Recently, I was asked to lecture at an event organized by Equinox. I was both honored and humbled to be in the presence of many wonderful speakers.
At the end of the day, we all looked forward to the panel discussion, in which the audience, who had been waiting patiently letting us speak all day, got to ask us questions and hear the different ways we would entertain their answers.
If you’d prefer to listen instead of read,
here’s an audio version of this article,
Episode 57 of Gray Cook Radio
One of the questions came to the panel phrased like this:
“All of you travel abroad and speak at international conferences. What is the biggest difference between the United States and the rest of the world in regards to how we look at exercise, fitness and active lifestyles?”
I looked around the room and nobody reached for the mic, so I grabbed it and said:
“One of the things that I became immediately aware of in my international travels for education and teaching was the fact that, in the United States, we speak of someone’s exercise program. When I’m dealing with a person who was raised outside of the US (or when I’m working outside of the US), more often than not, people don’t ask about exercise.
They ask “What is your activity? What activities do you enjoy?”
I think that mindset is more representative of an active lifestyle than any exercise. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with exercise and many of us define ourselves by the exercises that we enjoy the most. But, that is only a simple part of our active lifestyle.
It’s almost like asking someone, “What are your favorite supplements?” as opposed to asking them, “What foods do you like to eat? What meals and food combinations do you enjoy?”
Internationally, I think there might be a slightly more authentic appreciation of an active lifestyle, whereas, in the US, where we spend much more time working and entertaining ourselves than actually focusing on mindful movement, we often want to package that in sets and reps and quick little trips to the gym.
So, the active lifestyle and the activities that you want to do should take precedence and the exercises should the be vehicles or things that make the activities go smoother for you.
In the book The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler tells us that the flow state is one of the most important factors in action/adventure sports and that’s why we’re seeing records fall at an astounding rate. He also used flow as a way to describe why surfers and skateboarders don’t have to be begged to practice—they don’t even have to schedule it—practice spontaneously occurs through the love of the flow state that is generated by participating in that activity. They don’t need fitness monitors to remind them that the need to skateboard or surf today.
But, those aren’t the only activities that create a flow state. For some people, it is a conveniently put together exercise package. We have to ask ourselves: ‘Is it sustainable and will it fulfill our active needs throughout our entire lifespan?’
This brings me to a video that I’d like to share. My good friend and accomplished strength coach, Jon Torine, and I have conversations, nearly on a weekly basis, talking about everything from high-end performance training and the next teams we’re going to consult with, to ways to fix physical education.
Jon has recently been involved in climbing, because both of his sons are engaged by that activity. He’s challenged himself to start climbing as well—and it has revealed many things (in some of the most astounding ways) that his performance and conditioning background hadn’t seen.
This video will only take six minutes. Even though the statistics say that the video-digesting public rarely watches a complete video, I would encourage you not to play this video until you have dedicated the six minutes required to watch it.
Allow this video to inspire you to think more about activity than exercise. If you focus on an activity, you will quickly identify the exercises that will help you with that activity, but if you focus your life only on exercise, you’ll have to constantly be reminded to “take your vitamins and your supplements.”
Sometimes, I feel guilty because I haven’t been in the gym enough. But I never feel guilty that I haven’t hiked or paddleboarded enough, because every time life gives me an opportunity, to do either of those activities, I will do them.
I would hope that no matter how involved you are in the exercise profession or the exercise life, you don’t let the focus on exercise overshadow the flow state or the reason you like moving in the first place.