“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.”
Mastering the body – that’s what turns me on. In my life, I have been a dancer, a martial artist, a runner, a lifter and a yogi. Swam and biked a bit too. But what really brings it all together for me – what makes exercise fun and intrinsically rewarding, is mastering my body. I’m in, J!
Your blog is a fascinating read for me, Jeremy. videos and links are terrific. Excuse me now, I need to get up from computer and get my mojo movin’.
Marie-Josee, you are an inspiration. My Mom used to tell me as long as she could keep on moving, she would. She did until she was 93, leaving her wheelchair to hit the swimming pool, even though she could not swim. She told me, “The instructor told me I could float better than anyone!” and she would laugh. That moved her body, too, along with my soul.
This topic is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few days, and I love what Ido says about moving for its own sake. Thanks for introducing me to his way. His website suggests that he takes the movement art to a very high level of skill but still uses some of the principles of developmental movement patterns in the training style. I’m reminded of Continuum and Bodymind Centering, Core Awareness and many more softer, slower ways. To delight in moving our bodies in all our activities, to be embodied!
I have to admit, for most of my life I have either moved to change the way I looked, or to improve some aspect of athletic performance in a specific sport. I find the idea of moving for the sake of moving very inspiring. Ido makes an important distinction between being a “specialist” like in the case of an athlete training for a specific sport, vs. being a movement generalist. Specialization, by definition, is somewhat harmful because you create imbalances by focusing only on specific movements and creating too much repetition in one specific pattern. Ido seems to push the boundaries of how we think about movement as an infinite expression of what it is to be human. I love what he is doing. I would be interested to hear his thoughts about movement through the aging process and to see how his own practice and philosophy might change as he gets older.
You confuse popular with effective. Are they just fads that will fade?
Judy – you are predictably so sweet! Thank you!
Sara – “to delight in moving our bodies” – amen to that!
Jeremy – I’d love to hear his thoughts about aging as well! Let us know if you find anything on that.
Quackwatch – I did not see a discussion of effectiveness here, really. As far as I can tell, this post is a description of trends and opinions, not a summary of scientific studies about various exercise regimens. And as far as I’m concerned, any movement is effective in its own right. 😉
MJ – perhaps we need to bring effectiveness into the equation. And yes any movement is good. And the more regular it is the better (according to the Baker Institute)
Oh, Jeremy! I love your writing; thank you. Great article today on Engagement! Love the pix.
I look forward to your elegant, eloquent, provocative columns packed with creative, effective ways of living, being and doing.
MJ and Judy, always great seeing you, and appreciate your lovely, bright comments! Agree, and sorry to be late to the party.
J, movement helps predict fitness. Fitness is an important, and misunderstood, measure. Greater levels of fitness help predict greater resilience full stop, along with improving every other biomarker, and raise the potential for well-being. Promoting the idea valuing movement, movement literacy, and the fitness connections to our minds, bodies, hearts and society doesn’t need to be an “either/all.” There is reciprocity between Fitness and Movement generally.
“Movement is life,” is a quote I like from Dr. R.T. McKenzie, a medical professor, surgeon, sculptor, Renaissance man, who promoted movement through his life. Penn, founded the ideas intramural games at Penn, and the Penn Relays, while Director of Physical Education culture, and Medicine. He believed movement was necessary for learning. His bio is the “Joy of Effort.”
We need to move more and well, sustainably, and even, joyfully. Though most folks will not have the genetic proclivity, or time to attain, Ido Portal’s amazing physique, each of us can improve our form, posture and proprioception, giving more mindful awareness to our bodies in space, and the potential we hold to help ourselves, others and our communities.
Elaine O’Brien, MAPP
Temple University Ph.D. Student
Kinesiology: The Psychology of Movement
Cheers, Elaine, and thanks for your thought-provoking commentary. You can come to ANY party and I will be happy to give you a moving hug!
Thanks Elaine. I love this sentence from your comment, “We need to move more and well, sustainably, and even, joyfully.” Sustainable movement is an important aspect of this!