Here it is.
I have a HUGE confession to make. I hope you’ll allow me this small indulgence.
My tax forms state that I work in the “fitness” industry.
I have worked in dance, integrated movement and Pilates for more than 20 years.
But guess what?
I don’t “GET” fitness!
I’m sorry. I just don’t.
When someone talks to me animatedly about the number of reps they did with some crazy weight, (and that’s the end of the story), I wonder, “why?’ When someone tells me excitedly about the number of times they were able to run up and down a mountain with a backpack full of bricks on their back, I think, “ok, cool, I guess.” And when I hear about someone blowing out 822 push ups and then 400 lunges and 48 minutes in plank… my eyes glaze over. When I hear about the latest “sculpt” class or the latest fitness fad, I check out. I can’t help it! What does it mean?
It’s not that I’m unimpressed by fitness. It’s the fact that these markers of a specific kind of fitness have come to be seen as achievements in and of themselves that confuses me. To my mind, a fitness regimen is a means to condition the body for all the varied movements and activities of our lives: playing sports, messing around with our kids, running, swimming, skiing, dancing, or maybe just staying healthy and performing well in a physically demanding job (including that of an athlete). Our physicality is a way to fully embody our lives; to become the fullest possible expression of ourselves. As we’ve become more sedentary as a society though, the conditioning that was once a vehicle for supporting our best lives has now, for many, become the primary source of physical activity for health & wellness. We get excited about another rep, another lap, a few seconds better. Great! Get excited. But THEN WHAT? What will you do with that extra potential?
Does pressing that next big weight mean that you now stand a good chance of passing the fire fighters’ fitness test and getting a career you want? Or maybe it’s a comeback after an injury, or a return to vitality after long periods of inactivity. Maybe it means you have the energy to accomplish more at work, or give more to your family. When I look at it that way, then lifting that weight is a symbol of stunning new possibilities. And THAT I can celebrate.
It feels great to sweat! It helps keep the weight off. It does good things for the heart and lungs. But using those things as reasons for “getting fit” bores me to tears. Sometimes the way I see “fitness” taught, purely for the burn of exertion and the pushing of limits, can be detrimental to long term structural health too. There are too many fitness pros but there who won’t see past muscles, reps and cardio output. Those are purely measures – not goals in and of themselves!
I want to be fit so I can feel great in my body doing the things I LOVE to do. My own clients learned long ago that I’ll go to the ends of the earth to help them find better function, strength, mobility, agility & stamina in their bodies. They know I’ll do everything in my power to move them toward the strength and vitality to achieve their biggest goals. But I won’t help a young man carve himself into a trendy (and structurally unsound) “Hollywood hottie” body – with shredded 6-pack abs, overbuilt pecs and a shoulder girdle that can’t hang properly on the spine. I won’t add new load to a client’s program until I can see that the load has the potential to be well supported.
I love to see a body that tells me the story of it’s moving life. I want to get to know a person who’s body speaks to me of living life to the fullest. My job, and one of my greatest pleasures, is supporting people in the process of inhabiting their bodies, and by extension, their lives. My own physicality is an extension of who I am, and the goals I want to achieve in my life. My body carries my scars, my experiences, my desires and my history. It’s not something to be bootcamped and compressed into submission. I want to be strong, mobile, active and engaged in the world around me. I want to work with folks who are engaged in the world and want more from a fitness program than the sculpt and burn.
Here’s the video that brought me to the forehead-smacking awareness that I don’t even really like “fitness” as I so often see it practiced around me. I found Shane McConkey’s pure and unapologetic joy of going for it in this video very appealing: