Kono visits Bodytribe (again)

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Again, I apologize for not posting workout ideas this week, but it has been one of my weirder weeks. Let’s work backwards in chronology to see what happened.


Last, I’m sitting in a hotel room writing this mere minutes away from the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, held at a tiny little unknown ski resort near the Tahoe Basin called Squaw Valley, which beat out Innsbruck, Austria, which the wise gambler would have chosen. I, earlier in the day, was playing music smack dab in the middle of what is known as Olympic Village, although this one is much newer than the one that was created 10 years before my birth. There’s a Funk Festival, or some such thing (I really am not sure what’s going on), this weekend and a project i work with from time to time was invited to play. Twice. Hence my current sleeping arrangements, as I will return Sunday to ground once tread upon by Penny Pitou and Jean Vuarnet, not to mention Walt Disney, who organized the 1960 Olympic ceremonies.

Meanwhile, I am planning on returning to Sherry, the mountaintop that started so many of my musings mentioned in a previous post. I’ll tell her you all said hi.

Backing up several hours from Squaw valley would find me at Bodytribe with what is quickly becoming our weightlifting team (Allyson, Ed, Deane, Sam and Tom) along with Don, who is getting suckered into coaching whether he likes it or not, Ed’s friend and DIY grip tool maker, Bruce (Shenendoah to his online community), and 3-time Olympian Tommy Kono (see, more Olympic theme in my week).


I stole this picture from here, and it was taken by a Sac Bee reporter who will be printing a story about Tommy (and his visit to Bodytribe?) tomorrow, so is the rumor. Thanks, Ed, for arranging his visit. For the record, he thought Allyson, who just began embarking on a road towards a Weightlifting comp in about 6 months, had wonderful form. Although she misses her jerk here, she does nail it on the next non-videotaped attempt:

Yesterday found me standing in front of about 40 people as the ‘keynote speaker’ for what I believe was called the Physical Activities Forum, put on by the Health Education Council.

I think.

I’m not exactly sure who all these people were. I was asked to speak just a few days before the forum, and, being the whore I am with enough material to talk for hours, I agreed. I built my powerpoint, wrote a small outline, and compiled a handful of the same crap I always seem to be talking about, enough to fill up a 15 minute speech about movement benefiting the Tribe.

So the Physical Activities Specialist for the Health Education Council met me at the Sierra Health Administrations building, where folks from: California Center for Physical Activity, Folsom Unified Youth Development Center, Generations Community Wellness Center, Walk Sacramento, Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) and the California Department of Health.

I had no idea what was going on. Shouldn’t the Health Education Council

and the California Center for Physical Activity

and the California Dept. of Health

BE THE SAME THING?! And who are these Sierra Health Administration people? Their building, a beautifully created center right on the river, had no other indicator as to what went on there… no literature, no names on the doors, NOTHING.

Who are all you people?! I’ve been in the fitness/health industry for 13 years… AND I’VE NEVER HEARD OF MOST OF YOU!!

The predominately female audience was extremely friendly and willing to laugh at my stupid jokes, and they provided the absolute best water I’ve ever had (this stuff was liquid orgasm; just the right touch of citrus…and was that the gentle butterfly kiss of cucumber? … served at a temperature that I would call, in the greatest, most relaxing sense of the word, cool).

I finished my presentation, which was a little rushed towards the end, since the whole day started a bit late (not my fault, i might add), and they did the appropriate clapping. But something was amiss. Sure, I’m not a brilliant public speaker. Sure I squint too much and rub my hands sometimes obscenely. Sure I drool a little and emit odors polite society would call ‘earthy,’ but I’m used to the standard reactions to these ‘character embellishments’ of mine. No, this was different. Subtle. A bit creepy.

The other four panelists spoke, ranging from a beautiful young intern who presented info on National Walk To School Day (I think it was ‘national’) to the guy who you’d want as a neighbor because he compensates for being a little shy by being extremely passionate about his friendliness and community spirit (who spoke about the Walk Sacramento program) to the professional public-speaker-guy, with pronunciation and presentation abilities that made the rest of us look pretty amateur but more likable (who spoke even more about walking), to another pretty woman who reminded me of a younger Sally Field (with similar gidget-like energy) who was the only one not frothing from the mouth about walking (in fact, probably didn’t mention it at all).


