What do Religion, Politics, and Tae-Bo Have in Common?
I usually reserve Friday’s for less heavy topics but I don’t want to let this bug me all weekend so buckle up, we’re going deep today. I’ve noticed lately that I’ve had to add a third topic to things not to discuss at cocktail parties. See, it was always religion and politics which were on the off-limits list, now it seems its sacrilegious to speak against the almighty Yoga, or even worse, desecrate the temple of Crossfit. Fitness enthusiasts and sadly even fitness professionals have built walls around their factions. To even suggest that spinning may not solve world hunger is to some as personal an insult as to declare their spouse an unchaste floozy. This may seem as though I’m lashing out against everything that isn’t Coastal Performance or Brendan Hayden. That’s not my intention at all. In fact, the very principle that we built our business on is that we aren’t one-trick ponies that can be defined by a simple one-word cliché. The day someone suggests that they do “Coastal” with the same connotation that they might use for doing “Pilates” is the day I pack up and head for Tahiti. You see, fitness isn’t religion; it’s not something that’s built on a foundation of blind faith and belief. I understand that exercise inspires and changes lives; that’s why I love coaching and I love the fact that I can positively affect the quality of someone’s day. But when I hear fitness modalities being heralded and preached as things they are quite obviously not in neither a scientific nor anecdotal sense, I can’t help but wonder, “why the narrow mind?” Why do people limit themselves to a tiny segment of what’s possible for no other reason than they refuse to see past their own perceptions of what they “feel.” My job is very simple in my mind. To paraphrase Alwyn Cosgrove, I get paid to get people results as fast and as safely as I possibly can. The faster and more effective I am, the more I get paid. Trust me, if my experience, education, professional collaboration, and overall awareness led me to the conclusion that machines are the way to go, or that no one ever needed to stretch, I WOULD BE DOING THAT! Don’t you think life would be a lot easier if I could just buy a shit load of treadmills and sit in my office counting money all day? But people like simple answers, nice neat solutions to their problems. It’s much easier for most people to carry the flag for one type of fitness rather than examine if what they are doing is actually the best for them. Another trend I see is that the people adamantly defending each camp are the ones that are the best at that particular type of training. How many 280 lb dudes are walking around wearing “Yoga Rocks” T-shirts? Do you see anyone in Lululemon gear flipping tires in someone’s garage? There seems to exist an inverse relationship between fanaticism and fitness education level. I’ll use Traci Anderson as an example (For those of you who don’t know, she’s a Celebrity Trainer, whose approach could be nicely described as “misguided”). Traci Anderson likes to declare that women should only use light dumbbells because any greater weight will lead to “bulkiness.” That statement has absolutely no basis in physiological fact. I would fathom a guess that she “felt” this was how the body worked, a concept Stephen Colbert so aptly described as “truthiness.” (Truthiness is a “truth” that a person claims to know intuitively “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.) She has sprung up expensive gyms throughout the country stemming from this very rhetoric. She appeals to how women “want” the body to work, or maybe even how some perceive it to work. That interaction is the single greatest threat to the advance of fitness and health in the future, because it is so deeply rooted in human psychology. Marketing and advertising have preyed upon this for years, not only in fitness but in all other areas of consumer behavior. In fact, there are a great number of industries that rely on a general lack of consumer education in order to sell their products. (I’m looking at you, EnZyte). People want to believe in something. Unfortunately for fitness they tend to gravitate towards big personalities, single-tooled absolutes, and a personal zealousness to defend the castle against all that may forsake its name. Don’t get me wrong, it feels good to be a part of something. People should be in clubs, on teams, and in groups. But if you let something as asinine as a kettlebell define everything about you, you need to get some perspective. Life is too short to refuse to acknowledge that you may not have all the answers. As you increase the education level of the coach and his trainees, you see a shift towards moderation, logic, and more questions answered with “It depends.” Every great coach I’ve seen, known, or listened to has been a culmination of a ton of outside influences. They integrate a lot of different modalities to best suit the needs of the client, athlete, or situation. Does that mean they don’t have a system for what they do? Absolutely not, systems are paramount to consistency. But those systems evolve constantly when a better way to do something is presented without prejudice to where that idea originated. Do we take stuff from Yoga and Pilates? Hell yeah we do. Do I have to call it a funny name, pledge allegiance to it, get it tattooed on my arm, name my kid Vinyasa, and mention it during my Grammy acceptance speech? It’s JUST FITNESS!!! Take your family seriously, take your job seriously, take your health seriously, but please, don’t take Zumba that seriously. Figure out what the best tool for the job is, use it, and see if it works. I know some people may hate me now. To that I say, really? You hate me because I don’t like (insert exercise genre here). Actually, I never even said I didn’t like (insert exercise genre here). It’s ok to disagree and still be friends. I have friends that do Yoga, Crossfit, Powerlifting, Pilates, Spinning, Zumba, even a few that swear by Flirty Girl Fitness. I wish they would be willing to have an objective open dialogue about what aspects of their training may be deficient or ineffective. Maybe there might be some aspect of what they “do” that I can incorporate into my programs to improve our product. But for now, I’ll put that topic back with Religion and Politics. Pass the Coconut Shrimp please.