On my recent trip to Morocco, I found myself talking with a couple from Philadelphia. They were a high powered duo. The wife was a surgeon and the husband was a marketing executive. We were having dinner in a tent in the middle of the Sahara desert so there weren’t many distractions. Our conversation led to career and eventually to fitness.
They soon admitted they were concerned about their son. He was a young adult who used to swim competitively and, since giving up the sport, his fitness has plummeted to the point that his health is visibly compromised along with his confidence. The mother, who crosses many t’s and dots most every “i” in her life, was frustrated by her inability to motivate him to get in the gym. Almost against her will, she finally asked my opinion.
“Why would he go to the gym?” I said. “There’s almost nothing compelling about it. To him it’s embarrassing and mindless. What’s the end game?”
She was taken aback and, for a moment, sat silent. “..but he was so in shape with swimming.”
“Of course. Swimming gave context for a ton of training volume and intensity. Coming out of a sport like that is difficult and almost everyone puts on weight,” I said. “He needs to learn something.”
“What do you mean? she asked.
“If I were him I wouldn’t just show up to a place and burn a little more calories than I take in each day either,” I said. “We aren’t mindless hamsters. He needs to learn something physical to give context to the training and I’ll even venture to bet that it doesn’t matter what it is and long as he’s curious about it”
The rest of the conversation was a lightbulb moment for her. She was a former track athlete in Russia so she couldn’t see that in her sixties she was motivated by the illness and death she sees at her work as a surgeon daily. Those motivators don’t mobilize twenty year old kids. Death isn’t a thing. He needs a thing and so do the rest of us.
This is part of the not so secret reasoning behind what we teach. With a skill-based approach to training you can adapt and learn indefinitely. This is why the context of weightlifting, gymnastics, powerlifting, strongman, and the disciplines we teach it seems fruitful to continue putting in work for a few decades. I personally can’t picture myself ever being magically motivated to play calorie arithmetic in the gym forever.
Find a 1RM Back Squat..
Then, complete the following for time:
50 Thrusters (45)
30 Pull Ups