For the most part, these folks had really great ideas about how to get people to walk. TO WALK!! And their fervor was not misplaced, since they helped me realize that what we do at Bodytribe, although great, is out of reach for a great deal of the population who can’t take the literal and figurative first step. There were 7 or 8 (if not more) councils and organizations represented there who were trying to network and brainstorm about the absolute fundamentals of physical movement and nutrition, and, it seems, rightfully so.

So there I was trouncing in with my ideas on tribal empowerment through personal strength, spewing my propaganda through a powerpoint filled with images of Bodytribe members flipping 400 pound tires and screaming through powerlifting competitions and throwing sandbags, etc., and this audience is still dealing with a population that can’t get off the couch to walk around the block. Granted, I had no idea what i was in for, but I felt not unlike a bit of a fool.

That’s what was wrong. When I think ‘health professionals,’ I think peers in the quest for self actualization through movement, although this is giving WAY too much credit for the majority of trainers out there.

But in this scenario, I wasn’t among peers. These were soldiers in a different war, a trench battle that involves underpaid workers and poorly funded programs trying to simply start people moving at all, often people who are even less paid and might be accepting handouts from even less funded programs.

Bodytribe and the fitness industry on a whole offers possibilities to people who have the luxury to make stupid choices, folks who have chosen their paths of self destruction. These organizations are often dealing with populations who might share a lack for such luxuries, or at least it might seem that way sometimes. Bodytribe might be the next step, or the 37th step in some cases, but the men and women at this forum were trying to figure out ways to increase the percentage of population who will make the FIRST step. Hence, my dog and pony show subtly screamed ‘elitist crap,’ but, thankfully, I’m sure they couldn’t, or at least wouldn’t, put it in such terms.

On a positive note, I did share some ideas with some of the organization representatives that only a business owner, even a bad one like me, could offer. The difference between business PR and non-profit or government-supported PR is often quite different, so somehow my ideas for promotion by including the private or corporate sector seemed new and fresh. So some of these folks might actually talk to me in the future, despite my out-of-place presentation.


Oh, there is so much more to talk about, my friends. But, alas, I must sleep.

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Showing 18 comments
  • Chris

    I’m glad to see you going out to climb that mountain Chip. I think it is very beneficial for us gym rats to get outside, and get in touch with nature. Something I have been striving for lately. I have been ignoring the outdoors with my gym time. I have already begun that change. I want to decide when I wake up in the morning what activity I would like to do that day. For me I have numerous outdoor activities I like. Rather then try to balance gym time/outdoor time. I will just live in the whim of the moment. Not really being a master of anything, but a advocate of everything. As long as we are active it’s all fitness, and it’s all healthy. Just celebrate moving the body like you say.

    So go be one with that mountain top Chip ! Take advantage of the nice weather while it is here. I’ll be doing some backpacking myself later in the month.

  • Zac

    Whoa. A weird week indeed.

    Your comments on the assortment of overlapping governmental agencies trigger in me a bit of libertarian fury. It’s my rural upbrining, I can’t help it. Nevertheless, it is ridiculous, isn’t it?

    But anyway, working in a public school, with students from all over Sacramento’s south-of-50 area, *many* of them coming from the very demographic bracket you describe above, I feel like I’m fairly familiar with this “other” fitness war. And it’s a frustrating thing, because

    And I have to say that I think these agencies are setting the bar way too low if they’re focusing on simply *walking.* Yes, for many folks, just walking is a start. But while these folks are frequently ignorant of what they should or shouldn’t be doing in order to be healthy, they aren’t stupid

    Hell, there are many unhealthy students at my school who walk to school because their family has no working car, or because there’s no one available to drive said car because all the adults are off working one of two minimum wage jobs…

  • Zac


    Post incomplete!

  • Zac

    …it’s a frustrating thing because I think the problem is bigger than it seems. It’s a class & cultural problem. In contemporary society, our lives have been de-physicalized. We’re no longer laboring long an hard as farmers and the like. We’re sitting behind desks or standing behind cash registers. And class exacerbates the problem; while the middle and upper class folks may have the resources (time, money) and knowledge to offset that change through recreational physical pursuits, those options are limited amongst the lower class. It seems that the two solutions to the problem are to re-physicalize people’s lives (through a Mad Max-style destruction of modern civilization) or to move the lower class up to the next socio-economic tier (through a centrally-planned economy?). Neither option is very good, eh?

