Why Oh Why (bother)!?
Why do I and why should you bother with this fitness thing? It looks complicated and uncomfortable. You have no interest in getting a perfect six pack and anyway you are far too busy and your back hurts when you finish work.
Good question. Why bother?
First of all a quick SitRep on British physical culture in 2015.
- Physical Work, there are still a few physical jobs about but most of the heavy lifting and labor is taken care of by machines and equipment. For most people moving the odd piece of furniture would be the one and only display of strength performed. I've never met anyone who has even seen how to cut firewood let alone done it.
- Sport, while more widely viewed and discussed than ever is mostly actually played by small groups of professionals. Recreational and amateur sports are more and more rare.
- Physical Education, when I was at school it was pretty much just playing a few different games. No kind of 'exercise' and no performance levels tested or required. From what I've read even this bare minimum is being dropped to make space for things that are actually tested like maths and english.
- Gyms, I'm sure you have a few gym bunnies on your Facebook feed. "Sweat is Fat Crying" and "Shut Up and Squat". Gyms are full of people looking to drop a few pounds or to gain a few muscles. The media isn't shy about letting people know how they SHOULD look, whether it is realistic or not.
- Health, I think the NHS wants everyone to walk for twenty minutes a day? Something like that. Government policy seems to be to advise people to "be more active" and then medicate them when they don't.
So where does that leave everyone else? Why am I suggesting progressive physical training to people who don't have any interest in looking better naked and posting selfies? It isn't something everyone does so why be different? Well...
Life today is easier than it ever has been. There are no everyday physically demanding jobs to do, there are few physical competitions or challenges in most peoples lives, there is literally no point in most peoples lives when 'fitness' is required and no social stigma attached to lacking it and no recognition for building it (unless we are talking appearance rather than performance) and most people have no clear understanding of what they should do even if they wanted to be 'fit'. Other than climb on a treadmill and do a hamster impersonation.
This situation has repercussions. Our health and bodies become fragile. We get fat, weak and tired. We get sore backs, knees, necks and elbows. Sleep problems start to crop up and chronic disease sets in. Even mental performance and moods are negatively affected. Most people realize that exercise of some sort would help but can seem impossible when getting out of a chair requires both arms and a grunt.
The retroactive solution (always the most effective) is to get active right now. But with another resounding thud we now walk into the next obstacle that the 21st century fitness industry puts up.
Most 'fitness enthusiast' behave like kool-aid drinking cultists. For most people it looks like 'fitness' requires part time job levels of free time as well as accepting that you will be sore pretty much forever. Even worse the marketing arm of fitness is mostly models with 5% body fat and levels of pain and intensity that would kill a Marine.
Training methods are dictated by elite athletes and bodybuilders.
Getting involved seems pointless and potentially embarrassing for most people and for those who do try and keep up with the fitness fantasy burnout and failure are near certain.
The only way most people keep involved is by constantly varying their activities and exercises. Some people even encourage this and claim muscles need to be confused. Muscles contract and relax. Confusing a muscle makes as much sense and confusing a light switch.
When you are trying to improve at hundreds of things as once then you are spreading out the effort and have no way of knowing what is working.
In the dim and dark days of history people got and stayed strong doing something. Cutting wood, carrying bricks or catching food. Mostly one thing done again and again.
The truth is that for most people focusing on the progression of a couple of pet movements and stretches a couple of times a week are all that is required to maintain "average" fitness. I put the word in quotes are even a very basic training program could make someones fitness far far above the British average.
The payback for even a very abbreviated training program is huge. If the movements use the whole body in a balanced way and they are gradually improved at a natural and organic pace then it stands to reason that the body would improve with them.
If you managed to add a single press up to your practice once a week for a year you would be able to do fifty two. As obvious a statement as that is not many people can do that many press ups. Assuming press ups were the only measure of fitness you were using you could have a well above average level of fitness by this time next year.
Throw a squat and an abdominal exercise into the mix and with single mindedness and a high boredom tolerance you could be well above average in all of those movements by next year.
Those three movements done one at a time in a circuit two or three times might take fifteen or twenty minutes. Done two or three times a week the above progress would be unremarkable in a sports science respect but would profoundly change the person who did it.
Don't get bogged down by all the marketing and magic bullet programs flying about out there. Pick a system of exercise that appeals to you such as body weight calisthenics, power lifting, kettlebells, bodybuilding, Olympic lifting or even a mixture of the above and then settle in for the long haul.
Do a couple of things well. Practice the movements until they are reflex or hire a coach. (Click the link for that)
Make a tiny little bit of progress week by week. Work a little harder or back off a bit as motivation waxes and wains and gradually gradually you might come to love the process. You might even be tempted to post rubbish on Facebook.
Become a force of nature.