The Fitness Parable
A young man goes to a rigid coach and asks, “Can you teach me everything there is to know about fitness while I stand on one foot?”
The coach responds, “No. You have no experience—you’ll need three sessions a week until the day you die.”
Still seeking an answer, the young man asks the same question to a different, more understanding coach, who answers simply: “Move. The rest is just interpretation. But keep standing on one foot, that’s a good start.”
This little fable came straight from my many years of Jewish education, and I hope you enjoyed it. There’s a reason I’m sharing it.
Lately I’ve become a little frustrated with the amount of overly complicated information people think they need to start exercising. They want the perfect program (which I’d be happy to provide), perfect form (I can help with that too), and the perfect training partner (sorry, I’m taken) before they start working toward their goals.
It’s like that friend you have who hates being single but never goes on any dates. You’re never going to find the right workout by sitting on the couch. It might take years to figure out what works best for you. Trust me, I’ve tried a lot. Since the age of 14, I’ve done (in order) soccer, weightlifting, wrestling, Ultimate Frisbee, weightlifting, rock climbing, weightlifting, Muay Thai, and back to weightlifting.
My body has changed quite a bit with each new sport, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. In college I was determined to join the 1,000-pound club: I lifted heavy weights, worked out with power lifters, and I put on some weight. I was pushing myself hard, and in a year’s time I was at an all-time high for all my major lifts. I went from 152 pounds to 165; I looked big.
And then I tried rock climbing.
The wall was about 50 feet from the squat rack and I must have blacked out the past year because I couldn’t care less if I could bench 230 or 130. I was confused about why I couldn’t compete with all the skinny fuckers around me who were climbing all the hardest routes, and it consumed me. In three weeks’ time, I went back down from 165 pounds to 150. I wasn’t as big anymore; I looked cut up.
None of this was diet, either. As a college student I had a pretty consistent diet of eggs, potatoes, and Mexican food. The only change was the form of exercise. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also temporarily kicked my protein shake habit while rock climbing.)
The point is simple: different forms of exercise create different physical adaptations. Some are far more efficient than others and a coach keeping you in a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Yes, weightlifting is the most effective form of exercise for creating any physical adaptation you so desire, although I truly believe the best form of exercise is the one you enjoy!
So all that’s left to do is go out and do what you like, consistently.
Like the second coach said: move.
Side note: I do have an elaborate theory about forms of exercise and cravings for certain types of food (e.g., swimming and breakfast, weightlifting and hamburgers, rock climbing and Mexican food). Please be aware that this theory is based on no evidence and a very small sample size. That being said, if you have any evidence to prove/disprove this theory please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org