Expanding the Benefits of Fitness

This is part 4 of Fitness, the Economy, and the Environment.

Over the last few segments we have seen how growth drives our way of life in the developed world. In the last segment we saw the way in which that plays out with the nutrition industry. Now let’s take a look at how we can turn some of the negative consequences around for the benefit of ourselves and, if we want, for the benefit of our communities. Continue reading

Is Nutrition Fueling Us Or The System?

This is part 3 of Fitness, the Economy, and the Environment.

In the last part of this series we looked at how growth affects the way we think about training and what we hope to accomplish in the gym. The concept of input was discussed and the way in which the level of input can quickly become unrealistic when goals go too far. Let’s get into the some specifics about how that can play out to create a multi-layered problem for our own personal bodies, our community, our country, and the greater culture to which we belong. Continue reading

Part 2 – Growing Muscles, Growing Economies

This is part 2 of Fitness, the Economy, and the Environment.

Our economy is based on growth. The idea is that prosperity rises as the economy expands, producing more jobs, creating more products, and supporting a base of consumers with the resources to partake in the system. Historically, the idea of natural limits to economic growth has been considered a non-issue. We have either believed that the planet and its resources are so vast that they are for all practical purposes limitless or we have simply chosen to strike the possibility entirely in order to make our economic theories function on paper. Now in the face of global warming, resource depletion, and rising economic strain, the issue is regaining attention. Currently we spend a lot of time arguing about details while ignoring some of the basic and simple truths that lie right at the surface. Let’s take a look at how this plays out in fitness and see if it can expand our perspective.
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Fitness, the Economy, and the Environment – Part 1

This is part 1 of a multi-part series.

When we talk about nutrition in health and fitness we traditionally focus on its role in losing and gaining weight and improving cardiovascular health. More recently though the power of nutrition in popular culture has expanded. We now look to nutrition to cleanse and detoxify, suppress inflammation, improve cognition, raise energy and libido, and more. This has become a major market and begs the questions, what is it all about and will it help us achieve greater health and wellness? The answer may be a resounding no. The direction that we are taking in nutrition is more likely just a further symptom of an underlying dysfunction in our economic and social systems. To illustrate, let’s begin by comparing two current pressing issues and see how they are similar to one another: obesity and climate change. Continue reading

What’s a Personal Trainer Doing at a Climate Conference?

I attended the New School’s climate change conference entitled “Climate Change Demands We Change Why Aren’t We?” It was an awesome event with incredibly smart panelists and an equally thoughtful and engaged audience. At one point, I was able to stand up and ask a question. Before asking, it was requested that we introduce ourselves briefly. When I stated that I am a personal trainer each member of the panel raised an eyebrow. No one could readily explain what a personal trainer wanted at a climate conference. I happen to believe that there are many, many ways that personal training and fitness overlap with climate change. I want to focus on one for this post.  Continue reading

The Intersections of Fitness and Culture

        I was a history and german studies major; in other words, a social science student. At the time, I was not able to fully appreciate these subjects. One of the things that often floated in the back of my mind as I studied historical events and broad scale social and cultural movements was the feeling that our models of these events were rather abstract. The idea that something which we now label a movement, i.e. the enlightenment, humanism, etc. was actually influencing individual lives and actions seemed hard to grasp. At the time, I simply didn’t feel I had first hand experience watching a popular movement affect my real world life. Then I became a personal trainer. In this career, I have worked with many individuals on a personal level. When I work with these people I see clearly that I am not dealing merely with the individual that is in front of me, but with the world in which they exist. I am seeing first hand how the macrocosm of society trickles down to the microcosm of the individual, and what I have found is as fascinating and instructive as it is alarming.
        My primary task as a personal trainer is to help clients become healthier. This is no small responsibility. As such, I have delved into anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and exercise science in an attempt to hone out the very best solutions for the bodies that are under my care. However, what I am amazed to find is that when many people come to see me for the first time, they already have a very clear idea of what it is that they expect from me. Many are even completely uninterested in what I, the ‘expert’, have to say. This spawned two important questions for me which are: 1) Where exactly do these ideas come from?, and 2) Why can they so difficult to overcome?
        There is already a great deal of scholarly work out there examining the fitness industry’s current form, its cultural influence, and its direct effect on society.  Here are three examples: 1, 2, 3. What I personally find more informative in trying to answer these questions though is not looking at what the fitness industry is, but more how it got there. Why do we seek to alter our physiology through supplementation, or cleanse ourselves of toxins, or transform our physical appearances on a nearly unlimited scale? Why do we allow ourselves to think that we can control so much with so little?
        This requires a look at the themes on a macro level. We must understand how fitness intersects with economics, philosophy, science, medicine, popular culture, and more. As I have started down that path I have been surprised at the directions it has taken me. I would not have suspected that I would be re-familiarizing myself with Descartes, or that I would be reading the history of economics, the history of medicine, or even find myself pouring over the connections to sustainability. Nevertheless, I have done so and it is what I have discovered that I will begin sharing under the category Cultural. I hope, reader, you find it is scintillating as I.

There Is No ‘All Or Nothing’

Something that I hear quite often as a personal trainer is “I am an all or nothing person.” Usually the message is from a client who believes that they either have to eat perfectly and exercise every single day, or they will be unable to keep from gorging themselves and skipping the gym. I think this attitude is false and really only serves to set one up for failure. We are all much more capable than that, and most of my clients lives outside the gym already show that. Continue reading

Don’t Fear the Turkey

I noticed a common theme this past week. Many people, including some of my clients, were in defense mode about Thanksgiving. They were concerned about how to avoid as many of the ‘bad’ foods as possible. They were preoccupied by how they could best offset the inevitable disaster that Turkey day would bring. This is an unfortunate way to be living and I also believe it hints that they have failed to assimilate the real lesson of proper dietary habits. Continue reading