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My Travels In Fitness

So if you’re like me, you’re not going to find yourself on the cover a fitness magazine by accident in the grocery store one day.  I was a generally athletic and skinny kid and I could easily get by through college with a modicum of effort, by as my 20’s flew by me I never really stuck to much of any sort of fitness regimen.  I worked out, even trained for stuff like a half marathon, but it never really stuck.  It never drove me to be fit and healthy.

I did things like eat ‘better’ and exercise more just like they tell you.  Being an engineer I even developed ultra-detailed Excel spreadsheets and weighed everything I ate.  Despite all this, I was never again the fit kid I once was on the high school track team.  So one day as I lamented my late 20’s gut I recalled a link someone sent me some videos of the workout used to get the cast of the movie 300 in shape.  If you’ve seen the movie I think you could see the appeal of looking like you were ready to repel the Persian horde.  In that search I came upon something called Crossfit.  At first I found it passingly curious and I decided to start reading up on the articles they put up as part of their “journal.”  While I went on to read huge amounts of information from Crossfit and even subscribed the to Crossfit Journal, I think the best thing I ever read was free.  This is Greg Glassman’s article giving a definition of Fitness.  I let you read it for the details, but the take away for me is the concept that fitness, as defined, is broad and inclusive.  Crossfit has gone on to try to refine that definition in the apparent goal of determining the relative fitness of various competitors in a “sport of fitness.”

I decided back in 2009 to join a Crossfit gym myself along with my wife.  I did have some road bumps in the beginning; I was hospitalized for about 36 hours with exertional Rhabdomyolysis, but I was undaunted.  I continued with Crossfit for 4 months.  The culture of my particular Crossfit affiliate was cordial, friendly, and competitive.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have formed a lot of lasting relationships with the people I attended with and I’m all the happier for it.  Sadly aft 4 months finances would not support the endeavor any longer.  For those among you looking for a great environment check out your local Crossfit affiliate, there are thousands, and see if it suits you.  I will warn you though, don’t let anyone push you too far, too fast, or too long as unfortunately many affiliates don’t do an adequate job of watching the dosage.

So my time with Crossfit, which due to my lasting friendships  is not likely to ever end, taught me quite a few important lessons.  First, even the novice tubby 30 year old is capable of building a shocking athletic capacity in short time.  It also taught me, by mere chance, that there is an entire fitness counter culture, and it is calling your name.

While folks look at the triathletes, the marathoners and bicyclists as the pinnacle of fitness, the average Hadza likely has far greater strength and similar stamina to most elites in any of those sports.  I say this because of the inclusive nature of the hunter gatherer’s life style (“The Hadza”) and the cost of failure.  As a species we have tended over time to specialize.  This is a unique trait amongst animals and one that has brought us great comfort and many problems, which I’ll talk about in more detail as time goes by.  For my story here I’ll point out how poor adapted the human body is at repetitive labor (think carpal tunnel and lower back problems) as well as how my numbing such repetition is.  I think this is no accident.  The general tendency to bore at a single task and the ability to do many complex tasks is a key to our evolution and our survival as a species.  A bear may be able to fish and a Cheetah take down a gazelle, but our ancestors could do both.  This is more than a quaint anecdote of evolution, this is a critical element to our fitness and health.  To drive home this point, consider Lance Armstrong’s first attempt at the NYC marathon, he described it as the “hardest physical thing” he’d ever done and that “even the worst days on the Tours — nothing was as hard as that.”  While Lance had a very admirable sub 3hr time and has come back since 2007 to make less anguished attempts at the NYC marathon and others it’s obvious that the world-class fitness he developed in 7 Tour De France victories was not directly applicable to running a marathon.  This then begs the question of what additional tasks that others excel at would those commonly held to be “fit” not perform well at?

So am I fit like the Hadza?  Well no, not yet, but I’ve got goals.  I’ll talk more, way more, about those goals and how I’m going about getting after them in future posts, but I think it’s important to start this with the baseline belief that fitness for the average schmo like me should be broad and inclusive.

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Categories: Fitness
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  1. August 6, 2010 at 2:06 am

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