Fitness: Paint a Complete Picture

August 7, 2014

As often happens, I tweeted something today that requires expanding upon:

The nerds-discovering-running trend is great and all, but what’d be better is a nerds-realizing-there’s-more-to-fitness-than-running trend.

Look: It turns out that you need to do more than just go running three days a week to consider yourself fit.

I have a saying that goes: “Something is better than nothing, but ‘anything’ is not necessarily better than nothing at all.”

Put another way: I’d rather you do nothing at all than do “anything” inadequately. You have to paint a complete picture, or don’t paint a picture at all.

In this age we live in, we have access to the best minds on the planet at all times. All of the information is out there. The best practices have been worked out for you. All you have to do is seek them out.

This is why I take so much issue with casual tweets and blog posts revolving around some nerd’s new passion for fitness, running, or health management. Because I have yet to find one methodology that I can’t poke a hole in.

The Hype of “Cardio”

Look, there is more to fitness than running three times a week. Metabolic conditioning (also known as “cardiovascular conditioning”, in some circles) is plenty valuable, but widely over-prioritized as an integral part of a fitness regimen. It is much easier to get conditioned in a short amount of time than it is to be strong and mobile. Focus on those things first.

Let me be clear: it is entirely possible to do more damage to yourself by running incorrectly than by not running at all. You don’t need expensive padded shoes. You don’t need a treadmill. Learn to run like a human and get to it, or don’t do it.

Shawn Blanc, in his article Fit, said: “I’m not trying to buff up, just want to be fit.” As if those two things are mutually exclusive.

To quote Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength (which you should buy and read immediately):

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.

Getting “buff” from strength training is entirely a function of diet and diet alone. Separate social stigmas and stereotypes from concepts of health and fitness for your own benefit: strength is more valuable to a fitness regimen than cardio. You should not be working out for your looks.

Standing Desks

It is also entirely possible to damage your body by standing incorrectly. I’ll write a blog post on this if I must. Simply standing up more often won’t cut it—you have to stand correctly. And also, don’t get an anti-fatigue mat; in fact, throw yours out right now. Why are you standing? For the health benefits? If your feet hurt from standing too long,  train them, don’t cushion them.

Also: don’t waste your money on a better chair. Just stop buying fancy chairs. Stop buying chairs in general.

A Real Movement Practice

The biggest problem I see with those trying to become fitter: we, as a society, have confused “exercise” with ”practicing moving like a human being.”

Pilates. Yoga. Kettlebells. Olympic-style weightlifting. These are movement practices.

What you need to be fit is to practice movement. Ensure that you sit, stand, and walk correctly. Make sure you are mobile enough to get in and out of positions. Make sure you are strong enough to challenge those positions with a load. Then you can start playing with cardiovascular demands. This is the order of operations for becoming a fit human being. Dial in your nutrition, hydration, supplements, stress, and sleep, and now you’ve painted a complete picture.