We believe physical play is bliss. How lucky we are to jump, twist against gravity, feel a runner’s high, rough house with our kids, or learn to do a wheelie.
We are, however, concerned that gym culture tends to deaden physicality. When we become over-reliant on machines we become machine-like.
Gyms, at their worst, create a shallow physicality based on fear. The fear is generated by comparing your body with other, inevitably more perfect, bodies. This may sell fitness products but it is not good for your state of mind or your long-term state of fitness.
What is the opposite of this shallow fitness?
Deep fitness is underneath the commotion of miracle diets, fad workouts, or the latest treadmill variation. Deep fitness is living a rich physical life without enforcing fitness..
Below is a profile of someone who hasn’t yet found deep fitness.
Agatha is good person. But she is concerned and fearful. She is worried that she is no longer attractive. She is worried that she is a lazy person. She is worried that being out of shape will mean she will get a disease.
So Agatha goes to her local strip mall gym several times a week because she thinks doing so will make her more attractive, a hard worker, and more healthy. She misses some weeks because “she is just too exhausted”. Other weeks she sacrifices time spent with her friends when they get together so she can log her gym time.
She doesn’t like doing it, but she thinks it is a necessary evil. So she trudges to the gym, trudges through a circuit of half-hearted exercises (preferably while watching TV) and then trudges home. She feels a mild sense of accomplishment when she is finished.
Agatha continues to gain weight at a very slow rate. She doesn’t have much energy and she is frustrated that she can’t figure out how to make progress.
Now let’s look at someone who found deep fitness.
Lana is a good person. There is a waterfall a couple of miles from her house. She often walks, or runs, to the waterfall. She loves this time. Even in the winter the rhythm of the walk and the liveliness of her surroundings feel good. Sometimes she goes slow and sometimes fast. She feels great when she returns home.
In the summer she plays in a weekly volleyball game that happens nearby. She just likes the way it feels to smack the ball. Lana also likes feeling strong. She took some kettlebell lessons from a local trainer and has a routine she does 2 or 3 times a week. It is a difficult routine and fairly intense but also fairly short. Lana says it feels like “jumping in cold lake”.
Lana has a demanding job so she can’t always make her walk or the volleyball, but she can usually carve out 15-20 minutes for her kettlebell workout. She really loves her physical activity. She doesn’t particularly keep track of her weight. But her friends often tell her they are jealous because she is one of those people who can be thin “without really trying”.
Deep fitness is about listening to yourself, learning what you love to do, and then allowing yourself the time and space to do it.
Shallow fitness is about a preconceived idea of who you should be and what you should look like. Then cram yourself into that mold, no matter what. Injuries, lack of motivation, and feelings of guilt are all the inevitable consequence of fear motivated fitness plans.
Happy Human often attracts people who have an intuitive understanding of deep fitness. They understand that having a trainer who is knowledgeable, energetic and fun makes the entire work out experience more enjoyable.
They also like the variety a personal trainer can provide. Trainers have a very large bag of tricks which they love to share with clients. New exercises are fun to learn and provide stimulus for the brain as well as the body.
Often they find the experience has unexpected benefits. Sometimes (though not all the time) they lose weight. But they almost always feel more energy, a reduced level of stress, and a greater ability to enjoy physical activity.
We love to help others find this orientation of deep fitness. Over the past 12 years we’ve learned a few things that can help build your own ‘deep muscles’.
1. Try things. At least once or twice a year try something physical that you have never tried before. This allows for a maximum of good luck in discovering your physical passions. If you are a twin cities native, here are some great ideas.
2. Be fickle. Human beings are naturally novelty seeking. There is no shame in doing yoga for six months, then jogging for two months, then power-lifting for the next 6 months. Novel activities bathe your brain in dopamine. (For a boost to your relationship bring your partner along). This association of physical activity with pleasure is one we want to cultivate. The more you can enjoy moving your body, the greater your foundation of deep fitness.
3. Get a guide. Find a guide and stick with them. We know this is in opposition to the advice offered in #2. But human beings also like to learn and crave a sense of continuity.
You want on your support team a fitness expert of some kind; personal trainer, a physical therapist, or a sports medicine doctor. This expert should be someone you enjoy interacting with and learning from.
This expert will help you train your body to be able to handle whatever activities you choose to participate in. If you take up running, your expert will help keep your knees healthy. When you are on an extended business trip, you want someone who can help you build a routine to keep you active in the airports, hotels, and meetings.
4. Go slow. Deep fitness is something that takes a bit of patience to develop. If, for the last 20 years, you have despised everything physical then it may take awhile to turn it around.
Take it easy on yourself. Change one thing at a time. An easy way to start is to take up something even mildly physical that you can do around the house for fun. Maybe it’s juggling, gardening, or tai chi. Or maybe after Saturday morning cartoons you make an in-home obstacle course with your kids.
Find anything at all that you enjoy doing and involves moving around. A solid foundation of deep fitness is built one habit at a time.
About the Author: Jesse C. Walker is the Co-founder of Happy Human. His own passion for the physical life led him to baseball, the martial arts, and a career as professional dancer. Now he shares his passion through this business.
Only the Calf Machine by Kat shared under the following Creative Commons License. No changes were made.
“Tug of War” by Robert Clemens shared under Creative Commons License. No changes were made.