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The Return to the Primitive

David Landau

Someone once said: “If you hype something and it succeeds, you're a genius - it wasn't hype. If you hype it and it fails, then it was just hype.” Sounds familiar? The Fitness Culture sure has had its fair share of Big Time Hype. By and large, this entire industry has been built upon it. Without exception, once the neo fitness hype is exposed to the mainstream, it is bona fide to capture the imagination of its followers. Soon thereafter as is always the case, it will be then accepted as the Holy Grail of physical fitness. It will be considered being the in thing to do, if so simply observed at face value. Its exposure relies on peer pressure. These fitness radicals cleverly relate to the fact that you are just not quite the physically able person you used to be, or never was. But unfortunately as stated before, physical fitness is most valuable in the adult years, only from the neck up. In other words, today man is a rational animal and survives by the efficient use of his brain. We live in a modern day mechanized society that will not be a factor to cause us to rust away if we do not just get up and “just do it.” So paying much more attention to the development of your brain would be much more prudent, or exercising your energies towards things like charity work or valuable personal activity that you adore, not abhor. Beware of being huckstered into an activity simply because you’re told its “good” for you by your so called peers. Your open mindedness (empty-headedness) most likely will not cut it. Activity should be a personal choice and requires the natural ability of your mind to make those distinct decisions on what you require. But often is the case, when we are told that we are ordained to be little old couch potatoes if we do not get up and move; it gets the majority’s attention.

So what we end up with here is one of the first steps of exercise addiction. It is the same old “American” way of looking at fitness. The message is on the wall and even as far reaching as the White House, as the “first lady” has gotten into the act in a program called “Let’s Move.” No thank you, I’ll move when I want to (individual choice). The simple Fact is that the so called Obesity problem is more about cultural acceptance than it is a disease. This is dictated by the current cultural trends. Forgotten lore from nearly 100 years ago suggested how to get thin and how to acquire plumpness. Being the in vogue, they were accepted hand in hand. The Fitness Industry today thrives on the slender/sexy genre today and of course they will step in and stem the tide if you don't quite cut it. I say, Not so Fast!

Physical Activity is again based upon your personal choice; either you inherently desire to do it or you don’t. Your Health will not come crashing down if you don’t participate and get up and go with the pack. But for as long as we can remember, Health and Fitness has always been a friendly reliable relationship that has been very closely associated as one. Hardly anyone has ever questioned its inseparable association. However be as it may, if you look deeply, it is a specious bonding at best. Is it because you’re Healthy and can participate as a result, or visa/versa? Is it because you can and because you’re attracted to activity? If you are, likely it becomes an allure based on certain inherited internal emotional desires. Such trended physical activity beckons you to take the plunge so to speak. But if you are going in looking for Health, get ready to lose it fast, as this next activity on the agenda is a train wreck waiting to happen!

Before we get to the culprit, let’s examine the simple traditionally accepted fitness concept of Cross Training. Cross (adjective) refers to a reciprocal action and the word training here means more or less to work out (also brainwash). So in essence with cross training, we have a mish mash of activities which are offshoots of sporting activities. The “experts” explain that if you really want to get “fit,” you have to use many of them to diversify your workout. In other words; you mix it up with a host of sporting exertions. In order to achieve “fitness,” all you have to do is swim, run, sprint, bicycle, tread, jump, or even start hopping with a potato sack on. There is a whole host of other activities you could think of to add in, but with all that, you can simply wear yourself out for the achievement of nothing. But as the Culture gets more “complex,” there needs to be a more “modern” approach. Henceforth, the fitness crusaders have now conjured up a new calamity called “Crossfit.” “Crossfit” is a bastardized relative of its ancestor Cross Training. The activities invoked upon its followers are nothing short of Criminal Malpractice. This is Cross Training Extreme. Various stunts involve the explosive style lifting of all types of implements, a myriad of gymnastic derivatives, yanking/jerking chin-ups called kipping, hoisting and heaving cannonballs with handles (KettleBells), burpees (an old generic military drill), multiple variations of the traditional push-up (fingertip clapping chest slap) and running (often backwards) until you likely wake up in a mental ward. Some of these “exercise” programs suggested can be randomly done by drawing from a deck of cards and arranging the routine based on hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds. Each suit designates the drill to be executed. Beyond this, circus stunts such as the trapeze, handstands, and rings are also fair game. A proverbial Rambo seems to be in the making, however, all this provides one is a major disorder with a junk heap of energy wasting exertions at best.

