I just finished reading a killer article in National Geographic about the Hadza tribe of Tanzania.
I was watching one of my favorite train wrecks yesterday, The Biggest Loser.
This can sound like at least two things: the business of fitness or the fitness of your business.
It is relevant to perform drills that are relevant to your movements.
I just read a good quote that an RKC comrade uses as his signature: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.
Or most of us, apparently.
What is a Wild Goal?
Redefining fitness (credit to Tara Wood of Wildfitness, London, Kenya and more!)
Why do you want to be fit? What’s your motivation? What does “fitness” really mean anyway? Each person that joins a Wildfitness course will have their own aspirations and ideas about fitness. Maybe they want to be more energised or to get bigger muscles, to drop a dress size or to train for a marathon.
At Wildfitness we have a different starting point. Our ultimate wild goal is this:
To eat, move and live in harmony with nature.
It’s a bit lofty but we like to aim high! The urge to be more wild and more in “harmony” with the planet is blossoming wherever you look; from people leaving the gym to train outdoors, to a recent rush on seeds as people grow their own food, to an ever increasing awareness of climate change and the need for sustainability. So, practically, what does this lofty goal mean when we are thinking of how to get fit?
“Be strong to be useful”
Georges Hébert, a French visionary who developed the modern assault course, observed tribes in Africa and commented: ‘(African) bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resilient and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature’. In the context of our evolutionary origins, we would have needed to be strong and healthy enough to feed ourselves and our family (hunting and gathering), possibly to fight, to flee, to travel over all sorts of terrain, to carry things, to climb, to jump, to balance, to swim, to dance and to play. Looking at tribal people today many are incredible all-round athletes who are resilient and adaptable. But where we are now in modern life, what sort of fitness should we aspire to? Hébert’s motto was ‘be strong to be useful’. What is it to be useful physically in today’s world? What should our modern fitness goals be?
Wild Goals for modern times Be useful
Of first importance is to be healthy and vital enough so that your body isn’t a burden to yourself or to others. To be able to move around, pick up your bags, have a strong immune system, be free from pain and be happy in your body. This is a platform that everyone needs, for themselves firstly but you’ll also find this healthy vitality is infectious and makes a difference to those around you.
Be a natural mover Natural movement is movement that our bodies are adapted for and perfectly designed to do – running, walking, jumping, balancing etc. Predominantly training in a way that suits our body’s design will best maintain our health. If you get a monkey to hop around like a kangaroo and a kangaroo to swing through trees, the monkey might get a sore back and the kangaroo will get shoulder pain (and other kangaroos laughing at him). In the same way humans develop structural problems from a) not moving enough and b) from doing unnatural movements e.g. rowing, biking, machine-based weights. Unnatural movements aren’t bad, they just need to be balanced by enough natural movement to maintain sound biomechanical skill.
Be a generalist Learn to climb, jump, swim, lift, fight, dance. Learn to run over all terrains, over a range of distances. Gym-fitness, or the fitness of an athlete or sportsman confines you to a narrow ability that doesn’t utilise the incredible human adaptability which is ultimately what makes us such a useful animal. Introducing variety of movement is not only more fun but it makes your entire body feel amazing.
Be skilful Learning physical skills will develop you as a human being and ultimately will develop your perception of yourself and the world. Skills make movement engaging and motivating and are the key to every phase of the physical journey. Become more graceful when you run, become an effective fighter and gain more confidence, learn how to lift and throw heavier weights further, teach your body how to be comfortable with very intense periods of movement, learn the skill of eating when you need to eat.
Be efficient All animals in nature strive for efficiency, aiming to get the most out of everything they eat and every movement they make. A Wild metabolism is not a “raised” or “boosted” metabolism but one where everything you eat is efficiently turned into energy and health, and where your appetite reflects the food needs of your body. This creates a sustainable relationship with nature and will keeping you lean and vital. Similarly, improving the efficiency of your movement will make you graceful, with immediately more power and stamina than you had before.
Be resilient To be comfortable and able to perform in a range of environments and situations is much more useful and gratifying than hitting targets under highly controlled conditions. For example being able to run a marathon barefoot, be it hot or cold, with no carb drinks is a ‘wilder’ goal than having to wear special gel shoes and have particular supplements every few kilometres. The first marathon ever was run by Pheidippides to deliver the vital news of Athenian victory over Persia, run spontaneously without any training or support (although he did die from exhaustion thereafter…..!).
Be a movement aesthete Don’t focus on aesthetic goals in themselves; focussing on the quality of your movement will give you a much more beautiful body and it’s more fun, more effective (short and long term) and will result in less injury. The out-dated goals of being pumped up for men and skinny for women are not healthy and do not necessarily result in more beautiful bodies than those shaped by natural movement.
Be co-operative Humans are inherently tribal and co-operative. Being ‘useful’ can be defined as our ability to help other people and our environment. Initially this may mean that we won’t be a burden to others or that we will energise people around us. But also if needed we are able to be helpful – carrying, lifting, gardening, rescuing or being a physical inspiration to others. Rather than training for an individual performance target, train as a team or with less specific goals. This includes co-ompetition which is where you can use competition to hone your skills while being respectful and encouraging of those you compete with. Martial arts has a very sophisticated ceremony to ensure co-ompetition.
The future of fitness
It gets me tingly to think of people becoming all round athletes, skilful, useful, co-operative, resilient, graceful; WILD. I don’t think it’s too much to say that it is what the world needs and it is the fitness of the future….
It’s inspirational, more than motivational.
Eat, move and live to be Wild. Krrrrr.
Tara Wood, September 2009. Founder of Wildfitness.
When things feel blue and plateaus gets the best of you,
Today, I attended a Kali Workshop I hosted at my gym, Action Fitness. Kali is a Filipino martial art known for its quick hand work with bare hands, sticks, knives etc. and popularized by Matt Damon in the “Bourne” series of movies.
I am not talking about cancer sticks.