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Break the Mould

It wasn’t really that long ago that people would go to the gym in order to get fitter and stronger. The main purpose of training was to enhance their performance at work or at play. Of course living a long, healthy life was also a major motivating factor.

It was pretty apparent that training not only gets you fit and strong, but goes along way to help you look good.

But then something happened. Vanity took over and the sport of Body Building was born. Body building is a double edged sword.On one hand it has served to popularise gyms and weight training. It made more people aware of the benefits of exercise, even those who have no interest in sport can be found taking up gym memberships.On the other hand it created the age of the freak. Bodybuilders got so big, so huge that they could barely move, they became caricatures of what an athlete should be. Training for appearance and not health allowed the pharmaceutical companies to underhandedly sponsor the sport. Bodybuilders packed on massive amounts of muscle at the cost of their health and on occasion, their lives. This tainted the image of weight training. Many people will avoid lifting heavy to avoid looking like these freaks, especially the women.Of course, there’s no way the average person will end up like one of these chemically enhanced freaks, unless they really, really wanted to.

So what other aspects of training are there? Well if your not lifting weights, your doing Cardio. Nothing wrong with that, or is there? Dr Kenneth Cooper invented Aerobics in order to make soldiers fitter. As usual the civilian market usurped and refined the system, then came the marketing and the hype, think Jane Fonda and Mr Motivator and the massive library of celebrity fitness videos, all just variants on Cooper’s original theme. And yet Cooper turned around and said his system was wrong and aerobics were not that good after all. Yes we do need cardio training in order to maintain a healthy heart and lungs to better fuel our muscles. But too much can be a bad thing. Who really wants to look like a marathon runner? Too much cardio can reduce muscle mass and encourage the body to store fat, not a good thing. And again, the freaks evolved.Cardio addicts spawned a new term “Skinny Fat”, the appearance of being thin but with relatively high body fat. How do we then cut the fat? Don’t eat. Yet again we have seen this behaviour crop up and in certain cases severely damage the health of the exerciser.

So we have Bodybuilding which is for chemically enhanced monsters, we have aerobics for skinny fat anorexics, what about normal Joe Bloggs? Well, he probably doesn’t do enough of anything with any consistency to get any results, and if he did, he’d probably get injured because of poor gym instruction from the barely qualified spotty fitness trainer on the staff.

The long and the short of it is, Gyms, and the fitness industry suck. It is more interested in shrinking your wallet then it is in shrinking your waistline and helping you on the way to a long, health life.

I on the other hand suggest we start a revolution, bring back real training. Remember the phrase “Form Follows Function”, this should define the way we train. Get strong by lifting heavy, get flexible by utilising full range of all movements, get fit by incorporating cardio along with bodyweight calisthenics, forget about isolation exercises and specific, one dimensional modalities of training and in return you’ll receive a figure and a physiques that looks as good as it performs.

Nobody has all the answers, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jane Fonda may be legends but they are also extremes. People like Steve Maxwell, Mike Mahler and I (I hesitate to put myself in their company) who use a variety of methods to create a well rounded body capable of coping in any scenario, but we’re still learning. We look back at the “Golden Age” of bodybuilding, the likes of Sandow and Saxon, men who could and would perform massive feats of strength and endurance, who looked like they were carved from rock but could move fluidly like a gymnast, dancer or fighter.

The late great George Herbert, famous for his unusual, and yet well rounded methods, coined the phrase “be strong to be useful”, and he was right. Herbert espoused that fitness should incorporate all aspects of movement, these were walking, crawling, running, swimming, climbing, jumping, lifting, throwing and defending (yes, Herbert advocated the combat arts, no wonder I like him), do you think that if you took part in all these, often in a single workout, you’d develop a lean and well defined physique, as strong as it looked and with the ability to really perform, not just in a mirror, but the real world?

Forget the mirrors, the gimmicks and the hype. Break the mould and in turn get the results that have always eluded you.

Best of luck

Wild Geese every cause but our own

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