I read this quote in an article from the April 2009 edition of Men’s Health magazine (It’s a great article, I highly recommend you check it out here). This section is talking about Erwan Le Corre, the founder of MovNat, and how he has stepped outside of fitness routine and has adopted a more playful method of pursuing fitness and health. I posted a quick mini-review of his promotional video – which is awesome, by the way. You should check that out before you read this, if you haven’t already: Ditch the Zoo, and Get Back to Nature
From Men’s Health article:
But Le Corre’s most important breakthrough might be the way he’s welded purpose and playfulness. When he jumps and tumbles and chucks stuff around, he looks just like a kid mucking in the backyard. Zehr believes that could be the way we’re hardwired to work out. “You never see your dog running nonstop around and around in a circle for an hour,” he points out. “If he did, you’d think there was something wrong with him. Instead, he’ll chase something, roll around, sprint, rest, mix things up. Animal play has a purpose, and it’s not hard to surmise that human play should as well.”
What an awesome perspective for human fitness and movement, Le Corre acting just like a kid playing in the back yard. This is how we should view our own fitness training, like it’s the best part of our day. “I can’t WAIT til I can go out and train! (play)
But what really struck me was the note about how dogs never run around in circles for an hour – they play, which involves all sorts of athletic maneuvering.
There is no doubt that we have forgotten how to play in our culture (myself included – I almost entirely forgot how to play once I entered high school and was bombarded with structure, routine, and expectations.) I am slowly trying to creep out of that and enjoy the benefits that play and fun offer us.
We see this inability to comprehend or practice “play” most obviously in fitness culture. Go to any “health club” and you’ll see what I mean. Take a walk over by the cardio machines where people are literally running or stepping in place. Not only that, but they are trying to block the experience of their own personal transformation. They don’t even want to think about exercising – they just want to “put in the time.” GET IN, GET OUT!
This is why we see people reading books and magazines, listening to their ipod, or watching TV while they trot, row, or pedal. They view exercise as work, instead of play.
Now, hear my heart on this. I’m not saying that exercise machines are bad because they serve a tremendous need in our modern society. I understand the need for convenience, I understand the need to “shut everything out” and to de-stress from a long day. I used treadmills and exercise bikes for entire sports seasons during the wintertime. I get it!
But I’ll tell you one thing. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and while figuratively running around in circles has it’s health benefits (burning calories, etc.), I prefer the freedom and happiness that comes from being actively involved in my fitness, by being mindful of my movement and health, by accomplishing things that most people wouldn’t dare attempt (and things that I wouldn’t have dared attempt before!).
I’ve tasted the benefits that free expression of fitness provides, and I don’t want to try another flavor. I’m satisfied, and at the same time, dissatisfied because I know there is so much more. The rabbit hole goes so very deep when it comes to exploring the depths of your athletic potential.
Now, I know that most of my readers aren’t the type that exercises on cardio or any machines at all. I’m confident that you know the risk:benefit ratio when it comes to using any type of machine – and that I don’t recommend using them except in the cases of rehabilitation under the guidance of a qualified physical therapist. But just because you’re not using machines, doesn’t mean that you are completely free within your training program.
Some training methods and programs have been around long enough that they have gained the ability to trick us into thinking that they are the “end all, be all” – just out of being the common practice for so long. It’s not the truth. Just this week, I debated with someone over the issue of using barbells vs dumbbells. This guy couldn’t understand that barbells are NOT the best training tool for all goals. Of course, they have value, of course they are useful, and of course they are the best tool for their intended purpose – lifting weights such as in powerlifting and olympic weightlifting. But they aren’t the absolute BEST training tool for ALL strength-related goals. I thought this was common sense, but apparently not. This is a perfect example of being trapped within a dogma, a mentality, the notion that “I’ve got it all figured out.”
We’ve been taught that lifting weights and cardio are the secret to long-term health. Sure, they are valuable, but they are NOT the only path to enlightenment, and they certainly aren’t the END ALL, BE ALL.
I’ll tell ya one thing, I’m more inclined to trust my gut feeling, and my instincts, when it comes to training. Of course, I look to what has already been theorized and proven for guidance, but I don’t set up limits or boundaries based on what I’ve read or heard. I know that paradigm after paradigm has been broken about health and fitness, and it’s going to keep happening – and I’m going to be one of the ones breaking them (and so are you since you’re here challenging your beliefs, saying no to status quo, and committing to positive change).
If you feel trapped in a program, it’s because you ARE trapped – your intuition is spot-on and you should trust yourself. If you aren’t feeling stronger, healthier, and happier because of your training – then your program isn’t serving you well. If you get injured constantly, then your program isn’t serving you well. If you haven’t made consistent, measurable progress in the last month, then your program isn’t serving your well. You could be setting personal records on a weekly basis. You could be shifting your focus away from training and towards playing, away from numbers and towards performance, away from structure/routine and towards your own expression of freedom. There is so much more out there to be had than just lifting weights and cardio.
To your health and success,
P.S. One practical step that I took to start challenging my beliefs about training was by adopting a daily joint mobility practice, and I began with the Intu-Flow Longevity System. I’ve practiced this everyday for the past 3 years and can’t say enough about the benefits I’ve experienced. I describe this as likened to a key that opens a secret garden of human movement expression, and I now understand why joint mobility training is often referred to as the “Fountain of Youth. Check it out here: