Go Wild: Fight the Domestication of Fitness

Shane Trotter

Coach

Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development

You are a human—the most cunning, adaptable animal the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, our collective power has grown to such an extreme that you hardly need to contribute in ensuring your own survival. We’ve contracted out our protection and created social acceptance around absolute dependency.

 

Farms produce a tremendous surplus of food and jobs have grown so specialized as to not require any direct interaction with a physical environment. The division of labor creates abundance and our every impulse is met. Yet, all our luxury conspires to accelerate physical decay. Only when our unnatural habits accumulate enough of a toll do most finally take the steps required to address their health.

 

 

How do you remedy the costs of an overly sterilized and specialized world? The gym—an air-conditioned oasis of industrialized norms and further specialization. Lifters go over there, yogis over here, and the cardio inclined in that corner by the TVs.

 

Even within a training session itself we stay confined to our neat boxes: bench press (or for the truly imaginative, the squat), followed by a few assistance lifts, and a protein shake. Oddly, our answer to the luxury that creates physical deterioration is the belief that combatting poor health requires an evermore opulent training environment.

 

The Promotion of Complacency

High schools in Texas have embraced an arms race to equip athletes with training centers that could rival SEC powers. We see 100-yard indoor complexes attached to weight rooms of 30 or more power racks. Schools consider these essential to staying competitive, but do they promote complacency? For athletes preparing to play a three-dimensional sport on a wide open field, it becomes far too easy to train year-round within the confines of this barbell dominant rack.

 

It is increasingly easy to ignore movement quality in favor of inflating numbers on the bar. When athletes hip wink on a back squat, they are less likely to be re-directed to the kettlebell goblet squat or any other outside the box corrective. When your only tool is a hammer, all the world looks like nails. Side dominance is rarely addressed by dumbbells or kettlebells.

 

The benefits of loaded carries, crawls, battle ropes, rope climbs, medicine ball tosses, and a variety of less stationary modalities are neglected—casualties of increased inertia. There is no reason to explore the benefits of training with unstable implements like sandbags. Most importantly, there is no cohesive effort to overcome the obstacle of limited resources. I’d argue the greatest disadvantage is always a lack of adversity.

 

“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

 

The modern world is overly compartmentalized in every way. We are led to believe that we have to be specialists, yet the secret to humankind’s success is our amazing adaptability. We are made to be jacks of all trades both physically and intellectually. It is the big picture, passionate learner that creates the world.

 

Only those with broad interests can communicate diversely and see the interconnections that create new fields and innovations. This has been true from Theodore Roosevelt to Steve Jobs, a lover of calligraphy capable of reimagining computers, movies, and digestion of music.

 

Likewise, we thrive on variety of movement and are made to be physical generalists. Life once demanded speed and agility to evade threats, strength to climb cliffs and build protective fortifications, and the endurance to travel long distances. It demanded calluses and the adaptability to manipulate non-standardized materials.

 

 

Go Wild: Fight the Domestication of Fitness - Fitness, strength and conditioning, outdoor fitness, outdoor workouts, daily practice, growth mindset

 

Our abundant, reductionist world, isolated and increasingly specialized creates inflexibility, inability to adapt, and increasingly narrow skill sets that feed echo chambers of increasingly narrow mindsets. We are housebroken, sterilized, and overly sensitive, prioritizing security over creativity, freedom, and passionate experience. Our culture, addicted to liability and lawsuits, has riddled us with anxiety over the most mundane experiences.

 

A federal handbook advises against playing on “earth surfaces such as soils” because of “poor shock-absorbing components” and proclaims the impracticality of see-saws because their use is “quite complex."

 

The law has domesticated parents and kids to such an extent that they no longer have the capacity to withstand normal physical challenges, nor the inclination to explore physical abilities. These costs are far greater than a few scrapes or broken bones. We’re losing our humanity—our bold, daring spirit. We no longer quest to ride the wave or climb the mountain. Instead, we’ve grown content to watch Bear Grylls and Bethany Hamilton live big and tell us what it feels like.

 

Take Your Fitness Outside

Even the physically fit are often gym-broken. It’s time to rekindle our adventuring spirit and reclaim the resilient vitality born within. So where do we start? As with all training, it is important to respect progression.

 

Many a runner has become convinced by the barefoot philosophy only to find their feet too beat up to hit the trail again for a week. Many excited new years resolutioners have buried themselves by HIIT classes only to burn out and conclude being fit is only for the deranged. When attempting to break out of the gym fitness rut, its important to take baby steps. Don’t go too long, or too rugged, too quickly.

 

The best directive I can give is simply to take your fitness outside. Maybe it is just going on walks, jogs, or bike rides, but you’ll find a renewal and creativity being outdoors that can’t come from the gym. Being outside comes with a host of health benefits from mood-boosting vitamin D to alertness and better sleep. Explore different terrains and environments and you’ll rediscover a latent part yourself.

 

For the gym lover, you can do it all and more outside. Outdoor workouts are not restricted to sprinting hills, climbing trees, and doing cartwheels (although I recommend all of these). Take some heavy kettlebells outside and hit the whole body with squats, swings, presses, rows, and carries.

 

Dan John has an awesome single arm total body workout that he recommends for isolating both sides on non-consecutive days of the week. Try sled pushes, tire throws, crawls and picking up and carrying everything you can think to move. There is an endless number of unique training that life offers when you’re willing to head outside for training.

 

Avoid What You "Should" Be Doing

Most importantly, do not get wrapped up in “shoulds.” Who cares what this Shane Trotter jerk or anyone else thinks of your approach to moving. You don’t have to push heavy weights or carry awkward items. Do you like it? Does it fit you?

 

At the end of the day, your approach needs to be far more about enjoying your fitness than appeasing someone else’s notion of toughness or fragility. The goal is to appreciate and reconnect with your immense human capability and your biology’s need for time outside. Explore the physical landscape guided by your own physical limits and watch as your creativity and interests blossom.

 

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