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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 07-20-2005, 06:53 AM   #1
John Walsh
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I have been reading Art De Vany’s and the Go Animal site a lot lately. Great stuff with a lot of interesting insights. It has really got me thinking a lot about movement and play as opposed to exercise. Semantics I know but significant just the same. Along with CF and many other sources it has caused me to reflect on what is natural for our bodies and what is unnatural. No surprise to most of you but it’s become apparent to me that our society has things *** backwards and it’s putting many good people in the dirt long before their time. If they do beat the grim reaper for a while it’s often via medical treatment and a **** poor quality of life. Often this poor health is simply the result of living an abnormal life. The irony is that these people think they are living a normal life.

Let me illustrate with a real life example. Nearly every day at work I venture out to the local park at around noon. I keep a basketball and a football in my office and often just go screw around shooting baskets or kicking the football and retrieving it. Sometimes I do an extra WOD, whatever. I break a nice little sweat and am back at my desk all in less than 30 minutes total. No one else does this in my office. This doesn’t make me better than any one else. It’s just an observation. At lest of the office are in poor shape and overweight.

This kind of activity is quite normal and I feel much better for doing it. It’s what the body was made to do. I sit in front of a PC all day long and need to break things up. Sitting in front of a PC and eating a heavy lunch is abnormal for the body yet everyone in my office views me as acting strange. They sit on their asses all day long and then sit in a car and then go home and sit in front of the TV. This is extremely abnormal.

About two years ago my boss called me into his office and went so far as to tell me that it looked odd for an executive to change into shorts and run out the door to play basketball at lunch. His “concern” was that subordinates would take note and exercise at lunch also. This, he felt, would lead to longer lunches and less productivity. After all we were running a business not a health club. He also felt it “looked weird” for me to come back to work all sweaty. Naturally I disagreed, no one followed my lead by exercising at lunch and I continued on with his implicit disapproval. As a side note our business is running one of the largest healthcare organizations in the world.

Outside of this contention I had enormous respect for my boss both as a person and professionally. I liked him. I say ‘liked’ because he died as a result of a massive heart attack in his mid 50’s. It saddens me because it seems that his lifestyle killed him. The same lifestyle that everyone seems to consider normal which is in fact abnormal.

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Old 07-20-2005, 08:01 AM   #2
Pat Janes
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Sounds like a more productive way to spend 30 minutes at lunch than what I see most people do at lunch on a Friday, John.

In IT, a 2-hour lunch down the pub on Friday is pretty much the status quo and there's nothing gets done Friday afternoon.

I digress. Back to the main point of your post though; I completely agree.

Most of the people I know and/or meet think I'm a health/fitness freak/nut (pick a term), but that's because I (on average) exercise for no more than about 45 minutes a day (often much, much less) with the WOD and practicing a few things; and eat a 95% clean Zone-friendly diet.

None of that is abnormal with respect to the way the human body was designed; only with respect to the way that most fat, lazy-assed, desk-bound types treat their body.

Now... how do I really feel?
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Old 07-20-2005, 08:53 AM   #3
Larry Cook
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Good points on a truly fascinating topic.

I used to get flak for going to the gym on my lunch hour (why don't you just eat your lunch at your desk like everyone else .. then you can eat and work at the same time ... much more productive).

John, you talk first about movement/play as opposed to exercise. I think this is a big point that some folks miss in variety of ways. I realize many Crossfitters use the WOD in a group setting, and it becomes more like "play" than exercise, and that is a good thing. In addition, one of the basic tenets of Crossfit is "to learn and play new sports regularly" and Dan John always seems to be harping on going out and playing. Play is an essential part of socialization and we are highly social creatures ... many argue that there is (or at least had been) some real evolutionary advantage for this highly evolved social nature. Maybe there are specific hormones that our bodies produce during play that favorably effect socialization type behavior? Anyway, I think we have been suppressing this in ourselves (i.e., its not productive) and our kids (too highly structured sports leagues at a very young age).

As far as the "sedentary is abnormal" point, I'm sure we all agree that physical activity is good and healthy, and can attest to the fact that most people somehow don't, or choose not to, understand this. However, I would add that Paleo (wo)man, given their choice, would have sat around all day eating Doritos and drinking beer ... but, THEY DID NOT HAVE THE CHOICE. The body prefers less activity to more (less activity requires less food and in a food limited world, that's good) and my guess is Paleo populations engaged in as little activity as necessary to get the amount of food they needed. It was, though, more work than driving to the local 7-11 (should we now call it the 24/7?) or McD's, which is what is required of us ... quite a bit more. So is it abnormal? I don't know. Is it unhealthy? Duh. Do people get this? Mostly not. I work with a lot of smart people ... 3/4s of them don't seem to get it.

It still amazes me that we have a drug for every condition under the sun (with a list of side effects longer than the Bill of Rights .. but they are perfectly safe) .... Crossfit's "World Class Fitness in 100 Words" is so simple, it's radical.
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Old 07-20-2005, 08:57 AM   #4
Troy Archie
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John, amen brother. My lunch time involes me going across the road, doing pull-ups on a tree and L-sits on a rail. This is viewed as abnormal. Going out everyday and buying an oversized taco (that is named after yourself), an oversized puff-wheat square and oversized cinnamon bun is not.

