The Great Pause and Empowered Health, part 1
As I spend years and years in the fitness industry within the scope of a neuromuscular strength specialist, I feel empowered to express that it is our thoughts and beliefs about exercise that need growth and change — not just what fitness program we choose to follow.
What if we were chasing the wrong formula for exercise success all along? What if we have currently found ourselves with a strong body and no knowledge of how to keep it that way?
If something is broken, it’s time to fix it. It sounds simple enough, but there are many layers to consider when it comes to looking under the hood of our broken fitness \modus operandi. This theme is playing out in multiple areas of our life. If things are 'just fine' or you are void of dialogue, you don't know what time in history that you are standing in.
The pandemic that quickly spread our nation forced gym closures and gave us no option but to stay home and reconsider the way we beat up our bodies and call it “fitness”. I like to refer to this as The Great Pause. More specifically, pausing the never ending treadmill of exercise and productivity. This time can be used productively to redirect your energy and embody a level of health and fitness that our culture of productivity would never allow. The culture that dictates quantity over quality in fitness, the culture that glorifies “the hustle”, the culture that regularly cleans up after countless injuries that could have been avoided — because some told us to “Just Do It”.
What if we were chasing the wrong formula for exercise success all along? What if we have currently found ourselves with a strong body and no knowledge of how to keep it that way? A fit individual going into this pandemic may have found themselves at a loss for how much they didn’t know about consistent exercise. This quarantine has shined a light on how little we know about caring for ourselves. The truth of getting fit is porous or in other words, void of space. There are less places for those who seek the truth and clarity in how well one can live.
I witness this issue the most in a social media scrolls and secondly with my clients. I feel strongly that this struggle is optional.
A new way to view exercise
The way we view our body and exercise influences our outcomes greatly, beyond measure in my opinion.
It's absolutely amazing to me that physiological functions can be exponential in their manner of maintaining good health. This is rarely accessed in our modern world. I've seen many individuals achieve long term physical self sufficiency despite some difficult circumstances. It’s a shift away from the unwarranted confidence of the fitness industry into automaticity in your fitness journey.
Now more than ever my mission is to provide a portal to a world of improved self care and high quality fitness… and to do so with something as empowering and fundamental as education.
What knowledge do you need to keep your body strong?
One of my favorite leaders in the whole body fitness movement is Keith Norris of PaleoFx, the largest ancestral health conference in the world. He urges us to “Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world”. I agree with this wholeheartedly. You can check him out on the podcast June 8, 2020.
Each and every human body has an innate intelligence and it is my mission to have every reader ask good questions about it and clear room in their beliefs for the wisdom that biology holds. These systems aren’t linear, they are involved in interactions and interdependencies. The small changes in a health focused regimen for a fit body can cause cascades among the connected parts, but consistency and knowledge are the backbones of high quality health and fitness that I just described.
This all begs the question; what are the wrong formulas and beliefs for high quality health and fitness?
As a warning, this may be triggering for some, as the majority have been groomed in these ways of thinking as helpful for our fitness.
- The notion of having a formula or a fitness blueprint is insidious. I say this with a vast respect to human structure and optimization, your body can’t follow a formula. “Biology requires extraordinary coordination to achieve its collective function” Zach Bush, MD. Based on this notion it is foolish to believe that the body can adapt to simple techniques to micromanage how we respond to exercise.
- Playing ‘catch-up’ with our fitness or health: being reactive instead of proactive. Making up for calories or fixing our back or health when they are symptomatic are examples of playing ‘catch-up’. When I consult with people in this mindset they are attempting to link a cause-and-effect to support their current beliefs. It’s like working with an athlete who believes in hard work and pushiness rather than growth and relying on learning aptitude to succeed. There is simply a huge difference in the role as a coach or therapist. I’ll never know the long-term outcomes of any particular athlete that crosses my path, but I’d be willing to bet more positive health outcomes for the athlete or client that adheres to a growth mindset.
- The “minimum wage approach” to exercise: the practice that exercise is merely counting reps, sweating and burning calories. This is where heuristics and judgement become incompatible with logic. We are so willing to tell ourselves that burning calories equals a designer cupcake, only to deny ourselves the basic science in strength training or meditation. This is all in the name of comfort and our human talent for stereotyping.
- The ageist mindset- “I’m getting old.” You are only as old as you feel. This is certainly something you’ve heard on your birthday or from a respected elder, but this has major implications for exercise. Harvard psychologist, Ellen Langer, has been testing the theory that whatever messaging you are putting in the mind is providing context for the body. Her results were extraordinary. Her small 1981 experiment placed monks in their 80’s in a converted home from 1959, a simulation of their life in their 20’s. Here’s a paraphrased list of bodily improvements that were measured in the participants: hearing, posture, hand strength/dexterity and waistline. If aging is linear and not chronological, then you can overcome your hurdles and excuses because age isn’t one of them.
- Correct form feedback and optimal programs as being more important than understanding our body and what it can adapt to. The urge to overwhelm people with cues on perfect form is a disservice from the fitness industry to secure their role in our lives, however the science of Motor Learning and Motor Control shows the opposite is needed for optimal performance.
- When learning a skill or how to move, it’s actually very important to have a margin of error. This was covered in some detail on 2 of the recent episodes of Think Fit. Be Fit. podcast.
Solutions to this cultural dogma are found in the answers to some big questions that I’m continually looking to answer; how can the body improve? I like to encourage asking bigger and better questions, ones that shed light on disturbed thinking in fitness. The principles to reframing your fitness are found in part 2.