health ->function->fitness

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Have you ever tweaked your back or knee trying hit a certain goal?Yeah, me too.

Back while living in Japan my calligraphy teacher, then in his 70s, once chided a friend who was a very serious karate practitioner to keep the bigger picture of life & family in mind and not get so obsessed with karate that it would impact other areas of her life. Impressively he did so in the presence of her karate teacher, who was also his student in calligraphy and philosophy. No matter the shot to his ego what could the karate teacher say when confronted with wisdom?

That conversation stuck with me because it keeps me grounded when I read articles and social media where hitting certain numbers or being able to do some trendy movement gets all the likes. And although having number or weight related goals is at times useful the idea of not becoming obsessed is one we try to get across to our members, and keep in mind when programming for them. As physical therapist Gray Cook says, ever notice that with the phrase “heatlth and fitness, health always comes before fitness?”

Deadlifting, squatting, or any other foundational movement are excellent to learn, but doing whatever it takes to work up to X amount may come at the expense of joint health, mobility, or function. Yes it can make you stronger and teach us to brace and use our hips, but there is a line where performance comes at the expense of health. Is there any reason why someone not training for a sport should push past that line? Is it worth the Facebook likes or coffee shop brags? Chances are two things will happen: The bragging won’t last long and you’ll get to know your local doctors quite well.

Don’t get me wrong – we push people and challenge them right up to the level of their abilities, but not for the sake of exhaustion or breakdown in technique. We do so to gradually improve the person’s capacity and function always with an eye towards health. If an exercise is detrimental to health then we drop it no matter who says its crucial or impressive. When you exercise, no matter the form it takes, reflect on if this will improve your health, or if it is too much to recover from. Does your exercise serve a productive purpose or is it just working out because someone says you should workout 5 times per week and deadliest double bodyweight or run 10 miles?

Those individuals I know who keep moving well into their older years are always the ones that have learned this lesson and apply it to activities that they truly enjoy doing. Oftentimes it is learned through injury, which is how such lessons were imparted to me even though I had teachers such as Mr. Tsuji. I hope that you are smarter than I was, and if you do then no doubt your body and loved ones will be thankful for your good health.


About the Author:

Owner of Elemental Fitness Lab in Portland, OR. Our approach to training is to integrate research (I'm an NSCA CSCS, certified Functional Movement Screen, and Precision Nutrition) with practical experience. I've studied martial arts in Japan and the U.S. for many years, and have put in my time in the gym, in the water, on the snow, on the rock wall, and on the bike.
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