Change Your Body, Change The World – Reviewed

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Thanks to authors like Frank Forencich, I have contracted a severe case of extreme neurogenesis and synaptogenesis. These are foreign terms in our culture namely because 1) they are new discoveries in scientific communities, and 2) most people don’t even realize that they’re lifelong carriers. It’s true that extreme cases of these conditions are rarely identified, but that doesn’t mean immunity should be presumed. There is no vaccination, no medicine, and no treatment that can guarantee complete protection. In this case, we are simply at the mercy of nature. In fact, not too long ago, almost all human beings were infected with these pseudo-viral conditions, and thus far, our species has proven itself incapable of eliminating them. Be forewarned, right now you are counted among the infected, and are at risk of contributing to an epidemic on scale with smallpox, the black plague, and the HIV infection. Read this at your own risk. You’re about to be exposed to a powerful force of nature!

That may sound all dark and doomsdayish, but it’s actually some of the best news you’ve heard in a long time! The hopefully impending outbreak of epic proportions will be one of the greatest events in human history. But we’ll get to those sciency terms later…

The book Change Your Body, Change The World was written by Exuberant Animal founder, Frank Forencich (who I interviewed here). In this masterfully-crafted book, Forencich details exactly why radical lifestyle change is so utterly necessary in our physically-inert, yet modernized culture, and also exactly why people are so resistant to what they need most. But amidst the challenges, Frank also shares a radiant beam of hope as he outlines various solutions to contemporary problems facing the physically clueless (that’s us!). Frank is also exceptionally clear about how our physical health as individuals is intimately intertwined with the health of our friends, family, community, land, and ultimately, our planet.

As I read through the chapters, much of Frank’s writing was preaching to the choir. You can even find some of the main topics discussed here in the Physical Living archives. It’s beyond clear that Frank is a well-educated, down-to-earth teacher who has exceptional talent for relating complicated subjects in easy-to-understand [and I’ll add, creative] messages. Furthermore, I believe it will be readily apparent to anyone who reads this book that Frank’s solutions are appropriately tailored for the many health (and other) problems we are facing in our society as a result from the disconnection we have from our physicality.

The most valuable asset conveyed in the book is an overall perspective about all things related to exuberant physical living. Sure, the book is chock-full of practical advice and handy do-it-yourself tips and strategies, but the real value lies in the message between the lines. This is something that must be experienced (read) to be fully appreciated, but I can at least tell you that Frank has got this whole physical living thing figured out. It’s impossible to ignore his mastery over the subject. Frank GETS IT. And reading this book gives you the opportunity to get a taste for Frank’s unique flavor and perspective, along with the lifestyle it represents.

The book is jam-packed with advice for the would-be physical culturist, and I’d love to share some practical suggestions that Frank covers. However, I think I would probably have to type up half of the book to cover for my liberal use of the highlighter. My book is tattered and worn, and marked up with pink highlights, stars, brackets, underlines, notes, and other random paraphernalia. Plus, punching out a bullet point list wouldn’t do the message justice – not by a long shot. To put it bluntly: if you don’t have the discipline to sit down and read this book, you won’t have the discipline to put any of the advice into practice (and it’s not a hard read, quite the page-turner actually).

If I were to cite one overarching theme that jumped out at me from this book, it would be to fall in love with your physicality, or more specifically, fall in love with movement. I’ve talked about this before here and here. Do the things you love to do the most. Do what makes you feel alive, and connects with you on a deep physical, emotional, and spiritual level. If you love doing something, you won’t have any trouble committing to it and reaping the rewards from it (kiss your need for motivation goodbye). This is some of the best advice I’ve ever received, and something that almost everyone I meet needs to hear.

While reading this book, my body and mind were building new neurons (neurogenesis) and forming new neural connections (synaptogenesis) at the speed of light, and I literally feel like I’m about to start vaporizing random objects all around me from the lightning strikes being emitted from my hands, feet, and noggin. I really hope the ideas in this book start to go viral and spread across the world in epic proportions (I’m an optimist, perhaps ignorant and disillusioned, but an optimist nevertheless).

All kidding aside, let’s get right to the point of Frank’s book. We are facing dire circumstances, and what we’ve been using to solve our health problems in modern culture isn’t working. We need a radical change in our perspective and in the resulting actions in order to improve our own health, so that we may contribute to a healthier world. Frank explains the problem we’re facing on page 25:

This is one of the most striking ironies of modern civilization: by engineering our environment to take care of our every physical need and desire, we have simultaneously disempowered ourselves and brought disease upon our bodies.

That’s the bottom line – that’s the catastrophe we’re facing. And the necessary change to heal ourselves and our world starts with us – with educators, trainers, coaches, athletes, and fitness trainee’s. It starts with people who take the initiative, and willingly accept challenges. It starts with people who will go the distance themselves so that they can better serve others. It starts with people who don’t give in to trivial pain or discomfort, who tuck their chin and keep going even when it gets hard. It starts with philosophers, visionaries, artists, and romantics. It starts with activists, protesters, and revolutionaries. It starts with you and I.

No single man can change the world, but you can change yourself, and in the process initiate a ripple effect of widespread positive action. In Change Your Body, Change the World, Frank will take you by the hand and show you exactly what to do (there are even a few bullet-point lists!)