An other guy I work with comes outside during lunch but he goes and sits in his car. Heaven forbid we get a little bit of fresh air and sun.

I've begun to view people as labratory mice and now understand why we experiment on them so much. The fat ones get cancer and die early, the athletic, fit ones do not.

So how do you figure we go about starting to reprogram people?
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Old 07-20-2005, 09:11 AM   #5
Roger Harrell
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Now an interesting study that has never been done is to see if fit people are in general more productive at work than out of shape folks. This would be a very non-pc study, but telling. Think if we could show companies that giving people a 1 hr window to workout during their day would boost overall productivity in the office. I am convinced it would. I would also allow for more sustained work during crunch times. Folks wouldn't get tired and burnt out as quickly.
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Old 07-20-2005, 09:26 AM   #6
Scott Kustes
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Roger, I was just thinking the same thing. There's more to it than short-term productivity too. For instance, after a nice WOD, you might be on top of your game and throw in 5 more hours of solid work that the pasta lunch crew can't because of insulin coma. Maybe you can't because you're wiped from the WOD...regardless, you are probably sick far fewer times. There's 8-10 hours/day that you're more productive each time they are sick. I would bet the CFers are at the Dr less often getting tests and checkups (except maybe for our sports injuries), which is another hour or so on those days. This says nothing of the improved energy and focus that comes with having a fit, healthy body and a good diet. Employers view being at the desk with productivity. At my previous job, I could get as much accomplished in 5 hours as half the people did in 8 because I focused while I was there while they spent 15 minutes/hour outside smoking or running to the coffee machine constantly to stay awake.
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Old 07-20-2005, 09:33 AM   #7
Troy Archie
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I work 10 hour days right now and it's a drag. I'm sure I could work 10 hours, hell even 12 hours, on my head if I could do the WOD in the middle of the day. WOD in the middle of the day would be so rad.
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Old 07-20-2005, 09:37 AM   #8
Barry Cooper
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I recently had tremendous difficulty getting an invoice paid, and visited the client. They told me that they had OK'd it repeatedly, and sent it to A.P . for payment, so I visited A.P. Once there, I surmised what I thought was the problem, after securing a promise to pay. Back in the office, they asked me what the problem was, and I told them: stuck on the 3rd Floor. "Who's on the 3rd floor?". Oh, that's where the fat women are.

That may not be PC, but it's absolutely true in my experience.
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Old 07-20-2005, 10:59 AM   #9
Andrew Gray
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I think there are actually a fair number of places that do understand that a healthy employee is a productive employee and encourage physical activity. They probably aren't the majority but there are certainly a lot of them out there. The last place I worked we had a gym inside our building and a wellness comitee. Right before I moved they had just started a program where they had everyone in the building log all their physical activity on the intranet and we competed to see which floor could log the most minutes over the course of 10 weeks (My floor was winning when I left). I did work for the city and I know government jobs are usually not so zeroed in on productivity, but I know there are private companies that do the same thing. I have several friends who get free gym memberships for working for their companies. About 2 years ago I wrote a paper for a Public Campaigns Class I was taking, it was about the effectiveness of different types of public exercise campaigns, and in the course of doing research for this I ran into tons of cases of private companies setting up wellness comitees, excercise plans, and other things to encourage healthy lifestyles. It seems to me this is something that actually has been pretty heavily studied and it has been shown to be effective. I'm not 100% on this but I seem to recall the biggest bennefit to employers wasn't actually increased productivty as much as it was large decreases in disability claims and missed work. I think many companies now realize that it is good business to encourage healthy employees.

In any case, I guess my point is that the word is out there, some people just don't want to listen.
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Old 07-20-2005, 12:09 PM   #10
Robert Wolf
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Great post John.
I think there is a sense among people that their health and well being is something that exists "out there" and there is precious little they can do to influence it. We give up our personal accountability to government, doctors, the pharmaceutical industry etc.

We had a guy come into CF NorCal the other day and he asked, "who is in charge of buying health coverage?" Nicki and I looked at each other and I finally said that we:
1) have catastrophic coverage and plan on living a very long time. and then dying
2) avoid doctors like the plague
3) take prescription drugs as a last resort.

The guy looked stunned and said something to the effect: If everyone did that we would be out of business! He works for Kaiser.

NewScientist has had some great articles on technology and the "promise of the future". The tone has been anything but Utopian with everything from gene therapy to GM foods appearing to be more or less duds. Dynamic living systems function on a level of self organization and intelligence that is staggering and I think it unlikely that we are going to be able to undo the fact that we "are" fix these problems we would have to fundamentally change what it means to be human. 50-hour workweeks would be normal, little or no meaningful socialization would be enough, ****ty processed food would not kill us. It would be funny if it were not so sad.

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