Thoughts of Madness in Fitness by max el-hag

A Look in My Mind

I tried to come up with specific topics this week, but had trouble trying to expand upon a single idea. Instead, I decided it made more sense to put out thoughts that are going on in my head in hopes of stimulating conversation and maybe revealing a topic that may be good for exploration down the road in another blog. I’m sure there is some interrelated theme here to this series of thoughts, but they are intended to be written independently and non-related to one another. There are some questions and some ideas, but mostly just my insatiable curiosities.

1- While working on a movement course and creating a way of measuring and systematically improving movement, I have decided to create a new definition of the word movement. Words can be dangerous because people think they understand what you are saying. In reality they understand whatever their experiences and perception allow them to understand. Having a more robust and expanded definition allows me to get on the same page as my coaches and athletes, and guides me more directly in my creative process. This is the rough draft…

Movement is a process of self-discovery. There is no such thing as a universally ‘optimal’ way to move. Each individual will find their optimal strategy for exploring the world or accomplishing a task with their physical body. While you can measure the ability of a person to execute a specific physical task, the measurement doesn’t define a good versus bad ‘mover.’ Physical tasks should only be used as a tool for that person to decide whether or not the movement is worth developing further to get to a closer state of perfection. A lack of ability to do a movement does not guarantee that you have found a limitation because some people will never be able to execute the movement due to a “low movement potential”, just the same way some people will never be able to deadlift 800 pounds or run a 4 minute mile. Many things fall under the larger umbrella of movement and contribute to the word including: fascia, the nervous system, skeletal muscle system, emotions, sensation of pain, current training type, past training history, lifestyle factors (sleep, nutrition, etc), joint capsules, poor understanding of better techniques for specific tasks, scar tissue, etc.

2- Can anyone actually define fitness? Can fitness actually be measured? Greg Glassman would say yes to both of those questions. I think what he communicated in the early 2000’s was a paradigm shift and the genesis of an advancement in the realm of physical bodies in the world. Few people in the fitness world can make the claim that they systematically upgraded the infrastructure and brought experts from different fields together to improve the quality of health for such a large group of people. Even if there were a segment of the demographic who was not ‘helped’ by the movement, I’d argue the net improvement in the system was more massive than any other previous health/fitness movement. But, I’m not sure that his original definition of fitness is what many of his disciples are actually helping their clients/athletes to achieve. So, what do I do about this disconnect and how can I help? Or at the end of the day, does it really not matter and I should just continue to help my athletes and my community and the people who entrust me with their health and longevity?

It is true that people are paying more attention to their bodies, a new sport was created that allowed athletes to express their physical superiority in a way that allows a different type of well-rounded physiology to be demonstrated, and people now have opportunities to train people for a living as business owners… is that enough? What thoughts are worth sharing and what thoughts should be suppressed to ensure I don’t upset anybody in a perceived position of power?

3- Why is the human spirit so desperate for connection but at the same time so comfortable with division? Why is hate so prevalent? Hate is so visible in the world at the moment with the killings in Paris, but on a more real applicable level to fitness I see it so frequently in less violent ways every day. People hate the way they look because they don’t look like how someone else looks. People hate other people who look the way they want to look. People hate people that look like people that have enacted acts of hate on them in their past. People hate people that achieve things they weren’t capable of achieving. People hate ideologies because they don’t agree with their ideologies. Why does this happen so frequently and how damaging is it to the person who is constantly harboring hate?

If I can create a healthy biological environment, a healthy emotional support structure, an appropriate mental challenge for a person’s intellectual capacity, and an appropriate amount and distribution of varied intensities of physical activity for an individual, can I begin to unwind some of the psychological hate through systemic health? How intertwined are the systems of mind and body? Does the mind lead the body, does the body lead the mind, or are they such an intertwined system that we cannot find the point of origin of change to determine which came first?

4- “It is as though Nature must needs make men narrow in order to give them force.” - W.E.B. Dubois

It is easier to be confident when you don’t know what you don’t know than it is when you are aware of how much you don’t know, even if what you do know is exponentially more than those who think they know. How do you determine whether someone is being confident, arrogant, or ignorant about their ideas? If you’re cautiously confident, how do you communicate that to be as appealing as someone who is adamant, but arrogant?

5- When will athletes begin standing up for themselves? They dedicate their lives to the quest to improve in a sport. They fight, they sacrifice, their bodies hurt, their joints deteriorate, their hormones are challenged to maximal levels of stress, so they can have their glory. Then IF they are marketable when they ascend, the corporate machine grabs a hold of them, tells them what to say, where to be, what to wear, how to speak, and they are paraded around like show ponies. These requests become so frequent and are done with such disregard for their health and wellness that they lose their competitive edge and stop doing all the things they loved about the quest in the first place. Slowly they become no longer relevant as they age and their time is no longer spent getting better and they get replaced with a new show pony. Many of these gifted physical specimens end up left with nothing to show for their work but a couple medals, pictures, and aches and pains to remind them of their path to mastery. The unfortunate ones can end up diseased, physically broken, isolated, broke, and hopeless. But, the organizations they play for and the companies that sponsor them have executives and owners making millions for years as the athletes go through their marketing infrastructure like a conveyer belt. We all focus on the ‘payout,’ but what is the cost of the “fame” most athletes are fighting for?

Some of these thoughts are fleeting and were just written to share. Others are going to be vital to the future of my educational curriculum, my own personal life philosophy, and the way I guide my athletes. Ideas are funny things. They can move mountains, they can ignite wars, they can define people through others’ eyes, they can distract, but at the end of the day they’re some of our most powerful tools as human beings. I feel, since I have created this platform, that it is my obligation to share my thoughts. Hopefully they spark something in you to begin sharing your thoughts and ideas or if you find mine valuable and can share them and expand upon them to make them your own and make your impact on the world.

~ Max

Created By
Max El-Hag

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