With the economic situation in this country at a 65 year old low, one would think that these people find better reasons to put their time to intelligent use, rather than waste it away. They would be better off getting paid for labor jobs, rather than killing themselves with these worse than loathsome exertions. But of course everyone wants to achieve fitness and it seems the more it is like a religious cult (it changed my life dogma), the more they’ll come a running. In the whole scheme of things, is this fitness folly merely a lost runaway ego conforming to the latest dangerous exercise in futility?

Formally defined exercise is merely the strengthening of skeletal muscles, but for most people merely breaking a sweat becomes exercise, and not the human biological built in functional cooling mechanism it actually is. But in most of all cases, exercise becomes a complete anything goes in bodily exertions. The term exertion properly defined is the putting out of power to strain or tax. However, the rational idea is to stimulate the muscles and not to destroy them! So as these erroneous foundational definitions are laid, it is extremely easy to see where things can go awfully wrong. Common sense often takes a back in all aspects of life, and exercise is certainly no exception.

The “Crossfitters,” just like the rest of the fitness crusaders will pull out their trump cards. They will turn to the old survival of the fittest or the old cave dweller mentality. Which brings us to the question; is this exercise or sport? (You can’t have your cake and eat it too) Because as previously and formally defined, you can’t have it your way so to speak. So do we have exercise, sports, games, or what? Well as mentioned in previous chapters, exercise is physical medicine based on individual moderation of muscular strengthening. The closer an exercise is to a skill, the less it is an exercise; plain and simple. Well in spite of the facts, you might still ask; why isn’t Crossfit considered exercise? Well, first of all, the deeper you dig into this Cult; there will be revealed a frightful list of injuries incurred by its suggested insanities. There are alarming accounts of ACL Reconstructions, Herniated Discs, Broken Bones, Various Fractures, Torn Rotator Cuffs, Bulging Discs, Hernias, Severed Tendons, Ruptured Achilles, and all sorts of rips, tears, sprains with host of well known and newly named maladies. All of this is done for the pursuit of what? Exercise is about Health and Well Being, not lurking dangers waiting to happen. This sounds more like funeral fitness. But despite of being beyond delusional, Crossfitters will swear that they are better off in the long “run.” But of course these misguided individuals belie the fun they think they are having or at least they’ve been told. Remember again that “athletic fitness” and good health is not identical, regardless of what you’ve read or heard. Disease processes will lurk in spite of activity and likely with this Crossfit; maladies are likely to be exacerbated as recovery is often ignored. I often hear this so called Crossfit provides some sort of functional fitness or functional training (dysfunctional at best). All this so called functional fitness becomes, is an unnecessary exertional skill that you cannot use, in spite of the lip service given. For example the practice, participation, and playing of Football makes one a better Football Player. Crossfit simply makes you better at Crossfit. I suppose if it were some type of Million Dollar Sport, there might be a reason to pursue it. But again the choice is yours, it’s your body and regardless of pointing out the simple facts, many in spite of the dangers are going to join that collective. It is also true that some people also participate in Russian roulette for the fun of it.

“Desires (or feelings, or emotions or wishes or whims) are not tools of cognition; they are neither a valid standard of value nor a valid criterion of man’s interests. The mere fact that a man (or woman) desires something does not constitute proof that the object of desire is good, nor that its achievement is actually to his or her interest.”

Essentially, the rational choices in exercise are not often in the offering, but they should be. In the often cult driven world of Physical Fitness, choices are a virtual crap shoot. Your dependence upon the Popular Trendy Choices of the many involved will deliver you a bill of goods at best. Kettle Bells, Rings, and the allotment of crude tools offered by the Cult of Crossfit, is akin to going to battle and using a Muzzle Loading Musket while your adversary has an AK-47. In a Modern Day Mechanized Society, we don’t turn back to the coal burning furnaces; instead we use a microwave oven. Based on Capitalistic Innovation and Science (what little we have left), there are contemporary choices. In the Exercise Arena, there are selectorized progressive resistance machines that will fit the bill. There are judicious choices of books such as “Body by Science” by McGuff and Little and Full Strength by Werner Kieser to name a few. One can safely procure excellent and safe results from their exercise suggestions without the foolish pursuit of the unnecessary and undesirable. The modern tools that we use are part of everyday life and contribute to the happiness and ease of our living. Why should exercise be any different? The moral of the following story here sums it up.

