Saturday, September 26, 2009

Conspiracy Against Extremists. Part 4.

PHOTO: Our great friends Brian M and Bobby K during the 2009 Thunder Rolls 24-hr adventure race. Based on their shadows, I'd guess this was taken in about the 12th or 13th hour. These guys are jacks-of-all-trades!

NOTE: This post will offend many of you. But do not mistake this warning as an apology, for I make none here. I am not sorry for any ill feeling this may give you as a reader. Also, do not confuse my challenges as claims that I am an expert or elitist. For I am neither. But do not confuse my self-admitted shortcomings as lack of effort to reach those levels. For I make no qualms I try hard. Very hard. Just understand I know why you might become upset. Now read on....

Re-examine the Bell Curve. As a reader of this blog I make some assumptions. Our bell curve for this discussion revolves around physical fitness. Here are some of the general delineations along our curve:
  • Serious Injury / Illness / Medical Condition
  • Sedentary / No fitness program / Unhealthy
  • Active / Walker / Jogger
  • Casual-to-serious health club attendee
  • Competitor / Goal-driven participant
  • Elite athlete ... AKA Extremist.
This of course is a theoretical model of complete and integrated physical fitness. There are obviously many standards of what constitutes physical fitness. But since this is MY post, we're using MY standard: the Jack-of-All-Trades Standard. This approach to fitness demands competence and proficiency within as many domains as possible. I will put to bed attacks on this model. First off, this model does NOT apply to proficiency or elitism in any ONE domain. A world champion marathoner will NOT be aligned as Elite Athlete at the far extreme of fitness on THIS model. Nor will the world's top StrongMan. The person found at the extreme of fitness in THIS model is a theoretical ideal perfect athlete with limitless skills, abilities, proficiencies, and strengths. This person does not exist, except in the minds of Extremists.

I know there are many Trinity Training Group readers who excel in their one field of fitness...maybe long distance running, or biking, or triathlons, or powerlifting. I do not care how great you are in ONE or a few disciplines. You are probably not fit in MY model.

I won't discuss the bell curve's one extreme of a sedentary lifestyle. We all can agree this is unhealthy. The bell curve's middle bulge is filled with health club attendees. These people participate in a wide spectrum of activities: weightlifting, cardio machines, yoga, boot camp, swimming, circuit training, running, and biking. And of course they participate with varying levels of commitment, intensity, and proficiency. Casual participants find themselves with Feel Good Workouts. The more serious people challenge themselves with goal-oriented performance-based sessions.

Take the next step up from that. There are those who follow fairly well-balanced programs. They might participate in several of the above activities. Their balance and integration is closer to well-rounded fitness than a champion in any one single event or domain. But there are still limitations to the abilities of these participants.

Now let's venture into the far corner of the curve. Here we find some serious athletes. If we compare them to a popular CrossFit model, they are: strong, with stamina, with high cardio-respiratory capacity, fast, powerful, flexible, accurate, coordinated, agile, balanced. They have high work output over both short and long time durations. There are few (if any) chinks in their armor. They are Jacks-of-All-Trades.

But again, I point to this this Conspiracy Against Extremists. This time the extremists are functional fitness enthusiasts. There is a guerrilla war going on against the functional fitness movement. Among mainstream health clubs, fitness magazines, nationally certified personal trainers, and many fitness equipment manufacturers these Extremists are seen as a threat. The threat is to the pocketbooks and livelihoods of those relying on the masses under the bell curve's bulge...a bulge of lukewarm knowledge, participation, and commitment.

This war is being waged through a variety of tactics. First off, they attack with pointed remarks about the dangers and risks of injury. That mudslinging alone is enough to steer many away. Then the attackers discuss how intense the workouts are...but in a way that dissuades so many potential functionalists from actually if the functional workouts are so discomforting, stressful, and demanding that no one would subject their bodies to the torture. There are claims that functional fitness programs are "too good to be true." Lastly, tactics include explanations that one must be fit even in order to begin such an "advanced" routine.

Imagine this: any person could buy or make some fitness equipment for what many gyms might charge for a year's membership. The same person could go online to a few FREE websites and get better instruction and ENCOURAGEMENT than at their gym or from a coach they pay MONEY to! They can complete the workouts in a fraction of the time required under current practice. And the workouts produce quantifiable results in the way of body composition and physical performance. This does sound a bit like the Holy Grail. It sounds so much like a "scam" that when I discuss functionalism to others, I have to be very careful to not sound like a shyster with some smoke-and-mirror show.

There is a mold that has been cast. It was developed by many scientists, coaches, educators, and businessmen. Many of them have financial interests. Some have reputations to uphold. Some have fragile egos. (Some of them have been mature and confident enough to realize that change and advancement is good....and functionalism is the present and future of physical fitness models. It is constantly changing and adapting to what works. It is not based on equipment, or qualifications, or money. BUT do not confuse this. There is much money to be made from the functional fitness industry as well!!) The mold I speak of above has encouraged this bulge of mediocrity. The bell curve's majority consists of Feel Good Workouts and the status quo. Breaking the mold might lead to the ruin of traditional health clubs, personal trainers, and certain fitness equipment makers. So to save the "system," there is a conspiracy against the changes advancing other athletes towards the corner of elitism.

What the old mold does is foster an environment where it's OK to be mediocre. It's acceptable to merely go through the motions. The leaders encourage you to believe what you are doing is better than nothing at all (which is true!). The slick leaders unfairly hold up images of magazine cover models, promising their widget will lead you to that body. They tell you what you WANT to hear, not what you NEED to hear...and what you want to hear is that everything you are doing is OK, is good enough, doesn't hurt, and is the path to your dream body. The same leaders describe these Extremists with unflattering terms: unqualified, uneducated, closed-minded, intolerable, arrogant, ultra-competitive. And I have to nod and say, "Yes, I'm all those things." But I'm working on it....

I find it quite amusing how many opponents of functional fitness have bad-mouthed the movement, and then began to tweak their own programs in ways that are very similar to functionalism. Hmmm. To me it sounds like some of these trainers and leaders have had to spout out against the extremists just long enough to secretly join them without losing financial interests or their followers/buyers/members. I applaud trainers who have been exposed to functionalism and made the switch in the drop of a hat. There is something courageous and mature in admitting that what one had been doing was actually far from the most effective techniques and strategies...but now sees the light. Doesn't it seem obvious that others lacking confidence and security will avoid making those admissions of fault or that there is a better mousetrap now?

If you are sick of moderate fitness, marginal results, and inferior motivation look to functional fitness models as the cure. The corner of Extremists has many participants from all walks of life: old, young, fat, skinny, men, women, athletes, office workers. You name it.

Do not buy into this physical fitness Conspiracy Against Extremists. It's a war being waged by ignorant, self-inflating, weak, money-squandering leaders who fear embarrassment and losing financial position. These far superior fitness programs I preach of are rooted in terms of idealism and goals rather than misconception and popularity.

It is lonely and challenging at the corner of the bell curve. But it is rewarding. Many in the masses will tempt you away from functionality and your search for elitism, towards their bulge of mediocrity. Do not take their bait.

To be continued...

NOTE: For more on this check out this post on Athletic Skill Levels, with a link to CrossFit Seattle's chart on what constitutes their view of "elitism."

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