Fitness: All Encompassing Means Paralyzing?

Posted on 16 Sep 2010 12:59

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In my previous post I presented the talk by Dr. Barry Schwartz regarding “The Paradox of Choice”. Also, I've lately been speaking about having specific goals in our training and making specific choices about the direction our training should take.

If you read my piece on the concept of fitness you’ll see that I don’t think much of the word. Yes, I use it on occasion for brevity or convenience but depending on your perspective it’s either to vague or too all-encompassing.

The military often uses obstacle courses as a way of testing general fitness. Fitness in this case means endurance, agility and relative strength, among other components. Obstacle courses, however, are meant to "simulate" real world field conditions. That is, they really are as specific as the Ninja Warrior courses although the latter is far far tougher! And when it comes down to it the best way to get good at any particular obstacle course is to practice that course.

In my blog post On Attitudes About Health and Fitness I discuss how people’s choices are often not based on their attitudes about general things, such as fitness, but on specific things that may be thought of as falling under that umbrella.

Let’s assume that the word fitness, in regards to exercise is too all-encompassing because every single possible choice you could make for your training falls under this vague “umbrella”. No wonder coaches cringe when they hear the word. I cringe every time I see a site with the word fitness in it’s name. I cringe every time someone tells me “I want to be fit.”

US Army obstacle course female recruit on monkey bars

Image courtesy of US Army

US Army obstacle course female recruit on monkey bars

Image courtesy of US Army

If you pick a few specific goals you narrow down your choices, increase your chances of success, reduce your stress levels, and increase your satisfaction with the choices you make.

But often, even when we do pick specific goals, the “fitness industry” hands us umbrella choices making it seems as if there a million different “right” directions we could choose. I want to lose weight is greeted with vague aphorisms such as “eat less and move more”.

Let's say you're instructed to move more. So you make one of your goals to move more. Still so many options! Moving means a lot of things, doesn’t it? Often however people narrow down their choices without even knowing it…the problem is they don’t know how to prioritize.

On the subject of fat loss, first of all, let me once again remind you that eating is the number one consideration. You want to lose weight you have to get your relationship with food under control.

However when it comes to moving more I cannot tell you how many ailments and excuses I have heard. I can’t squat because it hurts my knees. I can’t swim because it hurts my shoulders. I can’t do this I can’t do that…

After a while you get the idea that this persons problem is he can’t move worth a damn. Chants of move more, move more, move more is going to paralyze this person. He will dwell on what he can’t do and all the wonderful choices out there (so he thinks) that he can’t make. When in reality there is but one specific choice he should be making right now. He should be choosing to improve his ability to move. From the ground up. You want to move more then the better you can move the more you can move. Without injury, pain, discomfort, misery…

Most of the things that this person does in his quest to improve his mobility will have him moving more that he ever did in the first place. So the general and the specific goal is being addressed. The only difference is it’s not an “all or nothing” proposition.

But most people don’t receive this message. The message that they consistently receive is that it IS an all or nothing proposition. They are handed cookie-cutter prescriptions and they are told go out there and just get it done.

Well, just getting it done is NOT good enough. It will NOT work in the long run. It is the wrong thing to do. So there are many choices but there are only a few RIGHT choices and you CAN narrow down these choices so that you are able to pick the right one and be happier with the choice you make. That, in turn, will help you stick with it.

This page created 16 Sep 2010 12:59
Last updated 19 Jul 2016 20:47

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