Look, the world can be a crazy place to live, we all know that. And giving in to the fear that is endlessly manufactured by the media is a constant temptation on the path to fitness ninja greatness.
It’s also true that, sometimes, shit gets real and we need to be prepared to adapt instantly, because…
Life is a Battle!
But, and its a BIG fat booty BUTT, just because life is a battle doesn’t mean you have to destroy yourself every time you go to the gym.
Any serious athlete knows that rest, recovering, and periodization (intelligently modifying intensity based on goals, performance, and ability) are absolutely crucial to optimal performance i.e. kickin’ ass in battle.
And yet, there is a massive trend in the fitness industry to glorify exercise as an all out war on the body. I call it the militarization of fitness – all the boot camps, Marine workouts, ridiculously intense body building routines, general glorification of pain, and yes, Crossfit.
Even our recovery and regeneration techniques are prioritized by how painful they are; got a knot in your hip flexor? Go roll that shit with a baseball!
Cultural Pathology: Glorification of War
This trend is a symptom of a much larger disease.
On a federal level, we see aggressive and violent foreign policy. On the state level, we see the militarization of the police. On the street level, we see violence – even in NYC car drivers can run over pedestrians, even if their on the sidewalk, and not receive so much as a ticket. The old “might is right” axiom is alive and well in the most “civilized” city in the world.
We live in a culture obsessed with aggression, and its found its way into every facet of our lives, even our workouts.
Exhaustion Is Not a Status Symbol
Well, actually, exhaustion IS a status symbol in our culture, and that’s the problem – we’re working and training ourselves to death. From a young age we’re bombarded with the message that to be successful we must work overtime, sacrifice our health, friends, even happiness and sanity to achieve what we want.
Being chronically exhausted is not the key to success, its a race towards disease and dysfunction. And in most cases, its suffering that is 100% preventable. First Nation peoples call this western disease “the hurry sickness” (and so does Dr. Meyer Freidman, the very same doctor who first identified the type-A personality trait.)
“I bet I can experience kidney failure before you!” Said nobody, ever.
And yet, that’s how everyone behaves. Who care’s if my liver fails, I’ll look hot in that hospital gown. Yeah, I’m not exaggerating, there are tons of people in the fitness industry who look strong on the outside and are weak as shit on the inside. And do you know what we call them? Leaders, because other people pay them good money to inherit their same warped and superficial understanding of fitness.
“It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Krishnamurti
Our #CulturalPathology can be summed up easily: too much yang, not enough yin, too much doing, not enough being, too much work, not enough play, too masculine, not enough feminine.
How Does The Militarization of Fitness Affect My Workout?
In every way possible, it affects your workout, your health, happiness, the sustainability of your program, and your ability to reach your goals.
Do you believe any of the following are true:
- No pain, no gain. You have to suffer to get in shape.
- More is always more. Duh.
- Working out is not fun, its an obligation.
- If I don’t throw up, I’m holding back too much
- You’re only as good as your last workout.
- I feel like a loser when I miss a workout.
If you answered yes, then you are at the “Exercise is War” understanding of fitness. And that’s fine, if you want to wage war on your body, please do. Many of us go through that phase, I spent a decade there, with plenty of joint casualties and war stories to prove it.
So I’m not belittling you – I’m just saying that this isn’t the only way to train, and it sure as fuck isn’t sustainable. And if you can benefit from my experience and mistakes, that that would be swell.
So What’s the Other Option?
Well, actually, there are many options. But one of them is to decide that learning about the body and what it takes to nourish, strengthen, and heal it is a life long process, adventure, exploration, and privilege, not a burdensome obligation, nor a military operation. Hell, you can even make up your own ninja principles like I did and create your own workout system if you like. Why can’t movement be an expression of creativity and joy?
It can if you stop trying to get your emotional needs met through suffering.
There are plenty of people who love dancing, and dance their way to a new body, or get a deep satisfaction out of practicing martial arts, and kungfu kick their way to super fitness glory. Then their are the yogis, who use movement as a way to make love to their body to manifest its greatness. (So hot, right?)
None of these perspectives are right or wrong – and all of them are susceptible to extremes – but they are all worthy of being explored if you truly want a sustainable, comprehensive, and balanced movement practice. Depth and breadth of perspective, my friends – that’s why your here, on the “TrainDeep” website, and not one of those cheesy superficial robot fitness sites.
Using Intensity Wisely and Normalizing Discomfort
There is a huge difference between using intensity wisely and using intensity compulsively.
You will need to confront your limits and learn to handle discomfort to reach your fitness goals, so don’t use this post as an excuse to take it easy all the time. In fact, that’s just as much of a trap as working out hard all the time – our culture’s addiction to comfort and laziness and having to be entertained constantly.
So find the middle ground. Be ok with discomfort, and learn to interpret your bodies language, sensations, and signals, so you know which days your can/should push, and which days you need to back off and recover. This is something you can’t outsource, and the better you get at listening to how your body feels, the easier it is to train hard, reach your goals, and avoid injuries and disease.
Are you willing to destroy your body to look super hot at age 30? Or are you willing to take a deeper look, explore the “less is more” philosophy, let go of your “no pain no gain” programming, and let your health, strength, and goals evolve in a natural way, so that you are having new adventures and movement experiences well into your 90’s?
No matter what your health and fitness goals, they require sustained motivation. It’s an adventure, not a destination, and you’ll enjoy the adventure way more if you make it your own instead of following the herd.
Now drop and give me 20 pushups mother fucker!
As always, TrainDeep.
Photo Credit: SWNS