Imagine you are on a hiking trip through some rugged desert terrain. You see a figure in the distance. It’s an old man, bearded and half-naked, on hands and knees, with his fingers clawing at the hard, sandy earth.

You ask, “What are you doing?” Answer; “I’m digging for gold.”

“How long have you been at it?”

“Weeks - month’s maybe. It’s painfully slow work.”

You begin to notice the old man’s bloody fingers, his raw and callused knuckles. You say, “But listen, man! Digging with your bare hands is a pretty inefficient way to prospect for gold. That hole’s only a couple of feet deep. Let me loan you my shovel.”

You reach into your backpack, pull out a lightweight, tempered-edge spade, and drive it into the ground. Then, you show the man how he can break and scoop the hard sand much more efficiently. In less than five minutes you have demonstrated to the old fellow that he can make more progress in a few moments than he could in a month of using his bare hands.

Then, an amazing thing happens; that old man’s eyes fill with hate and his face flushes angrily. He charges at you and grabs the shovel from your hands. He’s now preparing to throw the shovel, or perhaps even try to beat you with it.

You quickly retreat, and get the hell out of the old man’s range, as the shovel comes crashing down behind you on the hard sand. That’s not the end of the story.

If you return to that rugged location in the desert a year later, what would you expect to see that old man doing? Would he be using the shovel properly and have holes as big as school buses spread over the immediate and adjacent surroundings?

No, absolutely not! Instead, the old prospector would be at that same spot — with a somewhat bigger hole — still digging with his even-more-callused fingers. And there, in plain sight, only a few yards away . . . would be the unused, and now rusty, shovel.

So to take this story furthermore, when you see someone digging up their backyard with crude tools, turn your back on the fool and go rent a back ho.

People yearn for the good old days, but by and large the living conditions left less to be desired, but fortunately with the innovators and educators; well you could find a few pearls. Looking back with the brilliance of investigative research, we have learned that there is no such thing as physical education. The following gem from history should alleviate any further confusion.

Fitness Foundations in History; Why Define?

Origins of Exercise History provide the true story behind today’s fitness propaganda. Starting in the 1920s, a Professor of Physical Education at the University of Illinois coined a brilliant idea. He saw that the activities in Physical Education (that were very akin to CrossFit/Cross Training) were not exercise per se, but were indeed simply Sports. Foundationally he saw that education in general was easily defined in the mind and spiritual development. Physical education was referred to the means of bodily development, which was fine. The failure was that Physical Education did not maintain contact with the advancement of the hard sciences. In an ironic twist, the original exercise drills prior to the 19th Century were gymnastics; a sport (A Crossfit Favorite). Then the term eventually became Physical Culture and then on to Physical Training. The original concept basically was about improving the human organism, but as the Culture had its way; the social and spiritual aspect then became commonly entwined. This new association Staley thought, should have been called physical-mental-spiritual education. Then he discovered the key irrational interpretation that flourishes to this very day. Staley saw that the fitness life style or way of life absurdity became common place thought. He saw this was futile at best. In other words he deemed that this certain “so called” lifestyle was a ridiculous pursuit, as it allowed very little in the way of other diversity. Imagine being driven by living in a predominately fitness lifestyle from cradle to grave, while eschewing most other aspects of living and education. This prison like sentence kept one mired in looking from the inside out. What he meant was that physical education was a part of growth, but there is much more to life than be dominated by the sporting life. So, in the last 70 years, by and large the foundations of physical education were not in exercise, but sports. Therefore he rightfully coined what was being taught and emphasized. It was Sports Education. But as the majority in the culture dominated the scene, he was sadly just a small voice in the dark.

It is of utmost importance to understand that exercise is addressing the body and not the activity. Exercise that addresses the activity quickly becomes a sport. So conveniently housed in the Cult of Crossfit are competitions, which is essentially a neo sport waiting to happen. What do we have, Sports or Exercise? Again, as stated before; “you can’t have your cake and eat it too or you can’t eat your cake and have it too.” Reality is the final arbitrator, therefore if you run into a fitness expert, do exactly opposite to that he or she suggests and you will be far better off!

© 2010 David Landau