I continue to learn lessons about fitness, and why people choose to engage in this activity. The majority of my supporters fall into the category of risk mitigation. The burning problem that I solve every day for the engaged trainee is how to mitigate the risk of their ultimate death, and create enough fitness to minimize the inevitable process of aging and joint problems because of the environment we live in.
The history of Vail has been richly immersed in mountain lifestyle. At 8150 feet in elevation, Vail and Beaver Creek are 2 of the best ski resorts in the world, and our community embraces the activities that the landscape provides. A friend said that ‘one must train extremely hard in Vail to be average.’ He is right on the money as this proving ground hosts a plethora of world class athletes that compete in skiing, adventure racing, running, cycling, snowshoeing, kayaking, and climbing. Yet, most of these individuals are broken. Sitting in the Vail Valley medical center 8 years ago was an eye opener for me. As I was being discharged from a concussion caused by threading the needle a little too courageously skiing at Beaver Creek, I had this not-so special epiphany as I scanned the emergency room; I had never seen so many broken, healthy people sitting in a hospital. Torn ACL’s, fractured wrists, dislocated shoulders, herniated discs, concussions, hip replacements, etc. Most hospitals host people who are pathologically sick. Not in Vail. A bunch of fit and hearty mountain people who are beat up from activity.
Exercise vs. Activity
Most of the people I train have limitations because of cumulative injuries from activity. Ironically in our country, activity is promoted for a better quality of life and reducing disease and injury in the first place. The implications of this has raised some really tough questions. Why is it, that activity in our country has been exchanged for exercise? As a country we are physically unwell, yet our gym culture is growing at an alarming rate. Exercise is the structured planning and execution of physical movements that promote fitness. Activity, is the engagement of a lifestyle or a sport that depends upon fitness, developed from structured exercise or the activity itself.
General Fitness and Activity
There are a few discussion points worth dissecting about this dilemma. First of all, we have lost our ability to ‘play’ and recreate in the natural environment. We have substituted play and lifestyle with Crossfit, Pure Barre, and 1-on-1 fitness training. Exercise has become the activity. On the other hand, I have seen too many people who lack fitness, and therefore have become injured from their chosen activities. What is the solution?
We must develop and maintain general fitness qualities that enhance performance without interfering with our chosen activity. Active, outdoor enthusiasts must aim for the minimum effective dose of exercise selections to reduce injury risk, promote joint health, and improve muscular and cardio-respiratory performance. For the gym enthusiast, it’s imperative that they find sports and activities to allow for natural displacement of fitness to generate meaning and quality in their lifestyle. What’s the point of being ‘fit and capable’ if there isn’t an outlet to display your abilities? Most of us have chosen fitness as an outlet for stress relief, health development, and physical beauty. There is nothing wrong with this. However, gym exercises often take precedence over hiking because it’s chest day, and it would be a disaster to skip working out specific muscles on a given day.
I was at a conference several years ago when Gray Cook challenged the audience to consider authentic exercise training like climbing a tree. A fitness professional from the audience said that she often takes her trainees outside and attaches bands, or other fitness equipment to trees for fitness training. Gray said that was just fine, but why not ‘climb the damn tree instead.’