Of Gentle Giants and Vegetarian Wolves

I believe that the style of training and methods we use at Agoge Fitness Systems are the best to be found.  If I didn’t I wouldn’t use them.

Now, don’t mistake my words.  I am not saying that I am the best trainer or that my gym is the best gym, although I am pretty damned proud of my gym.  What I’m saying is that what we do and the way we do it is the best way I have found, so far, to train the human body.  There are others who do what I do better than me, but when I find them I make them my friends and my teachers and I learn from them.

What frustrates me is the difficulty I have in sharing this training with other people.  We have been so inundated with the marketing and hype of mediocre or otherwise harmful training that most of us don’t know what is really helpful, or effective, or even safe.  All too often we come to fear and avoid what we really need or would actually work.

Two stories come to mind that I ran across when my children were little.  The first is The Story of the Kind Wolf.  I read this one often to my girls at bedtime.  In this story there’s a kind wolf, hence the title, who works as a healer.  Unfortunately none of the little woodland creatures would use the wolf’s services for fear of being eaten.

It takes a cold, harsh winter and a desperately sick bunny for them to try the wolf, who, of course, saves the poor bunny and then reveals that it’s a vegetarian.

The second story is a made for TV movie Matthew Modine made in 2001.  Matthew Modine will forever hold a special place in my heart for his role as Louden Swain in Vision Quest, arguably the best sports inspiration movie ever made.  The 2001 feature was Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story.  In this tale, Modine gets wrapped up in the discovery of a giant’s bones and that he is a direct descendant of the original Jack, revealed to be greedy thief who made up the fairytale we all grew up with in order to cover his crimes.

Giants we find out are actually sweet, loving creatures whose hearts are as big as their bodies.  The whole “evil giant” thing was just a bad rap and one they could never shake because no one would ever get close enough to them to learn the truth.

Which brings us to our allegorical connection.  Our training; weight training, kettlebells, bodyweight and mobility work, sandbags, leverage clubs, and all the other stuff we do, is like the vegetarian wolf that’s really a doctor or the true nature of giants.  Most observers can’t get past their initial observations, the fear that says, “Oh, I can’t do that.”  But we who “do that” know, yes, they can.

We understand that weight lifting is a progressive practice, that by lifting what we can today we will be able to lift more later.  We’ve also learned that without radical changes in our diets (read: tons of protein) and pharmaceutical enhancement we’re not going to “bulk up” dramatically.  In fact, most of us get smaller and when we buy new clothes it’s because the old ones have gotten too big.

I think the best lesson I’ve heard my clients reveal is that they’ve discovered that after a period of weight training they move better.  The concept of the stiff and bulky weight lifter is the result of a lifter who lifts wrong.  He trains poorly and with bad form.  A strong muscle is a flexible muscle and one that is more functional.

Media hype, complete with tight, tanned models with six pack abs, whose main purpose in life appears to inspire envy, tells that we have to P90x at home, or Crossfit, or Spin, or BodyPump or, as a local journalist I thought should know better reported recently, join a pole dancing class (really, don’t you have to hand in your feminist card after that one?).  We’ve come to believe that if it’s not surrounded by flashing lights, a media circus or some kind of gimmick that it’s not going to work.

The truth is, we as a people have become so divorced from our bodies that we have to distract ourselves from what were doing while we’re doing it in order to do it.  That’s why every room full of treadmills and ellipticals has a wall of TV’s in front of it.  This type of exercise is mind numbingly boring.

The irony is that your mind and your body are connected.  You can’t veg out and have a good workout no matter what the workout is.  In our workouts this is glaringly apparent.  Veg out with a heavy weight held over your head and you’re likely to get hurt.  The same applies on the treadmill, it’s just a slower more insidious process.

Those of us who “get” this are a small dedicated crew.  We meet on a regular basis and train not necessarily for perfection, but betterment.  Like any small but dedicated crew we are happy to share our passions.  It’s as though we stumbled on a small little piece of Truth, maybe not THE secret of life, but certainly A secret of life.  We’ve found small, little victories that have had a large impact on our lives and we think, maybe, if you tried it too, you’d find your life vastly improved.

It seems a shame not to be able to share that.

Stay strong,

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Filed under Fitness, Motivation, Movement, Personal Development, Personal Training, Recovery, Strength, Strength Training

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