    But anyway, like I said above in my un-edited, incomplete post, I think lower-class folks, while of more-limited resources and generally greater ignorance (lack of education), are not necessarily stupid, and can benefit from education. I think X or Y government council can aim higher than saying “you should walk more.” Give folks a chance to have some more knowledge, and they might do more. Under the direction of a rather forward-thinking PE teacher, students at my school who, under other circumstances, might’ve been recipients of a “walk more” prescription seem to be doing pretty well learning to do burpees and kettlebell deadlifts. Heck, they’re even flipping tires, although the tires they’re flipping are the size of Bodytribe’s sled-tire, but they’re doing it!

  • chip

    I’m leaving a reply to this as a whole new post, because your points are, as usual, good, even if you can’t finish them on the first try.

  • Craig


    That’s being discussed a bit on the performance menu.

    It seems to me that we are living in a time of continuously lowering expectations. This is weird to me, as I keep raising mine for myself. I’m not sure how you ‘fix’ that one a societal level, or that it even CAN be fixed. We have a lot of this stuff all over my office from the ‘wellness’ committee, and it drives a bunch of us nuts- because it is all about walking. This is the current thing. We’ll give you pedometer and try to make a game out of it.

    Why you (or we, in this case, it’s not your office) can’t just be upfront and do something crazy like stop selling soft drinks for a quarter, and stocking the kitchen with cheap candy bars, and fostering a cube culture wherein you could certainly achieve whatever gigantic caloric intake goal of the day you choose with out ever leaving the office, as long as you are willing to do it on cookies, cakes, and Spicy Mango Chutney Doritos.

    People are told they need to be rich, thin, and healthy while being provided with a million ways to grow poor, fat, and sick. Walking might help, but so would fostering a culture of self discipline, personal/medical/government/business/individual honesty and accountability.

    I’m leaning towards Mad Max.

  • Zac

    “Why you (or we, in this case, it’s not your office) can’t just be upfront and do something crazy like stop selling soft drinks for a quarter, and stocking the kitchen with cheap candy bars, and fostering a cube culture wherein you could certainly achieve whatever gigantic caloric intake goal of the day you choose with out ever leaving the office, as long as you are willing to do it on cookies, cakes, and Spicy Mango Chutney Doritos.”

    Oooh, it stings! After kids at my school leave their P.E. or health class where they may have partaken of some physical activity and/or learning ’bout things like diet, they can (and often do) wander over to the quad to purchase a 20oz soda or “sports drink” (where that money goes, I don’t know) or at lunch perhaps purchase nachos, cup-o-noodles, or candy bars as part of a fund-raiser from some club’s intended field-trip.

    I might favor Mad Max too. I’ll be okay. I’ll start my commune, have my chickens…

  • Krissi

    Yes, the FIRST step is great. Yep, it’s F-ing difficult. It’s no picnic (otherwise there’d be lots of people doing it, not to mention lots of ants).

    But as a FORMER (thank you Chip and Allyson!) size-10-person-in-a-size-20-body who was weak as a newborn kitten, I feel sad that folks are being brainwashed into a misguided notion that doing the first step over and over is enough. Having been there -for the first 30 years of my life, I might ad- it’s disappointing and disillusioning when you find out the first step isn’t the end of the road (dude, you’re not even out the GATE). It’s also terribly humiliating when you realize you’ve been “buying” the Health Industry’s party line over and over … and over, etc., despite an obvious lack of results.

    One of the great things about Body Tribe’s philosophy, is that there is no ONE answer, no BEST thing, no FOREVER answer. As our bodies, knowledge and abilities change, we must adjust our thinking and training. You, Al and the rest of the Tribe also manage to make those of us who never stepped into a gym in our younger years feel at home. No fat-girl phobias. Dang, I even look forward to going, ’cause it’s FUN. Who knew?

    So go ahead. Walk today and maybe even tomorrow. Just point yourself toward 21st & J at some point in the near future.


    a size-10-person-in-a-size-16- (almost a 14) body who gets stronger every week.

  • Craig


    You nailed it. My issue is mainly that we (the health/medical establishment) keep dumbing it down…if you get 30 minutes of mild exertion (like walking)(which is not even supposed to be exertion!) why you reduce your risk of x____ by 20%! Which really doesn’t approach the idea that we are living, moving, animals. We bought our own Habitrail, and maybe one day we got so bored we sprung for the wheel. Cool beans. Now we need to get on with it. And maybe gnaw a hole in the cage & see what is really possible in a life. And you are right it does (or should!) change. Because we change.

