why can’t we be (fitness) friends?

Before I started working at Greatist, I’d say I was relatively conscious of my own fitness.  Yet I was pretty unaware of the world of exercise that existed around me, and I’m beginning to learn what a complex, controversial world it is. “Fitness” is not one big happy family. In fact, people have stroooong opinions of what the best way to get fit, lose weight, and stay healthy is, and they often ridicule other types of exercise in the process.

There’s backlash, questions, and concerns all over the place: People are claiming yoga can wreck your body, while lifting weights could not only be bad for the eyes, but fatal. And let’s not even talk about CrossFit—this exercise regime gets fingers (and fists) pointed at them daily. But what I was surprised to see was that running gets a lot of shit—more than I was aware. I read one startling article that was truthful in many ways, but was written to firstly create controversy, then display the truth. One of the subheads reads: “Aerobic training increases adrenal stress which can make you fatter and produce other undesirable health consequences.” Using such language like this fails to address the main issue, which is sure: People who clock in slow, boring miles aren’t going to get fit. This article does a better job addressing this point, as does this one, yet I’m still left with a sour taste in my mouth.

Maybe it’s because I’m a runner who’s simply getting defensive. Or maybe, my idea of fitness is different from yours, from this other guy, from this women, and this teenager, that it’s nearly impossible to create standards for what people should and shouldn’t do, and why. I am a firm believer that fitness is extremely personal and you’ll only get the results you want if you’re genuinely having fun. It is sad to see people log in slow, painful, and boring miles on the treadmill, thinking that’s the key to health. It’s equally as disheartening to see the same people at the same weight machines everyday, lifting slowly… and heavily (that a word?)…and drowning it all down w/ a muscle milk. And maybe they do it because they’re nervous of what may happen if they don’t, that the muscle will shed off, the fat will pack on, the abs will disappear. The startling truth is that most could stop exercising completely and just eat really well,and be as well off as the rest of them. Want to lose weight? Lose the brownie. It’s pretty simple. (Or maybe not?!)

If people start choosing their workouts based on preference, rather than choosing what seems to be “the best” option out there, then it’s absolutely the best fitness answer—for them. I have my own fitness goals which means I don’t have to do CrossFit daily—even if they claim to have created the best program to get fit. But what is “fit,” exactly? Can there be just one definition? Maybe, I don’t know. But what I do know is I workout because I love it, because I want do, and because it’s fun—not because I see exercise as a means to an end. I choose to go on the treadmill every now and then because call me crazy—but I enjoy it. I’m not saying I like a push up as much as a concert or a roller coaster ride, but …even push ups have a place in my heart. I don’t lift everyday (even if it does the body wonders) because I just don’t love it enough.  This is not to say, of course, that if you absolutely love hatha yoga or long distance running you should only stick to those forms of fuel. Having fun doesn’t mean not pushing yourself or feeling uncomfortable from time to time; it means feeling strong and confident when you’re working, and proud..and enjoying the community around you and the people who motivate you, knowing you’re making the body healthier. 

So what’s the single best exercise? Guess what, there probably isn’t one. So I think it’s sad when (some, but not all) runners have to get defensive,  lifters act like know-it-alls, and CrossFitters think everyone else is just naive. Since when did fitness become this totem pole with everyone scrambling to the top? 

About Laura

marketing director at Possible. formerly at Greatist. Still running, finding zen, and searching for the perfect bloody mary.

Posted on February 17, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great post, Laura! There is so much fitness misinformation out there – a lot of which is specifically designed to stir up controversy (and get clicks). I think the bottom line is that whatever exercise you choose to do, it’s 100 times better than sitting on the couch. Once you decide that there is a particular goal that you want to achieve (like losing weight, building muscle, etc.), then you should start thinking about what activities will help you reach that goal. You’re right though, it’s important to pick activities that you also enjoy, otherwise, you’re never going to be motivated enough to make it part of your lifestyle.

    I still think everyone should at least *try* lifting. It’s just too good for you not to! 😉

  2. Thanks Erica! And you’re so right, everyone should definitely get some strength training in there and try different workouts that’ll help reach specific goals. I totally believe in keeping exercise varied, too 🙂 I just don’t think any type of safe, smart fitness should be considered “better” than another!

  3. This is my favorite post you have ever done! You know me – I am all on the fitness-for-fun-with-friends bandwagon lately. I also completely know that my extra “vanity pounds” are a result of what I eat (and not how I work out) – but I’m not quite willing to be super strict with my diet. You’re absolutely right though that that’s what counts!

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