Over the last several months, I have had the amazing opportunity to interview some of the best of the best in the fitness industry for the Breaking Muscle Podcast. From those on the cutting edge of sports performance, like Chris Holder, Brandon Marcello, and David Weck, to those who train general population like Justin Lind and Sean Griffin, to those competing and innovating at the top levels of fitness like Bobby Maximus, Ryan Hurst, and Max Shank.
All of them have experienced success through very different perspectives and means, but it has been the similarities that shock me. They all see fitness as having a deeper purpose. They all express a need to bring greater empathy to each person and more community to the fitness industry. If there is any theme I can expect to see resurface time and again, it’s a call to be more kind.
Kindness seems the rarest and most precious resource, these days. You can’t post a workout video without it being inundated with mean-spirited denigration and a list of faults. While the whole world is dying from sedentarism, perhaps we need to take another approach to attract those deskbound masses. People need what we have in the fitness industry.
Regardless of what approach you think is best, isn’t the most important thing that we introduce people to a respect for their own bodies? Rather than seeing each other as competition, shouldn’t we support and help each other grow, so that we can literally save lives? I’m certain we can all learn from each and every fitness tribe. I’d like to take a moment to send my gratitude to each, and express a sincere hope that we can all work together more in the future.
High-Five a Yogi
As a coach, I’m encouraged to notice how different disciplines are melded and utilized in multiple communities. I love going to yoga with my wife, and seeing how many of the mobility flows I use with my athletes were developed there first. The same fundamental movement patterns we find and hold within a yoga session are the ones I try to teach my kids in the weight room.
If my young athletes would come to these yoga sessions, most of my early introductory program would be taken care of. They’d already know how to hip hinge, they’d already have great balance and proprioception, they’d already understand progression and regression, and they’d already have strength in planks and lunges.
Thank you, yoga, for doing such a great job of combining multiple practices of human movements into an appropriate and scalable system. Also, thank you for integrating the mind and the body intentionally, and being most people’s first introduction to the tremendous benefits of mindfulness training.
Hug a Bodybuilder
Bodybuilding is on the other end of the fitness spectrum, and can be an easy target for ridicule amongst the fitness community. The stereotypes of the bodybuilding crowd include associations with performance-enhancing drugs, bros posing in mirrors at globo gyms, and unnaturally ballooned competitors who look ready to pop and require help to take off their shirt.
But for most bodybuilders, these extremes are not the reality. Bodybuilding is a respectable, fun training path. We all owe deep gratitude to the bodybuilding world, because for most of us, this was our start in fitness. We wanted more out of our bodies, wanted to look better, and so we read all the bodybuilding magazines, argued on the supplement forums, and suffered through onslaughts of bi-tri supersets. We fell in love with the gym through bodybuilding, and it gave us our first experience with the joy of achieving confidence in our physique.
When you think of it, bodybuilding can be an ideal first step into the weight room. It’s most people’s first attempt at lifting without supervision or guidance, and it’s a fairly safe way to do it. Machine leg curls and bicep pyramid sets are far more forgiving and far less technical than a heavy clean and jerk. It’s bodybuilding that teaches most young men about basic muscle anatomy. It gives the context upon which countless future fitness pursuits can be built.
So thank you, bodybuilding, for being an accessible, consistent force for the beauty of training. And thanks especially for being an ideally safe introduction for us males at our dumbest ages.
Fist Bump a CrossFitter
CrossFit is another tribe that sometimes gets a little flack. Everybody’s heard the joke:
While that is funny, it is also a neat compliment. CrossFit, more than any other fitness tribe, has brought back a sense of community we should all be trying to foster. People can’t help but tell you about this experience that has been so transformational for their lives. It offers the competition and community they crave. There is no greater indication of the success of the CrossFit community model than the imitation of it in some very un-CrossFit-like places, like kettlebell gyms and private fitness studios. Today, it seems that everybody is trying to emulate the close-knit tribe ethos that CrossFit brought back to the fore.
Furthermore, they’ve revitalized and brought so many other forms of training into the popular consciousness. Everyone from the Olympic weightlifting community, to kettlebells, rowing, and distance training has seen a resurgence of interest, based largely on the exposure CrossFit brings to their methods. The creativity of programming in CrossFit has spurred fun variation and motivation in the HIIT training and group training worlds.
Like bodybuilding, CrossFit often serves as a bridge to future exploration. Many only make their way to their eventual love of gymnastics or Olympic lifting after CrossFit spurs them to try those things in the first place. Whatever you might think of teaching very technical movements to the general population in a group training format, CrossFit’s emphasis on scaling and individualizing workouts allows them to cast a wider net, and allows people to approach things they previously thought impossible.
We’re All on the Same Side
These are the sort of conversations that all of us in the fitness industry need to have, if we wish to attract more of those immobile masses. And that goes for gym owners, coaches, trainers, athletes, and gym bros alike.
I only mentioned a few of the many proud, positive forces within the fitness world. Kettlebells and gymnastics have transformed the way I look at training. Distance runners, please know I have immense respect for the toughness, primal origins, and simplicity of your craft. I could really go on about everyone, but that would detract from the point.
What we need is a movement towards a united tribe of fitness. We don’t have to be in love with each other’s means. I can think that my methods are best for athleticism, or that some approaches are healthier or more in line with my philosophy. But if we want to shift the culture toward a healthier future, we must work together and learn from one another, while keeping a passion and pride for our own brand.
We should all strive for a symbiotic relationship, where we continue to help improve, refine, and add to each other. Where we can dip into each discipline to create greater understanding and knowledge of our sphere, as well as a richer understanding of the whole. The reality is we are all different, and will all like different training methods and sports, but we should all be working to make the fitness community more attractive to everyone—to make health more accessible and likely for all.
Ideally, we’d all be like Bruce Lee: undogmatic about the discipline as we integrate the best of each approach into one seamless training passion. We can stop the debates over whether mobility flows are just yoga, or what the actual name for that exercise is, or who did it first. Let’s celebrate and learn from each other, and leave the ego out. If we do, we just might change the world for the better.