How The System Is Designed To Fail You
I remember not long ago this idea of preparing for the “unknown and unknowable” – a sort of apocalyptic demand of a future life to come. What that meant in layman’s terms is prepare for today what you may not expect to do tomorrow.
How did this play out in designing a fitness program? Well, tomorrow could mean you broke down in your car and were forced to run 2 miles to the nearest gas station. Tomorrow could mean that you are forced to do 1000 push ups in 24 hours in order to live. Tomorrow could mean that the zombies are coming for us and we must do burpees, box jumps, deadlifts and kipping pull ups to stop them from hurting us.
The more and more I started to dig deeper into this “unknown and unknowable” idea I realized its simply a façade. Almost 99% of our lives are in fact determined. Who we choose to be today and tomorrow is close to the person we were yesterday, is it not? In addition, the job we hold will be very similar in what we were employed for yesterday and perhaps the next month and possibly the next 5 years, will it not? The route we take to the job we work is going to be the same, except for the minor traffic jams or road work detours, that we have taken every single day of our lives, is it not? The places we shop at for food, the places we take our kids, the tv shows we watch, the time we go to sleep etc… it is all “KNOWN AND KNOWABLE”. This does make life sound boring but its ultimately very predictable and directly in alignment with reality.
The question now becomes: WHY has the landscape of fitness changed so drastically to lead us to believe that we need to prepare for the “unknown and unknowable” all the while knowing that our lives are not drastically changing day to day or even year after year.
I believe the answer is simple: VARIANCE & INTENSITY. Variance in fitness made us believe that if we prepare for random physical challenges, we will achieve the goals we want. Intensity made us believe it would occur faster. (Notice that the goals you want are essentially subsumed in the definition which are themselves KNOWN to you the participant AND that there is no finish line in life except for death.)
Now does “variance” or “intensity” go hand in hand with the life you lead? Let’s propose a thought experiment:
When you are at your office or work do you:
- Run from a saber tooth tiger in order to get to the bathroom?
- Have to complete all your work while lacking oxygen to your brain
Better yet does “variance” and “intensity” in your day mean you will swing from a pull up bar then perform heavy deadlifts then row as fast as you possibly can?
I didn’t think so either?
So again, why does our fitness culture remain fixated on the need for variance and intensity? Instagram, athletes, what my friends are doing, the need to feel accomplished, fomo – all of these are possible claims why. But it is a deeper question you can ask yourself because when looking at it from a HUMAN perspective there is absolutely no reason for it.
Lets be clear:
Variance IS necessary to foster mechanical changes and development in motor control to facilitate learning for the client in front of you or you yourself. It is important in fitness and it is important in life in general. Variance each day destroys that.
If someone teaches you the mechanics of throwing a baseball once and 5 months down the road they revisit the topic of trying to have a catch with you the chances of you DEVELOPING any motor pattern consistency will have been lost.
Variance IS necessary but it leaves out consistency. The throw of the baseball and catch of the baseball need to be taught through thousands and thousands of hours to develop PROFICIENCY. Variance might look like fun, but it leaves you left with underdeveloped motor control and the possibility of injury. This is why medical practices are BOOMING since the variance and intensity model has been brought on. (It’s also a telling sign when your gym has a chiropractic studio or an orthopedic doctor that opened up next door to help with any injuries.) Gee, I wonder why that is?
Intensity on the other hand IS NOT necessary. In our athlete-centric culture we view athletes as the pinnacle of health and that they should be modeled after in our pursuit of it. We see athletes performing amazing tasks of strength and endurance and see the glory and glamour of their lives and WE WANT IT. We want to be able to sweat until our nose bleeds and then pig out on a meal. This again has nothing to do with YOU. Your reality is 180 degrees different than this and guess what – ITS OKAY!
Additionally, athletes are not role models, they are not healthy, and their sole job is to win, score points, win prizes, get paid, PERFORM.
As a HUMAN your job is to RESIST ENTROPY. Your job is NOT to be an ATHLETE.
Now let’s discuss what the “variance and intensity” model looks like using a client named Bryan who is just beginning his fitness journey.
Body Fat: 36%
Job: Office Clerk from 9am-5pm
Workout History: None
Goal: Lose weight, Feel Better
Scenario 1: Bryan goes into the “unknown and unknowable” gym and starts out with a class that is doing a 30 Min High Intensity Workout which entails, 20 Burpees, 200m Run, 10 Power Cleans, 10 Deadlifts. The following day he is doing another class workout that is doing Back Squats 5×5 with a 2k Row at the end.
Scenario 2: Bryan goes into the “known and knowable” gym and starts out by performing an assessment to discuss further details of his lifestyle, goals, nourishment practices, priorities, values, medical history/injuries. The next day he comes back and does a movement assessment to discover how he moves and where his capabilities are right now followed by a 10 Min Test on a bike to assess his aerobic function.
Do you see the difference between the two?
Scenario 1 has a client come in through the front door and immediately start into a class without seeing anything regarding his movement capabilities and throws him in with the wolves, so to speak, with the intention of displaying how potent the workouts are in addition how far he is from attaining a result he wants.
Scenario 2 has a client come in through the same door only this time asking what it is that the clients needs and wants are and showing a clear path under the guidance of a coach that will prepare him/her for the life they are leading currently and the one they want to lead later on.
Unknown and Unknowable vs Known and Knowable is as clear as day yet most in the industry are preaching for the former.
I’d ask that camp to answer a few questions:
- You are aware that you will die, right?
- What does life look like at 90 years old?
If they can answer these questions with integrity, I can guarantee they’d think twice about promoting the Unknown and Unknowable for clients coming to them for help.