General Physical Preparedness
General Physical Preparedness, or GPP as we like to call it in the fitness world, is a term being thrown around nowadays to describe how and why an individual should be training. In a world where everything is at our fingertips, why should a person train? What is there to train for?
Training has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I used it as a tool to help me be more competitive in sports as most athletes do, but what happens after sports? Why should one train if there is “nothing” to train for? What if I am not an athlete? CrossFit has taught me that we are all athletes. It’s just a matter of what degree of an athlete you are.
“Your needs and the Olympic athlete’s differ by degree not kind.”– Greg Glassman, Co-founder of CrossFit
This classic scenario comes to mind: At a 10-year high school reunion, the star athlete enters. He or she may have been something physically spectacular “back in the day,” but since sports ended, so did their physical behavior to stay healthy. On average in America, a person gains approximately 1-2 pounds per year after 18 years of age. This is most likely the case in this hypothetical situation.
This is not a new trend. This has been going on for a long time. For an example, approximately 100 years ago just after WW1 ended, The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Mr. Lloyd George recorded that the State had been robbed of more than 1 million Army candidates because they were ill or physically unfit for duty.
Bob Hoffman described the decay of health in America in his book “How to be Strong, Healthy and Happy,” which was published in 1938. The book is full of parallels to the current state of the country’s health.
More amusements, too many temptations to take things easy, listening to the radio or seeing the movies, too-easy-to-obtain and already prepared foods of doubtful value at the corner delicatessen, too-easy-to-open cans, too many foods designed only to “taste good” with no concern about their effect on the human body and no thought of the chemicals and element they contain, the hustle and bustle, lost sleep, and late hours, too much drinking– all of these lead to irritability, to bad temper, to worry and all forms of mental unrest. And thus we have the four horsemen which causes bad health.
The first time I read that I thought it was a current events announcement. The parallels to then and now are staggeringly similar and in that perception, discouraging. The CDC reported from 2017-2018 that 42.4 percent of adult Americans were obese. Being overweight is only the start of problems when it comes to our health. This factor is 100 percent a behavioral issue that has been an ongoing problem for this country since the rise of the Industrial Revolution. This isn’t a battle you are set up to win. Daily you are exposed to the media that encourages you to buy products that have no intention of being holistically healthy to the human body. Everything is centered around rest, taking it easy after a long day at work and limited notion to move.
CrossFit’s model of fitness and health describes preparing the body for the unknown and the unknowable. What does that mean? How can we apply this to our own lives? Your body was made to be pushed physically. It was thousands of years of genetic code built in that are centered around movement. How we found food to eat, found water to drink, built shelter to survive were all centered around movement. Lifting, pushing, jumping, climbing, running, swimming and carrying are all examples of how we were able to accomplish such tasks before the invention of machines and other tools that make doing those things easier for our daily lives. So the physical labor on the body has really only been a problem for the last century for this country and countries that have evolved the same as we have.
The human body is the master of adaptation. It can survive in so many different climates, geographies, and can endure an extreme amount of stress. There is an issue with this, though. The body is always adapting to its lifestyle. Movement or no movement, adaptations are occurring. In other words, we are either building our bodies up or our body is breaking itself down. It all depends on the needs of your lifestyle.
If you sit around for the majority of your time because of your job or hobbies, then the body will adapt by breaking muscle and bone tissue down to support other areas of the body or just get rid of the “excess” tissue to help the body become more efficient with conserving energy. If you resistance-train for one hour a day, five days a week, the body does the exact opposite. It recognizes the stress that is being placed on it, and it adapts to the stress with the same intent — to conserve energy. A familiar example is the changing of the seasons. Think about when we are coming out of winter and it’s the first 50-degree day. You might be wearing shorts that day, but if 50 degrees showed up in the middle of summer, we would do the exact opposite. That is all related to adaptations that occur in the body due to stress of hot or cold temperatures.
Now, I am not saying we should give up all the advanced machines and tools that we have been so fortunate to live with that make our production much faster and our social experience much broader. What I am saying is we have to recognize the consequences of lifestyle. Going back to the Pillars of Health (Social, Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional), we have to find where the imbalance is in our own health, given our own behavior and refocus our attention to the place we are neglecting. For most in the country, it is the physical component of health. That evidence is in that 42.4 percent of Americans who are obese statistic described earlier. That number grows by 18.5 percent when factoring in children and adolescents in the country. Therefore, 6 percent of our country is considered obese. Hopefully that statistic knocked you back into your seat.
Why am I using this swallow statistic to measure the health of the country? Because it is a primary risk factor for chronic disease. Examples of chronic disease are heart disease, cancer and diabetes. These three diseases are the leading causes of death in America. The CDC reports that six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and four in 10 adults in the U.S. have two or more chronic disease conditions. It is also reported that chronic diseases cost $3.5 trillion in annual health care in the U.S. What is the primary contributor to chronic disease? Behavior, meaning how we live, or in better terms, how we don’t live. We are literally our own problem in contributing to our risk toward this group of diseases and ultimately our healthcare cost. What’s the solution? Exercise daily, improve your nutrition by eating whole foods, and decrease the over-consumption of carbs, stop using tobacco products and decrease alcohol use.
How does this relate to current events? A staggering statistic was released by New York’s Public Health Department, that 86 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 involved at least one comorbidity. The top three comorbidities were high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). These three can fall into genetic disease, but more likely they are chronic disease.
So why should we train? This virus and future disease can be combated not only by social distancing and creating a more sanitized environment, but by decreasing our risk of chronic disease which is completely due to our behavior. What we eat, how much we move and how consistent we can be at both for the duration of our lifetime.
We are not helpless during these times. You can take action by action itself. Move more, eat whole foods and get adequate sleep. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
One of my favorite quotes was written in 1908 by George Hachenschmidt in his book “The Way to Live, In Health and Physical Fitness”:
“It may be suggested that there is no reason why a man should go to the trouble and exertion of struggling with heavy weights, since there is no crying necessity for that particular man to acquire any phenomenal degree of strength.
To that I would reply by asking why a man should desire to be weak?”
Find your “why” to train. During these times there is no better reason than to fortify your body by becoming the fittest version of yourself. It doesn’t take fancy equipment or a gym membership to start this process. All it takes is action. Walk your dog, fill a backpack full of books and go for a hike (“ruck”), sit down and stand up on the couch repeatedly (“squats”), lower yourself safely to the floor and stand back up repeatedly (“burpees”). These are just a few examples that can make a pretty incredible workout for all of us stuck at home.
HOME WORKOUT CHALLENGE
- 8 Sets x
- 0:20 Squats
- 0:10 Rest
- Rest 5min
- 8 Sets x
- 0:20 Burpees
- 0:10 Rest
You move as fast as you can safely within your abilities. The goal is to get as much movement done within the 20 seconds as possible, and then sustain that effort through the remaining sets. This workout has no age restriction. The only thing required is EFFORT.
In total time this will take you 13 minutes to complete. If you have 13 minutes to spare, get after this workout and let us know how it went by tagging CrossFit Council Bluffs on Facebook or Instagram!