THE GEOMETRY OF FITNESS
Probably somewhere in your deep, dark past, you sat in Geometry class in high school. You learned something called “Proofs,” and it was all about two things: “Givens” and “To Prove.”
Givens are things you might not even notice, but they have a huge impact on you. When you were told line A to B was parallel to line C to D, it was parallel, even if it didn’t look right to you. If you are a monotheist, somehow and sometime you are going to have to face the question of why do bad things happen to good people. If your given is “I drive on the right side of the road,” your first taxi ride in London is going to be a thrill ride.
Most people have givens when it comes to fitness and health. The problem is this: are your givens true? I spend my days working with people striving to attain serious fitness goals, but almost daily we run into their “givens.”
I worked with a former high school wrestler who knew he could easily get back to his old “wrestling weight” around 150 pounds when he merely weighed about 100 more. His given was this idea that he had, somewhere in storage, a massive amount of free will, self-discipline and gung ho.
When he weighed 150 or so, he had teammates wandering over to the wrestling room with him. Waiting for him was a coach in sweats with a towel around his neck worried that the 100 degree room was too cool. For three hours, he trashed around pushing, pulling and gasping for the thrill of the wind sprints at the end. Since it was winter, he also picked up a solid case of the flu that really got that bodyweight down.
Most people’s givens simply don’t reflect the reality of their life today.
I knew a woman who had a “go to” diet whenever her weight popped up: Day One, seven eggs, Day Two, seven oranges, and Day Three, seven bananas. That’s all. Each day, just seven items and it worked, she always lost weight. Two days later, she would put it all back one plus a few extra pounds for the trouble. It worked once and she was convinced that this was always the case. It became her given.
Think about it a little bit: what are your givens?
When you decide to “get in shape,” do you go out the door for a jog even though you are trying to get in shape for an explosive sport like basketball? When you decide to drop a few pounds, what is your given?
My point is simple: most people’s givens don’t stand up to reality. As we age, we tighten up in the pectorals, biceps, hip flexors and hamstrings. Sadly, most guys bench and curl and literally age themselves (think of the caricature of an old man stumbling along with stooped shoulders and bent arms) during most workouts.
The glutes are literally the seat of power and few gym people train with deep squats, swings or the O lifts. Hill sprints work well here, too, by the way, and give you that “burn” that Ron Burgundy preached to us. When I was young, the ads in the magazines told us that “shoulders make the man,” but rarely do we see overhead presses for “barn door wide shoulders” anymore.
For fat loss, let’s get back to basics. Eat your colorful vegetables just like mom told you to do. How did bagels become a breakfast given is a mystery to me. Drink sugar-free and calorie-free water when you are thirsty. If a carbohydrate comes in a bag or a box, push it aside for a while.
If you really want to get your body weight down, join the military. I understand the French Foreign Legion is looking for volunteers. Oddly, this is the given most people have for fitness… they need to literally have a gun pointed to their head.
Rethink your givens through the lens of where you are and what you have around you. In a typical gym, you have dozens of pieces of equipment that weren’t around in your youth and can get you to your goals quickly. Suspension equipment, Kettlebells, Atlas Stones, Farmer Bars and a wild world of training equipment might trump your experiences of two or three decades ago.
Explore the new world of fitness. Get yourself fit by doing new and challenging sports and games. Rock climbing, for example, is as exhausting as any wrestling class and the rush of excitement will do more for your hormone profile than anything over the counter at the nutrition store. It will also clearly show you why a few pounds around the middle is a bad idea.
Challenge your givens. Explore movement and activity. Try something new in fitness and watch your body composition change.
Dan John has spent his life with one foot in the world of lifting and throwing, and the other foot in academia. An All-American discus thrower, Dan has also competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting, Highland Games and the Weight Pentathlon, an event in which he holds the American record.