“I don’t do fitness my friend. That’s not what I do. I talk about movement. Fitness is a small, small, small world, within the universe of movement. I view it as a limited world. A world with many problems. A polluted world. Gymnastics and yoga and boxing and mind-body methods and other martial arts and various sports and ballet, and hand-balancing, circus arts, a lot of things. But actually, people who practice movement never miss anything. It was always there. It’s movement that I’m passionate about.”
–Ido Portal (from an interview with the Raw Brahs)
The way the world does fitness has been changing rapidly. For most of the past few decades, fitness was defined by either strength or endurance. The fitness gurus that we looked up to were either those who had developed substantial musculature (think Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Weider, or Mike Mentzer) or those who had proven their ability to compete in a grueling endurance sport (think runner Jim Fixx, cyclist Lance Armstrong [I know], swimmer Diana Nyad, or ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes.)
But today’s biggest fitness inspiration doesn’t come from professional athletes and bodybuilders. It comes from seeing people learn how to use and move their bodies in new and inspiring ways.
Here are just a few examples of some trends in fitness that have exploded in the last few years:
- Bodyweight training. TRX systems have become mainstays in many gyms, offering simple tools that allow a variety of exercises using the practitioners’ own body weight. BarStarzz is an “international workout team” that describes their workout as “creative calisthenics.” Their videos of extreme strength training using ordinary playground equipment have gotten over 10 million views.
- “Parkour” or “free running.” This a training regimen that involves training your body to move through the environment as effortlessly as possible (even when the environment presents some major obstacles.) Damien Walters, a Parkour celebrity, has gotten 20 million views on some of his videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQgFxDSqft4.
- Yoga goes mainstream. Arthur Boorman’s amazing comeback from a 47 year-old disabled and obese veteran to an ultrafit yoga instructor also went viral on YouTube with over 8 million views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448. The sexy but elegant Equinox yoga ad featuring Briohny Smyth got over 5 million views and probably inspired a generation of new yogis.
- Home training systems. Countless people have been seeing results from popular home training programs such as P90X or Insanity (I’ve been dabbling in both of these and I recommend them.) These programs give people extremely intense workouts that can be done with minimal or no equipment. P90X emphasizes an incredible diversity of techniques combining, yoga, strength training, plyometrics, martial arts, and more.
- CrossFit. One of the biggest trends to emerge (and still growing strong) is a new kind of fitness regimen known as CrossFit (I’ve been dabbling in this also.) CrossFit combines a variety of high-intensity, functional movements from gymnastics, powerlifting, martial arts, plyometrics, sprinting and more to “forge elite fitness.”
So what do all of these trends have in common? What is the macrotrend happening here? Fitness is no longer about strength or endurance. It’s about movement. It’s not about how much weight you can lift, it’s about what can you do with your body. This means it combines strength, endurance, speed, flexibility, power, agility, balance, kinesthetic awareness and much more.
My favorite guru of the “movement movement” (grin) is Ido Portal, a self-proclaimed “movement teacher” who is raising the bar on what we should expect of our bodies. (See his new website for some inspirational photos and videos. He is amazing to watch in action.)
Portal asks, “what are we training for?” He doesn’t see the point of preparing your body for some imaginary event that never comes. Instead it is about “self-domination,” developing new capacities in your body and then using that new capacity. It’s about moving for the sake of moving.
“To be able to move around, invert yourself, crawl on the ground, lift, climb, brachiate, flip, twist, you know, just have this freedom, it’s for everyone. It’s fun. It’s the best.”