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Training and confused realities

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Where there is money to be made, the confusion mongers will flock. The training, or dare I say it, “fitness industry”, is no exception. These marketing vultures are “skilled” however, in their tactics and sadly, as is commonplace in the age of hyperconsumption and hedonism, people are easily suckered in to the cauldron of sugar syrup and bouncy blue balls. Let´s take a look at 5 common fallacies, many of which are becoming so mainstream, that a fish finger is in danger of being accepted as a fish. It´s time to get aware and swim against the current.

1. Functional Fitness

Whoa, baby! a world full of function, imagine that! The “idea” that seems to becoming mandatory fodder for anyone “serious” about their “workouts” is corporate corn syrup. Suddenly, an entire industry has been formed full of rubber-coated tires, pink balls, adjustable rope and expensive tape. To be really “functional”, a pair of shoes, pitch-fork and strong will power just will not do! No! you have to join an expensive gym, buy the entire kit to say you have joined the expensive gym and kit your home out with expensive rubber shit that comes with a DVD! Functional fitness, they say, means buying into so much confusion, that by the time you decide which pair of florescent shoes your next workout demands, you´re so exhausted that you decide it´s more optimal to suck on the recommended zone recovery shake, with its “active” ingredients for progressive performance.

What it ought to mean: You see, to really “function”, we need to be mobile, strong and “antifragile“, to borrow from Nassim Taleb, and know what gets in the way of being this way. Complexity may have enabled us to put a man on the moon and replace hearts, but its also made us lose sight of the actual simplicity (not ease) of training; hard work and thoughtful utilization of all your energy systems. Functional does not mean being completely overwhelmed with needless “choice”. What is “new”, is usually just rebranded “old”. If you want a living incarnation of what to do, for you, check out rosstraining.com

2. “This amazing (insert any hyped product here) takes the guesswork out of your workout, bringing your performance to new and improved levels!”

What utter garbage. Salesmanship 101. Making people “believe” that their results have stagnated, or cannot be achieved unless they buy into the “latest and greatest” tool. You see, marketing folk prey on people´s gullibility, and their propensity to want to believe. Yes, it´s a legacy of the gospel of doom. Your life will not be any “better” with your new DVD set.

What it ought to mean: Look, performance, or “results”, whether it be fat loss, strength gain, hypertrophy or even the elusive “condition”, are predicated on people working hard on following a dedicated regime of energizing their mind and body through work and recovery. Many factors play into optimal performance naturally, but stripping away the unessential, the sugar-coated packaged commercial “must-haves”, lays out a manageable, tried and tested platform to work from. No single tool you´ve been duped into signing up for is going to take the place of diligent curiosity and hard fall-down-get-back-up work. On the contrary, the more clutter you surround yourself with, the greater the odds you´ll fall back into the chair and biscuit jar.

3. By strutting about in the same multi-coloured trainers, tights and runner tops as everyone else on the Instagram #awesome, I´ll give off the vibe that I am so committed to the “fitness” lifestyle

Well, I may be cynical, but there´s an ocean of difference between those that “workout” and those that train. For the commercial interests however, they´d rather the blurred lines, and lump everything into the category “fit is fun!”. In fact, they would rather you spend more time actually kitted out in their brands and letting social media know all about it, than actually doing the work. No pair of tights will make you lift those weights, and no thought of others thinking you actually lift those weights, will make you lift those weights.

What it ought to mean: Ok, I understand the allure of a new pair of shoes, and once had a pair of tights. But at the end of the day, surely your training should be about how you feel and perform both in and out of the gym? (aesthetics usually follow if you´ve got things in order) Ironically, if your image is so important, you´d benefit more by setting aside time to get your ducks in line, and then actually reaping the benefits from your #awesome IG selfies.

4. Training should be “fun” yo!

Well, let´s step back a little here. Is life a box of roses or does it continually throw sand in your face? Sure, you can find fun times in your training (heck, you should!), but with hard work, comes tough times and a fair bit of soul searching. It´s a process, like life itself. It´s a test and a mighty big paradox. Don´t let anyone tell you otherwise. Fun is the commercial sugarline to hedonism. If it isn´t providing an instantaneous flow of gratification, dish it and try something else. Your well-being isn´t a priority here sunshine. I have actually seen players in the “industry” selling their product as providing “all the benefits of traditional training, but only fun, without the hard work”. Don´t mix things up.

What it ought to mean: Once you manage to reappraise the way your training becomes a part of your everyday existence, the fun can by all means be an integral side effect (or, you can just gauge this by your hormones). Pull up your socks and chug some RedBull, then get back to the farmers walks. There are even ways of making them fun. Do them naked.

