Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My next guest is Fred, who has become a good friend over the last year or so. Sometimes he's more like a brother who you love but he drives you nuts!
Fred, this is a great post, I'm thankful you took the time to write your thoughts down.

When Jen mentioned to me that she was going to be featuring guest entries on her blog, I had a sneaking suspicion that she was using this as a ploy to lessen the demands on her to provide fresh, updated content on the site. When she said she’d allow me to put up a post, I knew that was the case! But, to help her out, I’ve decided to submit a post. So, with some trepidation, below is my contribution to Jen’s blog – which I thank her for tirelessly maintaining. It is a source of information, amusement and inspiration, which I have enjoyed viewing since I’ve known her.

I didn’t set foot in a gym until after I graduated from college and began working in an office setting. I can’t remember how long it took me to get into the gym, maybe a few years after I started working, but I’d peg the age somewhere in my mid-twenties. Up until that point, the idea of lifting weights or using cardio machines was anathema. Being engaged in sports and activities – a fairly wide variety over the years – had always taken me outside and enabled me to use my body as it was designed to be used – for varied, dynamic movements. But, once I began spending more hours of the day seated than active, it all changed. I sought out the gym as an easily obtainable source of activity in the limited time I had outside of work, social commitments, and routine errands. My goal was to move around, challenge my musculature/lungs/heart, maintain flexibility, break a sweat, and tire myself out by the time I was done. I entered through the popularized gateway of “lifting”, with no formal coaching or training, and supplemented with some yoga, running and biking. However, I tired of the gym scene quickly and became bored with the limited exercises and routines that I knew – pushing around more weight was not enough to keep it interesting. The only saving grace of the endeavor was that it kept my body moving, which, was the primary goal.

Then, a few years ago, at the suggestion of a friend, I decided to sub in something new that I had never tried before, kickboxing. This was an entirely new challenge for me, with lots of technique to learn - not to mention a conditioning fest. This was also my introduction to Tom Brose, who taught the class. Slowly, through Tom, I began to learn about functional, multi-joint, multi-muscle group movements and lifts, and slowly, my exercise regimen and philosophy began to change (I’d like to consider it an evolution, but I’m biased). This process (which has been years in the making) ultimately has led me towards Crossfit style workouts and Olympic weightlifting. I’ll also credit Tom for introducing me to both of these endeavors (don’t worry, no more Tom references).

But, I never wanted, and still never want to be a “gym rat”, limiting my activity to the confines of a gym or structured “workout” setting – indoors or out. For all of the passion I have for Crossfit workouts and Olympic lifting, these are merely a means to an end. The end being, the ability to continue to do things (work, sport, movement), perhaps even to broaden the realm of what’s possible to do, as my body inevitably moves on down the road of aging. So, while I have goals for my structured workouts (be it a sub 3 Fran, 400lb deadlift, 75kg snatch, 100kg clean and jerk, etc.), these are not the motivations for training and training hard. Rather, I’m training for the unscripted moments and movements that I may encounter in the course of living. Whether it be sport or not, indoors or out, using body weight or other objects, requiring flexibility, strength, coordination, balance, speed, endurance, or control. In fact, some of my more satisfying moments resulting from training and exercise have come from challenges outside of the gym, when it’s random and unscripted – like squatting down on flat feet to grab something off the low shelf at the store and popping back up, running up the Metro stairs in winter boots with a backpack on, muscling-up and over a fence (no, I wasn’t being chased by cops – but that would have been cool), lifting various objects for someone who was moving, etc. Things that I knew if I hadn’t worked hard to prepare for, without even knowing what it specifically was that I was preparing for, wouldn’t have been possible. That has emerged for me as the real reward of fitness, strength, conditioning, health, and training. For anyone who this concept may resonate with, I’d encourage you to seek functional uses or outlets for the gains you make while in the gym or in structured settings (chances are, if any of this does resonate with you, you already are). Prescribed workouts and benchmarks are helpful as training tools, but not the end all be all. The true test is “out there” – train for it, find it or allow it to find you, and be successful. Good luck.


James said...

It's an interesting phenomenon that many go to the gym as their only source of physical activity. The gym used to supplement our activity, not replace it! Good that you can see that. Great post. Now everyone, get away from your computers and get outside!

Jay C said...

Thanks for the invite, great blog.
Get time, check out mine.

CrossFit Jersey Shore said...

Yo Jen,

Nice blog!!