Hopefully everyone has had an opportunity to review the CFM Goals program and think a bit about what things they may want to include in their goals for 2017. As we continue to discuss goal setting and improvement, we’ve had some great conversations around what it means to develop goals, the most efficient way to implement them, and how to make progress. This post, however, is to address a more basic and profound question. For many people, the key question is not how we achieve goals, but why do we need to set them in the first place?
Why do I need to get better, or stronger, or faster?
Why should I want to be able to back squat 315 pounds 15 times?
What possible direct benefit can I expect to see from a 500 pound deadlift?
In Crossfit, one of the benefits we tout is functional fitness, meaning that we want to be fitter in order to execute the tasks that our daily lives demand. But what is functional about being able to jerk a weight that is equivalent to a medium-sized adult male? While there may occasionally be the need to SDHP a cooler into the back of a truck, unless that cooler is filled with gold bullion, this is a moderate lift at best. I don’t think I’ve ever had a suitcase so heavy that I felt the need to full-snatch it into the overhead compartment on a plane. So, maybe I don’t really need massive strength or endurance at my disposal to execute the tasks that life brings me on a daily basis. If this is true, then it begs the question: why do we need to push our limits?
The answer to this question is not always obvious. In business, we can see how working harder directly yields results that make us more fruitful in that area of life. We work our tails off at the office and people notice. We typically accumulate more hours, more skill, and more promotions. Over time, our investment directly pays off in terms of measurable rewards for our actions. In home and social life, if we work on our relationships with others, we often see the direct results that our efforts have. The investment is returned with deeper trust, stronger emotional connections, and better understanding of each other. But what about in fitness? It’s easy to understand how those who are bed-ridden or otherwise restricted could clearly benefit from more strength or improved cardio-vascular conditioning, but it is not as clear to someone who enjoys an “average” level of fitness. If you are fit enough to participate in life’s normal activities, what is the return on investment in pursuing fitness improvement?
When you think about the areas of your life that are the most important to you, it may not even seem like fitness compares to the others on the list. Let’s face it, I’m not going to the CrossFit Games (gasp!). I know, right? Hard to believe, but the peak of my achievement in CrossFit may be more along the lines of finishing in the top 10 in the master’s division of a local competition. I’m not a professional athlete, and there is not really any athleticism required in my business or personal life, other than keeping up with small children (they are tiny and relatively easy to catch). So what are the things in life that are really important to me? I want to be an amazing husband. I want my wife to feel treasured and cared for and pursued. I want to be the best father on the planet. I want my children to know that they are loved and important. I want to teach them hard work, integrity, and how to care about other people. I want to change the world through my work. I want to help develop new and exciting technologies that will impact the planet for decades after I’m gone. Will a 195 pound strict press really make me better at any of that?
The answer is yes. It absolutely and unequivocally will. While improving my strict press may not directly make me a better husband or dad or engineer, it will make me better at fitness, which makes me better at everything. I have had the benefit in life of experiencing a high level of fitness as well as a lack thereof. I’ve been the athlete who had an injury, fell off the wagon, got fat, and got depressed. In fact, I was that guy for several years. I struggled to do my work because I lacked discipline. I struggled to be energetic for my family because I was always tired. I struggled to be enthusiastic about life because I constantly felt bad about myself. You might even say I felt sick. Coach Glassman has written in great detail about the relationship between sickness, wellness, and fitness. Without reiterating the entirety of this subject, the argument is that the opposite of being sick is not being well, but rather the opposite of sickness is fitness.
Coach states that fitness is not just a separate condition that you experience in addition to being well, but rather a continuation and advanced state of wellness.
(You can find the full CF Journal Article Here http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/10/what-is-fitness-by-greg-glassm.tpl)
(Coach giving a talk on this here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl6ANK8CN5w)
This is why I want that 195 pound strict press. Not because I need to strict press heavy things as a part of normal daily life, but because doing so makes me fitter. It addresses a weakness and elevates my capacity. It makes me better at everything. Fitness energizes and ignites us in a way few things can. I’m going to make a series of bold statements here:
· Being fitter will make you a better spouse
· Being fitter will make you a better parent
· Being fitter will make you a better employee
· Being fitter will make you a better friend
· Being fitter will improve the quality, longevity, and energy in your entire life
Bold, but as far as I’m concerned, the evidence is undeniable.
“…Regarding the gain to moral power which comes of bodily exercises and physical condition, it should be self-evident that the process which builds the muscle must also train and alert the mind. How could it be otherwise?
Every physical act must have as its origin a mental impulse, conscious or unconscious. Thus, in training a man to master his muscles, we also help him to master his brain.”
– Armed Forces Officer: Edition of 1950, U.S. Department of Defense
Pushing as far to the right in this continuum towards fitness is critical in making us better in every area. It’s also critical for those times in life that will inevitably come when our levels of fitness will slide backwards. Life is not always predictable and sustainable in every area. You may have a long vacation that stalls your fitness routine. Perhaps a difficult and busy period comes along at work that compromises your normal workout time. Maybe you have an injury or a car wreck or cancer and lifting weights takes a back seat to other things. The benefit of coming from a strong foundation during these times is that strong people are harder to kill. When our fitness level is at the far right end of the continuum, even if we slide backwards, we slide into wellness. We may have a setback, but the setback just puts us back to a normal healthy lifestyle. If you live your life with only a slightly-above-average level of fitness (as I did prior to the injury that I mentioned earlier) you have no safety margin. There are no guardrails to protect you from going completely off the track. Any setback in your fitness journey can result in some of the things that I experienced like depression and chronic fatigue.
Simply put, the answer to the question of why we need to be fitter is not one of vanity or the specific pursuit of a fitness accomplishment, but rather because it has the capability to improve and preserve the overall quality of our lives each and every day.
Get after it.