Modality Comparison for Strength Geeks 1: Metaphysical
SECTION 3 Metaphysical
This is a collection of reviews about a handful of the groovy programs offered within our physical culture these days. Even though it is part one of a bigger project, it is still broken into 4 separate sections, so feel free to click below to shoot over to any of the other pages.
The pictures throughout this massive virtual tome are mostly random, featuring either shots from the dustbins of physical culture, or the good folks and toys here at Bodytribe.
METAPHYSICALLY (beyond physical)…
There’s a common assumption in the workout world. It’s an assumption with so much volume and repetition behind it that it’s often spoken as absolute fact:
A good workout = a better life.
In every form fitness has taken it has often been belched that a good bout of sweat and toil in the weight room, spin class or yoga studio transfers to an increase in the quality of life, or in the case of yoga, enlightenment. Somehow instantly or magically, since no one ever really explains how. It’s like a three step process where the second step is sort of skipped…
1) Workout hard (or, in yoga, Asana hard? Meditate hard?)
3) Better life.
(For the pop culture reference geeks amongst you, think about the South Park underpants gnomes.)
This is the major flaw in a great deal of physical culture/fitness conceptualism. The correlation to life is there, but no one really explains it fully. So does the program have steps in place to promote a greater awareness of You? Are you more in tune with yourself? Do you give, share and perpetuate strength, or are you an ass, bragging about your accomplishments and living to show off or spout pithy quotes?
How is the program’s motivation process and goal setting system? Are the motivational processes limited to bootcamp-style yelling, or are there additional incentives in place for achievement?
Are there any embodiment tools? Visualization? Mediation? Is that even a goal? I’ve left out a major component to metaphysical consideration: competition. This is another article for another time, since it is a huge subject with many, MANY layers to it. This article is big enough as it is.
Out of the four modalities discussed in this article, only RMAX begins the process of explaining the second step between the workout = better life claim. It is otherwise just assumed by the others, even if hyped up quite a bit (credit should be given a bit to TFW for at least having indicators in place to see if this supposed transformation IS happening). More than a couple of CF boxes I’ve been to proclaim the assumption proudly on their walls. “Get stronger in here to get better out there” or some such thing, but without lessons in embodiment or guidelines in basic neuroscience, it isn’t a guarantee, more like a happy accident, if it actually happens. I haven’t witnessed any such lesson plan in the CF world, or any of the others except RMAX. Sure, lives are improving all the time, but why aren’t we pursuing the direct cause and effect?
I know, I know…. Ya just wanna get your lift on and feel good about yourself for a job well done. I get it. All this babblygunk about mind and body should be left to people with white coats or therapy couches to figure out. Meanwhile let’s get our Fran time down or our max squat up and walk away a little bit better. As I’ve written in the first chapter of my first book, the intensity of our rendezvous with the iron creates a key opportunity to tap into ourselves far beyond the limp handshake or frail head nod our minds and bodies usually give each other. Why miss that chance!?
Sure, a good workout will make you feel better. That seems to be fairly consistent. But accomplishments in the gym and personal empowerment through movement aren’t quite synonymous. I’ve been accused of asking too much in this regard, but I’m surprised how many people aren’t asking enough. It happens, this little lift in the spirits through physical endeavor, with great frequency. Why not pursue the process and get even more out of it?
What is the philosophy of CF? Almost every CF website links to what the main CF site calls their ‘philosophy.’ But it really isn’t much more than a explanation of their program model and some definitions of the tenets of fitness. Nothing metaphysical, or even very inspiring, about it. It’s the What and How, not the Why, where any holistic fitness journey should truly begin. A big gap here, in my opinion.
TRAINING FOR WARRIORS
One of the posts on the website says “goals = focus. Focus = a warrior’s mind.” And, superficially, that sort of makes sense. But its hyperbole until someone starts offering some clues as to how this works, and that isn’t as easy to understand as you might think. TFW takes a big step in the right direction though by not just pointing out that intensity could lead to betterment, but to be aware of it. This might not give the needed second step between training and empowerment that we discussed earlier in this section, but it is an important aspect.
In other words, there still isn’t much description of step two, BUT there are indicators to be aware of to see if step three is happening; indicators beyond just increased performance.
So the strength to TFW is that planning and evaluation define the workouts and programming. Where are you going and are you actually getting there? This begins the process and keeps the process on track, unlike many programs where goals and outcome are just a byproduct.
The philosophy behind RMAX is at times profound, but sometimes a little chaotic. Scott’s mind works a little differently from yours and mine, and he’ll be the first to tell you this (his Mensa membership is a constant source of pride on his website and writings). Sometimes the ideas coming out of RMAX, i.e. Sonnon, are spot on and brilliant, as in the first half of his book BodyFlow, but sometimes there are ramblings from his keyboard that obviously don’t pass through an editor or, heck, a translator, ending up either confusing (a top student of his once offered $100 to anyone in a workshop who could understand a certain book of his… it went uncollected), to utterly hyperbolic.
The good stuff to glean from the RMAX world is movement for health and longevity, not just workload for exhaustion. In other words be smart about your movement choices. Let movement be a release of stress, not an accruement of it, as is very common in modern workout protocols. Physically (and beyond), the Prasara and FlowFit DVDs are worthwhile, offering some foundation to complete body mobility that, with a modicum of creativity, you can expand on to create your own arsenal of flow work that can be added to the workout. Metaphysically, the Body Flow book begins a journey to understanding embodiment, which, as mentioned earlier, is key to applying intensity and movement to the increasing of your quality of life. He calls it Freedom from Fear-Reactivity, and if you were to spend any time in the RMAX world, this could be the most productive bounty.
WESTSIDE BARBELL CLUB
It’s extreme, and they pride themselves on a level of potential danger they can face daily. Hats off for such dedication, but it is no way a holistic approach to strength or ability, and ultimately serves little purpose to the tribe, family or… well… anyone.
Well, let’s check that for a second. There might be one purpose. It’s a violent release, a cathartic battle between body and gravity, leaving your demons in the gym rather then carrying them around with you. It just isn’t clear why there needs to be such a disregard for personal longevity in the process. Perhaps there is an inner self-destructiveness that must accompany the outer struggle that appeals to a certain personality. Some call it going hard-core. It seems more selfish than productive, though.
This isn’t to signify that all powerlifters follow the exact map laid down by the likes of Westside, and as raw powerlifting gains momentum, there seems to be healthier motivations behind many of the journeys. Even folks who might not always lift raw, and might still have associations with the world of Westside can have an approach that might be less destructive.
Feel free to dismiss this as the ramblings of a skinny hippy who’d be rejected as a cannibal’s dinner simply because there wasn’t enough protein on these bones. Hey, I’m still seriously impressed every time I see an 800+ squat. I can still be inspired by the work it took to get there. I’m just always left wondering what else ya got?
This is part one of a collection of reviews about a handful of the groovy programs offered within our physical culture these days. Even though it is part one, it is still broken into 4 separate posts, so feel free to click below to shoot over to any of the other pages.