    Mark Rippetoe has a great thing about training young people where he basically states that if you can get a kid to train hard & smart enough, and eat and sleep enough, that you really aren’t training the same kid session to session because they have changed so much. This is (or should be) true of all of us. Some of us sure wish the changes happened faster, but really, month to month I’m different, and I have to be willing to ask different things from my body so it can keep improving.

    I’m not very strong, I’m not a gifted athlete, and like I mentioned before, I mainly ride a bike because I’m not so good at walking! By I can certainly can do better, try both harder & smarter, and hopefully help somebody else along the way. You have a good thing there at 21st & J.


  • Veronica

    Is it only in America that people always are looking for the easy way out – Things that require the least effort to a desired goal? Remote controls, cruise control, self powered lawn mowers, bending from the waist to pick something up of the ground instead of squatting. And email! The list goes on…

    Walking yeah, I still say “No” it’s not exercise – rehab maybe for those who have somehow lost the ability to walk and are relearning, but come on America, you’re killing us!

  • Sita

    So we all agree that something needs to be done about the epidemics taking over the health of our country. But what is the best way to focus our efforts?
    As the only person to respond to this blog so far that is not a member of Body Tribe Fitness, I’m hoping I can give some perspective. I get it, I understand why you all think this is rediculous. I’ve played Division I soccer, ran marathons, and spent my life between gyms, fields, courts, mountains, and oceans engaging in various forms of physical activity. In addition, as the young intern mentioned in the blog (thanks for the shout out Chip), I can see why Public Health Professionals do what they do.
    Walking, it’s so basic, and yet people still don’t do it! In most demographics! No one would dispute that you would get a better workout running 8 mph on the treadmill for an hour than insisting on walking to lunch or taking the stairs. But at the same time, why wouldn’t you. Not only has light walking for as little as 10 minutes at a time been shown to have significant health benefits, but can be such a big part of healthy lifestyles in general. From air quality to traffic congestion to the depressing reality of going from your car to your cubicle and back again, there are so many ways walking can break up these trends and improve the quality of life.
    Also, and Chip touched on this, we are fighting different wars. Not everyone wants to or is willing to go to the gym, no matter how much you tell them they should. Not everyone has the opportunity or the option to pay the start up cost, monthly fees, and other various expenses involved in joining a gym. There are entire communities that don’t have access to a grocery store where they can buy an apple let alone a gym. So while we don’t want to set expectations so low that our country simply slips into obesity oblivion, we do want to target people with a message and goals that are reasonable and attainable.

  • chip

    This is a tough crowd, Sita. Part of my conundrum, and perhaps it is similar for several of us on this blog, is that there might be a prevailing sentiment of “if I can do it, anyone can.” Unfortunately that can cross the line from motivation to snobbery, and lawd knows I’m guilty of it (and that was part of my awkwardness and out-of-placeness after my presentation).

    I’ll reiterate this point:

    “Bodytribe and the fitness industry on a whole offers possibilities to people who have the luxury to make stupid choices, folks who have chosen their paths of self destruction. These organizations are often dealing with populations who might share a lack for such luxuries, or at least it might seem that way sometimes. Bodytribe might be the next step, or the 37th step in some cases, but the men and women at this forum were trying to figure out ways to increase the percentage of population who will make the FIRST step.”

    So, folks… we’re quick to critique, but sort of slow on solutions. Got any?

  • Amanda

    It’s definitely easy to preach to the choir. We’ve talked about discussing what “tribal empowerment” means. Perhaps the members of our tribe could involve ourselves in looking at the greater impact we can have our on community.

    I grew up in a low-income home and had few resources and few connections with healthy adults (emotional or physical). I had no safe place to experiment with embodiment and being physical (gym class was far from friendly for someone who was not naturally an athlete). I could have benefited from a mentor that was active, grounded, and focused. Role models and mentors can do a lot for disadvantaged youth.

    Perhaps it’s time to gather our tribe members and have a discussion and brainstorming session. We have a lot of power, and if we focus on what we’re doing outside of the gym as much as we do inside the gym, we can inspire and support a lot of movement.

