(Note: this is focused on lifting weights, but the principle behind it is broadly applicable to physical practices.)
You need to do fake work, but remember that it’s made up and there is a reason why you need to do it. Fake work is what you do at the gym, its lifting weights, box jumps, it’s the made up tasks we do to recreate the physical demands of life we no longer have. This is something I have been thinking about lately. What are the demands that life has placed on us in the past vs now? How have we adapted to it? Are we as humankind in a better place because of it?
So yes, technologically, medically, and for the most part societally, we are in a better place. Physically and in some ways mentally, I don’t think so. Most people are not in a good physical condition - we hear about all the obesity stats both locally and internationally. You can see it when you walk around a city. Mentally we are not in the best place just based on the fact that so much of how our mind functions is tied into our physical condition.
We evolved to handle certain physical demands. To maintain a certain physical condition for optimal functioning, we need to do certain physical activities.
We had to build things which involved digging, cutting down trees, carrying, lifting - many different movements with various shaped objects of varied weight. We walked, we hunted, and we played.
Now we lift symmetrical objects along the same defined pattern for multiple repetitions for multiple sets. Not really a common practice in day to day life.
Many people say a squat is the king of all exercises, but rarely do you see a loaded squat pattern in nature. When do you really use a squat in real life or in sport outside of weightlifting? The only instance I can think of is jumping. The only other version of a squat is as a resting position, which is common in Asia and 3rd world countries but not in westernised society really. A loaded squat is not a common pattern. A deadlift is. How do you pick up an object? It’s a deadlift; not the conventional, symmetrical one we do with a bar, but the odd objects of day to day life such as boxes, children and groceries.
Almost everyone heard the story of the person who is “strong” (can lift a lot of weight in a gym) but then puts their back out picking up a box. How does this make sense? They built up so much strength in a pattern, but just outside this pattern is weakness. The story always goes: you have to lift with your legs, not your back. Guess what? You can’t pick up something off the ground without using your back. The further the object is from your centre of mass, the more strain it puts on your back. Maybe the problem is that his back was weak, and it couldn’t handle the deviation from the alignment he was used to. We build all this strength with weak adjacent positions. It’s easy to keep a bar close to your body, it’s more difficult to do that with a box. We can get so caught up at getting good at moving bars, dumbbells and kettlebells that we forget we need to develop real world strength. Strength that is applicable outside of training. The gym is there to make you better at things you do outside of the gym.
(Note: I’m not even touching on people who DON’T do some form of strength work; not lifting heavy things is the recipe for incapability. Lifting weights in some form gives you an advantage, but how you do it gives you more of an advantage.)
Rocks, bags, boxes, and people are not odd objects. Barbells and dumbbells are. Symmetrical weights with comfortable grips are odd. Where in your day to day life do you find that? We have all of this innovation. We come up with all these tools to improve our fitness and strength, to make it easier, more efficient. But are we making it better? Easier is not better.
The truth is that we need to do fake work. That’s what training is. It’s simulating the physical demands that our body requires but does not get in a modern society. We need it to function optimally. We must train - most of us don’t have enough physical demands to get by without some form of training. Aside from training to improve performance and physical condition, just to be a well-functioning human you must exert yourself physically. You will be amazed at how resilient you become both mentally and physically when you train regularly.
· You must lift weights; barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.
· You must walk, run, swim
· You must stretch and mobilise
We get so caught up in the process and in what we are doing, and in tracking the process with our Fitbits that give us cool graphs of our fake work that we forget about the outcome. We might have actually shifted the outcome to the process. The process must be enjoyed, but we must still strive for the outcome.
Innovation is bad when we don’t account for evolution.
We created technology to make our lives easier, more efficient and therefore the physical demands on us is less. We try to account for this lack of demands by going to the gym, jogging, doing CrossFit and yoga. We have become trapped in the practice, the dogma of it. We see what we are doing and we enjoy what we are doing but we forget why.
We created tools and practices to get stronger and fitter, but does it make us better at dealing with life? Don’t lose the bigger picture in the smaller detail. Get strong, live life, be capable and remember the bigger picture.
Dogma is a trap
Patterns create limitations
Balance is skewed