In a recent Youtube comment on one of my Core-Tex™ videos, the commenter stated, “I’m in the fitness industry myself, and it still disappoints me that we continue to develop stuff like this when we need to be out in the outdoors challenging our core for real.” On the same day I read a very similar comment regarding another product on a different web site. These comments are in addition to the multiple comments with the same point of view that appear from fitness professional daily on Facebook.
Really? Is that your earth shattering insight into making the world a fitter more functional place? All these back to nature workouts would be great if our society was not what it is today. Our movement repertoire has “devolved” in the last 20 years or more.
As the modern history of fitness shows us, the pendulum always swings way too far in one direction before sanity returns. Most outdoor-only, “natural” movement purists have not been around long enough professionally to have seen the evolution of where the industry is today. We leave behind that which has no value and we utilize all options at our disposal in the best interest of our client.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for getting outside and using the body in the many forms of play or workouts. When we started Function First way back in 1994, we were doing what we called “Adventure Workouts”. These consisted of full body workouts at a local high school obstacle course, trail runs and strength stations we created in Torrey Pines State Park and full body beach workouts-all of which preceded the boot camp boom that came many years later. We were doing outdoor functional movements long before the word “boot camp” was part of the fitness vernacular.
The facts are, you cannot do everything you want to do with all of your clients all the time outside with no tools to add to the mix. To imply that we just need to get outside and move lacks a thorough understanding of the client/athlete that we all work with.
Why do we need Olympic Training Centers with state of the art strength and conditioning facilities? Why don’t those with back injuries just go out and chop wood for rehab? I’ll give you my top 7 reasons why we need more than just a get-back- to- nature workout. From the practical to the technical, here’s why we need our tools:
7. Your clients won’t want it all of the time. Sure, they might enjoy one or two workouts outside a week. But if that is all you have to offer, I can guarantee they are going somewhere else for their workouts on the other days. And if they do only want to train outside, you have an extremely small customer base to draw from.
6. Weather. If you do outdoor only workouts in Minnesota, how’s business in January? How about Phoenix in August? Not likely that these places are very conducive those times of year for outdoor exercise. If we want to help instill consistency in our clients, we need to be consistent in our offerings.
5. Perception. Let’s face it, a bare bones workout in the middle of park can be perceived as a bare bones budget. People can do push-ups, planks and body weight lunges at home. Clients might perceive a lack of individuality and customization to their programming.
4. Gravity. There are limits in determining the force vector best suited for the client. Gravity is the constant as we know, but gravity alone limits what direction we want the force vector to act on the body. Sure, the more fit the participant the more possible options. But again, you limit your market size and still have a finite number of movements.
3. Variety. The mind and body love variety for learning and engagement. If you would like to compare your outdoor-only exercise library with my exercise library just let me know. How many ground based push-varieties can you come up with? Regardless of your answer, introducing one of any number of pieces of equipment trumps that because we can do all of yours plus those with equipment.
2. Not-so-natural. As someone who works with clients with musculoskeletal challenges, what is often referred to as “natural” movements isn’t so natural anymore. Years of dysfunction are layered on top of and intertwined with muscles and connective tissue. And even though the nervous system determines when and to what extent a muscle fires, the physical characteristics of the muscle and its surrounding fascia determine whether or not it can execute. Send that feedback to the nervous system regularly and it adapts accordingly. We see 35 year olds who can’t decelerate down stairs without a handrail. Not a chance they can successfully execute walking lunges across a field.
1. Specificity. To be able to provide the best possible programming requires designing around the client’s needs, goals and limitations. We do this by manipulating the environment. If we know what the body needs/wants but it can’t get there on its own, we create the environment for success using the tools in our toolbox. Whether it’s influencing a joint position, increasing the load or adding novelty to the proprioceptive system, the right tool for the right job makes all the difference in the world.
All too often a client’s body is asked to cash a check it does not have the funds for. With the right tools and mastery of the training environment, we can lead our clients down a path to movements of all kinds in all places. So many great tools are conducive to outdoor workouts and others are not. We should not limit ourselves through a single-minded philosophy. It’s not about us. It’s about the person writing that check to us.