  • Zac

    I’ll probably say more on this later, but Sita’s points regarding the costs of gym memberships, etc., being prohibitive for certain folks just triggered some thoughts in me…

    That point (gym = expensive, therefore poor folk = unfit) is based on the assumption that a gym is necessary to fitness. But it’s not. I go to a gym (Bodytribe right now) because it’s pretty much necessary to my personal fitness goals (becoming freaky mutant strong) and without a gym, it’s just not really feasible or safe considering other aspects of my lifestyle. If I merely wanted to be “fit,” I could, with my *current knowledge set,* ditch the gym membership and get plenty lean, sexy, and capable through running (LSR and/or sprints), bodyweight movements (burpees, air squats, push-ups, etc.), and improvised weight movements (I live in Rocklin right now and this former quarry town is littered with all kinds of nice chunks of granite ranging from 50-400 lbs that I could go out and attempt to pick up if I so chose). But I could pretty much only do that because I’ve educated myself pretty darn thoroughly. Teach folks who can’t get to/afford “the gym” some basics of how their bodies work/move, give them some ideas about what they can do, and I’m pretty darn certain they could come up with something that would yield more impact than walking.

    That said, I’m all for a more pedestrian lifestyle for *everyone.* But aside from a few neighborhoods in a few cities, our infrastructure just isn’t set up for it. I’m not excusing people from walking, but the problem is a little bigger than people just choosing not to walk. We’ve evolved into a non-pedestrian culture over the past century thanks to the collaboration of our government, the military-industrial complex, car manufacturers, and oil-barons. And again, I’d like to point out that many of the poorest DO walk. Visit south Sacramento. I do daily. I see considerably large numbers of poor, unhealthy people walking (often too or from public transit). The problem is that even though these folks may be walking more than your average middle-class white suburbanite, their diets are often atrocious, comprised of cheap, nutrient-starved food that is again the result of our governments’ woeful mishandling of policy.

    People are unhealthy. They’re fat. They’re skinny. They’re weak. And it’s the result of massive societal changes that the 20th century brought about. Walking, while something great, isn’t going to “fix” this problem, not even come *close.*

  • Veronica

    Zac, your last statement is so true. So, as Chip asked, “Does anyone have any solutions?” Is there a way to preach without sounding like elitist snobs? Amanda touched on it – become mentors. Invite people to join you. Offer advice when asked it’s asked for. Start people off slow and hold there hands for their first steps – or two or ten or 100. So many folks lack the discipline to follow through even if they have the motivation. It’s not that they lack the desire. IMO it’s that they lack the knowledge and a big brother nudging them along. Let’s face it, would any of us gone through 12 years of “school” if we didn’t have to? Is there any sports team out there from recreational to pro that don’t have coaches?

    So, one baby step at a time, one person at a time. Maybe one in a hundred will catch the bug and push forward as people like Chip have done. There’s a new Crossfit affiliate in my little hick town and slowly, but surely it’s starting to attract more members – one person/family at a time. Will they turn around the epidemic of childhood obesity in Butte County? Maybe not in my lifetime, but let’s hope in my children’s lifetime.

  • Zac

    Wow, an affiliate up there? Is it a splinter off of Robb Wolf’s place?

    But Veronica, your comments on mentorship ring true with me. One thing we can do as individuals engaged in this self-focused (self-empowering!) pursuit of fitness is share it with others. If you have an opportunity to interact with young people, *talk about what you do.* I do, and it’s done quite a bit to enhance my relationships with students…

    Another thought on the whole walking issue… The walking prescription may seem like a key element of “the solution” under the following scenario: pre-industrial folks walked a lot more and were less sedentary in general, and were therefore less fat and had fewer incidences of “diseases of civilization.” However, I don’t think that when someone has, under contemporary conditions, gotten themselves to a state of ill-health, walking is sufficient to address the problem. Walking is advisable as a general lifestyle element for all, but in order to affect significant physical change, it’s woefully insufficient. When someone has 100 lbs of fat to lose, that’s a 350,000 calorie caloric defecit that’s needed. That’s an obscene amount of walking…

    And viewing fitness as the ability to do *more* with one’s body (Chip’s dogma, but something to which I subscribe), I think striving for the ability to walk is, in most cases, a pretty pitiful goal. Aim higher, as it makes the pursuit more fun.

  • chip

    The CF facility up there (Level 10: http://www.level10crossfit.com/) was recently opened by a friend of Bodytribe, Santos Reyes (who has posted here before : http://physicalsubculture.com/2008/01/18/a-lotta-tabata/), who used to co-run a small facility in Southern Ca.

  • Hobi

    If folks don’t find value in moving, they won’t. Lead by example, show the fun and as pointed out earlier… answer questions when asked. (and don’t lose sleep when many people never take an interest)

    BTW: Site is very good, unique and informative.

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