another chore. Another thing you MUST DO. It saddens me, but I completely understand. The time it takes out of your day, your hectic schedule.....it can cause many negative emotions. That is not what exercise should do. It should be a time for you to enjoy. A time for JUST YOU. When you get up to go and exercise it should be with a smile on your face (or at least without the words: "This is bullshit!" running through your head), knowing that you are doing so much good for your body, mind and soul.
If that isn't where you are right now, that's okay - as long as you don't continue to deny it! Tell yourself that other things are more important to you right now and that is okay. "I don't want to exercise. I need to go out for a coffee with my best friend to refuel and do some venting". Oh my god. Say it isn't so. It isn't that you don't have time to exercise. It's that other things are more relevent to your well being and sanity right now.
You must do what you are capable of doing, not what you think you should be doing. Any other way and you are doomed. Once you let go of the perceived notion of "how it should be" and live as you ARE, you will find that time opens up and you feel so much relief.
Once you stop thinking: "I don't have the time to workout" and instead think: "I don't want to exercise right now, my child's ball game is way more important to me", you release yourself of the guilt of not doing what you think you should be doing. Do you see the difference? That shift of thought is key. Admit to not wanting to exercise! It's okay. Then you will get to a place where you really DO want to exercise. You do find the time to do it. Believe it or not, you will suddenly discover a 15 minute window and want to go for a brisk walk. You will discover an hour on Sunday to get to the gym and enjoy going! Because it no longer is a 'chore' or something that you should be doing. It becomes something that you want to be doing, that you make a priority - not another annoying thing to add to a full (overflowing!) schedule.
So embrace the notion that you just don't want to exercise if that is truly the case! I mean really. If you wanted to, you would for sure make the time. You would sacrifice other things in your life. If this isn't the case, don't feel that you are letting yourself or anyone in your life down. Who gives a shit about what anyone else thinks, anyway. However, what YOU think is something to give a shit about. Give yourself a break and give yourself some time. You aren't stupid. You know how important exercise is. The time will come for you. Eventually you will want to. You will find the time.
I came across a blog post by Ali Crosthwait, a psychotherapist in Toronto. Her website is: TheGoodTherapist.com
Here it is, with highlighted areas pertinent to what I am trying to put forward:
Elizabeth came to my office looking for ways to manage her stress. She and her husband work demanding jobs and have three small children.
Elizabeth is 38 years old, carries 40 extra pounds, and looks like she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. She has become stuck in a familiar pattern of taking care of other people’s needs. On a week long staycation she didn’t even manage to go for a walk or take 15 minutes for herself.
Elizabeth decided that her first goal in our work was to start exercising. We spent a number of sessions trying to tackle the problem.
We talked about the importance of her health for her family—both now and in the long term. We talked about the impact of exercise on stress. We brainstormed physical activities that she would actually enjoy.
While Elizabeth was intellectually on board and coming up with ideas, I could tell her heart wasn’t in it. Finally, I had an intuitive flash. “It sounds to me like you don’t want to exercise,” I said.
Elizabeth looked at me wide-eyed. “You’re right! I don’t want to exercise.” She paused. “That feels so good to say—I feel relief—I don’t want to exercise!”
The whole room felt lighter. I began to breathe more deeply. It looked like Elizabeth did too. “That’s right,” I thought, “she doesn’t want to exercise.”
Of course the story doesn’t end there. Elizabeth needed to exercise and she knew it. But until that point we had both been trying to force her to do something she didn’t want to do.
With this new realization, the part of Elizabeth that didn’t want to exercise had entered the conversation. We asked that part of her why she didn’t want to exercise. Answer: she never had time for herself. She resented exercise as one more demand on her time.
We asked her to talk about how she felt on a daily basis. “Exhausted.” And we asked her how it felt to be told to exercise. “Enraging.” It was just one more area of her life in which she was obligated to perform
A cloud lifted as Elizabeth gave herself permission to talk about how she really felt. The part of her that didn’t want to exercise was brought into the conversation. And we could talk with her. We could make a strategy for making room for the things that this part of her wanted. And we could give that part of her the time to get on board.
What can we learn from Elizabeth’s story?
The Importance Of The Present Moment.“Aha moments” are gifts. But for many of us they aren’t coming and they aren’t coming fast enough. We need another approach.
The surest way to an Aha moment is to stay in the present. To take ourselves seriously—as we are right now—not as we wish we were. And we need to be listened to. As we are. Starting where we are is all we can do.
As a therapist it is my experience that most of us don’t want things to be as they are. We all have ideas about the way we want things to be. And we are often stuck in these ideas.
As we sift through all these ideas we eventually come upon a description of the present. Once we can allow our self to articulate what it is like to be us right now in the present, change begins. And relief and revitalization are close behind.
Emotional Health Can Be The Key To Physical Health: The fitness industry is prone to the positive psychology approach—something like “imagine yourself succeeding and just do it!” This works in some cases, but it has limits. And it is important to recognize those limits.
Each of us has experienced losses that we grieve, traumas that we bear, and wounds that we carry. All of these need a place.
Emotional health includes the ability to express the full range of emotions—from sadness to anger to joy. Repression of any one of these areas will result in sub-optimal emotional health which impacts physical health in a multitude of ways. In fact, the two aren’t really separate at all.
Elizabeth didn’t want to exercise because she was overextended, depleted, and angry about it. And she wasn’t allowing herself to feel and express those things directly.
With time and attention, Elizabeth was able to put her feelings into words. As she did this she was able to create small amounts of time in her schedule to rest and restore.
It wasn’t long before she was ready to hit the gym. She is now at the gym twice a week having lost 15 pounds in the past year.
Elizabeth had the courage to take her time. And she cared about herself enough to listen to what she needed in the present even when it wasn’t what she wanted or expected to hear. She took her emotional health seriously and the results were deep and lasting.