5. But remember, “moderation” is the key to success!

Aaggghhh. Can´t stand that M word. Firstly, because it´s used as an excuse for avoiding hard, consistent, thoughtful work and secondly, it´s the darling of the corporate world who thrive on a confused, apathetic, restless, hands-in-the-sugar-bowl public. To the commercial world (gyms included) M means avoiding the gym, as the ideal GloboGym membership scenario and losing focus on consistent programs by adding in external distractions. This M word needs some serious shake-up. It implies your training lifestyle is a burden. It is not. Distraction is.

What it ought to mean: Once you work out that a healthy training lifestyle is to be enjoyed and implemented each and every day, you will reconsider what moderation means for you. It could mean, for example, spending the day after a hard metabolic session, or an 8hr mountain walk, practicing some yoga and breathing sequences, some joint mobility, some journal updates, some squats, some gardening… whatever it is! anything but the slump in the chair with a bowl of sugar-pops kind of moderation. Where did that come from, and why do people associate this with moderation? Surely, a reassessment of the M word could result in something like 2 eggs instead of 4 not 2 steps forward, 4 steps back.

Summary

What´s the key takeout here? Question any claim that tells you how to take your training to “new levels”. The problem is, most of these claims are carefully crafted to tap into the inabilities modern society has to understand the difference between the quick consumer fix and years of diligent, persistent, experimental, reflexive work. Who do people think they are! Suddenly, centuries of empiricism becomes irrelevant and a can of sugar takes its place! Aristotle would have been aghast. A successful and progressive training lifestyle need not only be a solitary affair spent out in the rain lifting items you´ve found at the dump, day after day after year after year. Well… No, it can actually be a communal endeavor, with events, actions and innovations (and Facebook groups) to make your experience even more fulfilling. Each to their own. What I´m saying, is that training, like life itself, ought to be a constant learning experience you yourself ultimately have the final say in developing. Seek out people with real life experience and see what your take out can be. Maybe nothing, maybe some small aspect you can incorporate. But be vigilant and don´t let commercial interests steal not only your hard earned cash, but the most essential asset you have: your time and health.

Think. Eliminate. Move. Practice. Enjoy.

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Awareness as new paradigm for modern health

The way we move, think and eat is not detached, in a Cartesian sense, from who we are and how we experience our place in this world. We cannot be disconnected from our natural environment for it is that which literally keeps us alive. This interaction is a primordially intrinsic necessity that shapes our thoughts, movements and proprioceptive context in nature. To lose this interactive sense or become disconnected with our body is immediately endangering this crucial mind-body-nature equilibrium. The most important disruptive factor in society today I believe is our sense (or lack of) awareness.

This post is intended to dwell upon the need for a paradigm shift in modern thought practicalities through ideas about reinstalling a sense of awareness of our connection with nature through diet and physical movement, and the way our evolutionary path has almost perfectly laid before us a schema for health, happiness and longevity. This needn’t be a lofty concept beyond the realms of the common citizen, for it is based on integral components of our past that have sadly been usurped by corrupting interests and the subsequent watering down of common awareness.

Accepting the status quo

We need to (re) learn and (re) live our connection with our natural environment and we need to do this through a deeper awareness of the factors that both enable and contradict this linkage. Let me begin with some of the most encompassing contradictions in modern Western societies today. For many people, a cursory reflection upon their ideas of independent or collective choice in life will reveal tendencies to ´accept the status quo´ with regards to many seemingly self-directed scenarios. I´m thinking here of our choice of career, choice or meals, choice or activities, partners, dwellings and so on.

We are natural social animals and this is revealed through our desires to seek the company of fellow citizens, dwell, interact and procreate together with members of similar ethnic groups and secure identities that are framed within certain social and cultural norms and values. This, in order to feel secure about ourselves as individuals and as members of a certain society. From an evolutionary perspective, this is nothing new, but dangers are inherent in this pattern as well.

Practices of ´flock mentality´ have always made me cringe slightly, even if I have readily partaken in many, as it has always revealed a sense of vulnerability in the way people accept what others do or say as being either correct, or most sensible. Certain norms, practices and ´knowledges´ are usually appropriated by members of society for political, economic or other subversive gain. A quick glance at any number of corrupt or dictatorial regimes around the world reveals clearly how individual and collective choice and freedom is subjugated in coercive ways.  What about the way we are told in so-called democratic Western societies to eat?. This is indeed a great example.

20th Century dietary catastrophe

The nutritional guidelines presented in the latter half of the 20th Century by state health authorities are perhaps the most crass and damaging examples of how people are made to bare the cost of the influx of modern western diseases through being told it is down to the false choices we make when eating, moving or thinking.  Successive ´democratic´ regimes, or guardians of the health and welfare of millions of people, are now in an impossible position of having to cover up for generations of false claims about disease and illness and its relation to activity and nutrition. Let me explain some more.

