For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The men's health dilemma (a problem of equilibrium)

I'm thinking about sending a pitch to Men's Health magazine about some of my ideas and was checking out their online magazine.  They have lots of awesome pictures of really fit, smolderingly handsome dudes right below catchy titles like "learn the training secrets for going harder and longer."

First of all, there are no secrets.  Our culture has painted a picture for us in that we are led to believe that those images represent not only an attainable state (some of us may be able to get kinda close so this isn't an outright lie) but also a maintainable one. While this picture may not represent reality - the images sure are inspiring!

But is inspiration enough?  After all, most of us not only want to get there, we want to STAY there.  Inspiration is a short term motivator for most - encouraging us to start the journey from where we are to where we think we want to be.  And this journey is such a necessary first step, most folks never stop to think what will happen once they arrive and instead actually assume that just getting there is going to be the hard part.  

Wanna look these guys?  If you're you're like most people reading men's health - it'll take lots of work and dedication but you might be able to kinda close - at least a lot closer than when you started.  Just buy one of those $100+ workout programs,  Insanity, P90X, or whatever else comes next. You know, the programs that claim to be revolutionary but are really just a repackaging** (see below) of the well known and easy to guarantee wisdom of "work your ass off and you will get fitter" (in full HD and explained by superhunks, of course).  And if you follow one of these programs, or any program that requires consistent hard work - you'll change and get fit (ripped, huge, faster, stronger, sexy, chiseled, capable, develop stamina, etc etc).

Staying that way is another matter.  Our modern lives rarely require the level of activity that leads to fitness being a state of stable equilibrium.  Maintaining Fitness - particularly a high levels of fitness - is like putting that stack of those P90X DVD's on your head and keeping them there.  As soon as you get tired of all that focus and attention, down it goes.  Sure, you can pick it up again and put it back up there - but then you're right back to devoting a fair bit of your attention to the task of finding this balance.  It is easier of course if you have a lifestyle that supports fitness (like the 63 year old Lindsay Gauld, a bike courier who recently won my 12 hour bike race against top athletes 30 years younger), but lets face it, precious few of us can make this claim.

For those of us with more sedentary occupations, it is never going to be easy - and the loftier your aspirations, the higher that stack on your head becomes.  Now if you're waiting for me to explain how i've solved these problems you're going to keep waiting.  I'm not.  Fitness, particularly the level of fitness that is peddled in our media and magazines, represents an unstable equilibrium.  That's just the way it is and barring a paradigm shift (either internally or externally produced) it is gonna stay that way.  This is why the diet/exercise/fitness industry is and will remain a multi-billion dollar market.  All we talk about, focus on, and spend money on is how to get that little blue ball to the top of that fitness hill - never mind keeping it there - which is the real challenge.

**Yeah Baby!  The "insanity" of 1929...Charles Atlas's "Personal Training In The Art Of Building A Dynamic Life!"


  1. Andy, I believe what these magazines sell is pure lies. We can attain the level of fitness they talk about but unless genetics bless us we, most of us, cannot look like these models. Regardless they lead people to believe that what takes many years, arguably our entire life, can be done in weeks. Garbage.

  2. If looking like one of the guys in the magazine is your goal, then you're starting out on the wrong foot. Regular exercise, in whatever discipline you choose, is personal and comes with its own, very addictive "high". As an IT Director I worked at a desk 8-10 hours a day. I exercised my mind everyday but not my body. My early exercise routine had me jumping rope, doing pushups and some jogging (when I attended a conference I would move the furniture in my hotel room to give me enough room to jump rope). I eventually moved on to swimming laps at the local YMCA. Ultimately, I started jogging and continued to jog 6 miles a day until I retired. I even jogged through the cold ND winters. It usually took me a week to get my "winter legs". I exercised regularly for over 25 years. My body benefitted and so did my mind, but I never looked like the guy in the health magazine. The natural high I received from jogging everyday was enough to keep me coming back. Exercise is its own reward!

  3. agree with both of you..... the bit about the models was a bit tongue in cheek - but i do think that many peoples idea of fitness is, as you mentioned, tied to an external goal which whether or not it is fully realizable (i.e. looking a certain way) is itself a problem. The take-away for me is that the problem lies with the focus on an a 'false goal' - attaining rather than maintaining. attaining (at least some degree of attainment) good health/speed/physique is difficult enough - but still infinitely easier in many ways than maintaining these things. we need to be realistic in our approach, and recognize the long term benefits more than any ego driven short term ones. thanks for the comments!

  4. Andy, I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog. It's nice to see someone else that has the same approach to fitness as yourself, especially since this approach isn't as popular as others.
    I too have been training for many years in a yoyo manner - meaning, at times I worked out more and at times much less, untill I decided that the maintainable volume of workout for me would be something much less. Or as has been said before - less is more.
    My training program is Calisthenics oriented. I do total body workout 3 times a week (pushups variations, squats, pullups, plank) with minimum to none rest between exercises, and Tabata style burpees 3 times a week (thus working out 6 times per week).
    Thus my workout takes about 1.5 hours a week, and is very comfortable for me to maintain.
    I agree that the media throws at us images of men and women with fitness physique that is veru hard to attain in the first place, and impossible to maintain in the long term.
    But that is still sufficient for many people to try and acheive this physique as they think it is doable and maintainable. And thus having a wrong body image of themselves, and being frustraited.
    I wish the media wasn't throwing so much lies at us, it could have made focusing on real goals much easier.

  5. Thanks for the comment Benny. It has been quite a journey getting here, and i'm glad you enjoy my ramblings. I've got my first big test of whether my ideas and training practices can indeed prove sufficient for real ultra endurance efforts at the end of January, so it should prove interesting!