Oh and by the way, if you’d like to learn how to deduct the cost of comedy show tickets on your tax returns, or how to deal with an giant bull elephant named “Looming Catastrophe” that has invaded your home, or how to Porno-Proof your lifestyle, or if you want to experience a flaming-hot Earth-orgasm…

Consider this my full endorsement. Go and read this book if you want to rock your world-view.

Change Your Body, Change the World: Reflections on Health and the Human Predicament

11 Responses

  1. Sounds really interesting.

    I look forward to the time when I have some money freed up to invest in his books!

    • This one is well-worth the investment, Damien. I think Frank’s ideas will fit in very well with your own ideas of physical culture.

  2. Nice review, John. This is actually next on my reading list. Absolutely love Frank’s work.

    • You’ll love it, John. I’ve seen more than a few of Frank’s movement games in your Saturday morning bootcamps – very cool!

  3. I heard a quotation once that this article reminded me of..

    “Sometimes it makes sense to turn around and take a forward step, then which way are you going??”

    This book just hit the top of my to read list

    • Great quote! Another one I like is “do whatever the majority isn’t doing, and you’ll probably be on track.” The majority is often stuck in a rut, not enjoying their physicality in the least bit. Actually focusing on enjoyment and the intrinsic rewards of movement is a complete 180 turn from the majority.

  4. John,

    I had the pleasure of attending one of Frank’s two-day workshops. Very different experience from a lot of other seminars/workshops I’ve attended. His work definitely has an influence on my training.

    • I’d love to hear about it, John, if you have the time. How is your training different as a result of Frank’s work – personally and professionally?

  5. Without getting too long winded… I picked up a number of things from Frank’s work, three of the most influential being the ideas of FUN, CHAOS and TRIBE.

    It’s interesting to observe a group going through conditioning ‘games’ versus a typical conditioning circuit. Back in the day I would have seen the laughing and giggling as a sign that the session wasn’t ‘tough enough’ and we needed to beef things up to ‘kill the noise’. However, I no longer hold that view. I purposely integrate the ‘games’ and more typical circuits into a group session/boot camp for a number of reasons, one being to assess how the tribe reacts/interacts to them.

    It’s very interesting to watch the mood change. They love the games because they’re fun and they get a ‘great workout’, and they love the circuits because they view them as a challenge and get a ‘great workout.’ But, again, it’s very interesting to watch the mood shift when moving from one to the other. The smiles and laughter cease when the circuit comes out. While EVERYONE looks forward to the games, only those of a certain frame of mind look forward to the circuits.

    Even though the games are tough and are producing positive lifestyle change, they’re not viewed as ‘working out’.

    The games also allow us to add in the variable of CHAOS into the program, which is many times missing from program design. As we all know, there’s a good deal of violence, chaos, and unpredictability when it comes to sport (and general day to day activity). Just look at chaos theory. So, being able to move from lunges, to traveling lunges, to traveling lunges under heckling is not only fun but effective. We realize real-world transference.

    The games lend naturally to TRIBE building. We get to develop human interaction, touch, sensitivity, repertoire and brotherhood. I love watching perfect strangers enter a session a little timid and hesitant and leave a session smiling, laughing and patting each other on the back. A lot of group training is still really individual training in disguise. We aim to build tribe in our group training, which requires coming at the session from a different mindset.

    • Thanks for that, John.

      The elements of fun and tribe have definitely stood out to me from Frank’s videos and books, but I find it very interesting that Frank also organizes purposeful chaos into his system. I see this as a missing piece in most fitness and movement programs (certainly along with both fun and tribe), and it’s an idea I hope continues to grow in training circles.

      Life is anything but static. It’s entirely dynamic requiring constant adaptability to changing circumstances. So, it makes me wonder why we are so quick to formalize and structure our training programs with such rigidity.

      To quote from Frank’s book (Chapter: The Case Against Exercise):

      “The problem with exercise becomes apparent as soon as we begin to describe it. That is, exercise consists of doing abstracted movements in a stereotyped, repetitive pattern. In essence, exercise is a specialization extracted from a larger whole, an activity taken out of its natural context. Just as white flour is an extract derived from a more complex natural grain (losing most of its nutritional value in the process), exercise is a behavior that is stripped down and removed from its original setting. In effect, exercise is white movement.”

      Erwan Le Corre has a similar view with his MovNat program, and he teaches his students to distinguish between what he calls contextual-based movement (ie running through the woods, or squatting under a low tree branch), and context-free movement (ie running on a treadmill, or bodyweight squats).

      This has caused me to massively re-evaluate and reorganize my training regime to include a little more chaos, or as Erwan describes it “situational adaptability.” The premise behind it is to put yourself into a situation where you need to engage in your natural environment, instead of trying to insulate yourself in a gym-like setting. Of course, it has to do with a lot more than just where you train, but that’s a start. The bottom line is that each movement that accounts for situational adaptability must have a purpose beyond physical conditioning.

      Truth be told, I’ve experienced a little chaos myself lately – just trying to incorporate more chaos into my habitually organized training program. What I’ve ultimately concluded is that it’s best to draw from both planned and chaotic training. There are benefits to be had from both, and drawbacks to each.

  6. Edward Mulder

    Speaking of Erwan Le Corre, I think he also said:

    “I do not vote for change. I do not hope for change. I am the change.”

    Thanks for this great review John. I will certainly be getting this book. This is really exciting stuff!

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