We are told that we are obese because we are inactive.  Or that we eat too much. Or that we have bad genes.  We are told to practice moderate activity every now and then, preferably in the ´fat burning aerobic zone´. Intense activity is bad for us we are told. Even dangerous. We are told to fuel our bodies with 4-6 servings of sugar (carbohydrate) each day. We must avoid animal fat, and instead go for processed low-fat variants. We should eat wheat they say, and copious amounts of fruit. This list goes on.

The human body is an incredible organism of adaptive capability, but is not metabolically adapted to the foodstuffs that it eats today based upon high carbohydrate/sugar intake, gluten and processed plant oils. We don´t get fat because we sit and don´t exercise, we get fat and develop diabetes and heart disease because the food we are told to eat, and don´t question, has deranged our metabolic pathways by confusing the appetite mechanisms that allow our bodies to regulate energy expenditure. This is not to mention the chaos caused by derailed insulin production and inflammation and stomach frailty exacerbated by excess linoleic acid.

Alternative ways of thinking

Ok, the point I am trying to illuminate here is that despite our options not to abide by social norms and the ´standard way of living´, the very guardians of our own welfare (politicians, teachers, doctors, scientists etc) have got so much wrong, and are indeed so far beyond the point where they can back track and admit that their advice has been responsibility for so much illness and death, that society needs to find its own health paradigm through new awareness of the factors behind what has gone wrong.

Back in the age of antiquities, it was the philosophers who held the hand of wisdom and to whom citizens turned to for advice and ´truths´ on general matters, including aggressors with insubordinate aims towards power, conquest and domination. Where does this leave us today, if the hand of wisdom coming from minority movements is labelled ´alternative´ simply because it questions the wisdom of those in control?.

We become trapped paradigmatically in a thought process that has alienated alternative ways of thinking that question the status quo and our place as members of a collective sociality.  Maintaining this, and quickly moving towards quelling any sign of incoherence to socio-political thought has been, and still is, a principle tactic of oppressive regimes in maintaining order and control over its citizens. Scary thought.

Movement and awareness

So back to movement and awareness, and how this paradigm shift needs to be enacted. Society needs to be reminded of processes of evolution and our place today as a condition of context and adaption, both towards and away from our natural tendencies. We eat, we procreate, we sleep and we fight in different ways to achieve these things. The way we eat has included hunting, collecting, fighting, starving, sharing and learning what is and isn’t toxic for our survival. This is basic evolutionary theory, although we are now being offered a get out of jail free card. We can manage to be locked up in life like battery chickens, and still live a linear path to longevity we are told.

Science and artificial production has enabled us to survive on non-natural and harmful foodstuffs like wheat, sugars and plant oils and take drugs that prolong survival rates of diseases such eating causes (heart disease, diabetes, cancers etc). Modern society has led us away from nature, from hunting and subsisting as our basis of survival, to an abundance of artificial ´foodstuffs´, and we are told to accumulate capital wealth and surround ourselves with material ´stuff´ that has little or no causal effect on our survival or happiness. The great outdoors, or natural experiences, have become seen as éscapes´ from daily life, a place where we can gain energy to fulfil our needs in ´reality´. Who is in charge of this reality?. When exactly did we decide that physical activity and a connection with nature should become a pastime?.

This is not to say that we should, as a true stoic would advocate, ditch modernity and crawl out from under a rock to eat sea birds and berries. We are part of the great evolutionary path which we should embrace, its just that we have lost touch with the realization that we are not yet adapted genetically or proprioceptively to being out of our natural surrounds, which is nature untouched by processed forms of modernity. Yes, I contend that we are ill adapted to modern ways, despite our best intentions. We need to adhere more closely to our primal tendencies in the way we think, eat and move and stop trying to rush the evolutionary process.

Embrace modernity….slowly

By being reacquainted with natural movement (literally smelling the flowers and getting down on the ground and dirty, all in gracefully efficient ways) we re-establish an AWARENESS of the past that allows us to take full advantage of our place in modern history and the benefits it provides. Think about cause and effect in an independent manner, and if something makes no sense, then don’t accept it, challenge that process. We can be happy, healthy, relaxed and feel a sense of ´being alive´, all whilst working away at our various professions, learning new skills, appreciating food, company, relationships and imported Brazilian espresso beans.

Illness, idleness, stress, depression, conflict, political ignorance and so on, all can be avoided to a large extent through awareness and being able to take action to break cycles of decay and stagnation. There is a super fine line between complexity and simplicity in the way we live, eat, move and think. Too often, people that make things appear complex have hidden agendas. Learn to be aware of what contributing factors lie behind your choices, don’t hide behind the mask of ignorance and let society become swamped by normality. Sleep well, get outside into the sun, rain and fresh air, think differently, move smoothly, learn to balance, love one another, eat natural food and start to enjoy your place in the great evolutionary trail.

 

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