There are quite a few people in America today who are very pleased to celebrate Columbus Day by sleeping in, and enjoying their three day weekend. If that is you, I hope you enjoy the day. If that is not you, don’t worry; Columbus isn’t the kind of guy you want to celebrate.
I remember learning about his 3 ships, and how he sailed for the Spanish throne even though he was Italian, and about how he brought European riches to the Caribbean in his quest for the Indies. He brought back some of the people, animals, and treasure he found, and everyone was happy. Then we drew ships, and pretended that we were explorers. Awesome, right? No, Columbus was a jerk.
Several years ago I took an Introduction to Sociology course, and Prof. Okolo required that we read the introductory chapter to Howard Zinn‘s A People’s History of the United States, which is about Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress. Luckily for you, the entire book is online at History Is A Weapon, and I’d strongly suggest checking it out. Below are several excerpts from the book, which happen to be excerpts from Columbus’ log. Excerptception:
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
Yea, Columbus was a great guy. Celebrating old Chris [is] falling out of favor, and there is the potential for deep conversation on the matter. Was Columbus a hero? He ‘discovered’ ‘Merica. Was he a terrorist? His name could be synonymous with genocide. Is this anti-Columbus backlash an example of White Guilt?
Did Columbus do good? Hell no. Would we be here without him? Hell no.
We’ve got this conundrum of a relatively undesirable situation, but one that is necessary for progress. One of the biggest pieces of history that is ommited from what you’ve learned about Columbus is that he did CrossFit, and used ShakeWeights, BOSU Balls, did Zumba, etc. In the modern sense, our old pal Cristoforo Colombo is a slave to the latest fitness trends and gimics. The world would is a better place because of Christopher Columbus, but the lives of the people he met in Hispaniola are not. In the fitness world, we have a similar situation, just with less murder and pillaging.
If you’re head-over-heels in love with a certain program, I’m not going to convince you that it sucks; It’s just the same as any relationship, right? Everyone’s significant other is awesome until they break up. Then, flaws galore! Thing is, very few people like hearing that their significant other/exercise program sucks, in the same way that it’s not exactly fun to talk about Columbus slaughtering the people he met for their gold. On a broader timeline, good things came of it; that’s how I feel about many of the fitness trends out there.
Sure, there are many that suck, and I’m not keen on saying that “Anything is better than nothing”, but I do enjoy that there are loads of people out there busting their asses doing stuff that isn’t very effective, or efficient, or practical, or safe. Just like time has helped clear our view of Columbus, time will help clear your view of the exercise program you’re using today.
Exercise programs like P90X and CrossFit continue to grow in popularity despite questionable safety and effectiveness. Interestingly though, many of the people that use them will tell you that they’re the greatest program in the history of the world, and that everyone and their family should be doing them. Despite any evidence to the contrary, such as this, they seem to become more passionately enthralled in whatever it is that they love. The following helps to explain this phenomenon:
“You have to be careful when you correct misinformation that you don’t inadvertently strengthen it,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth and one of the paper’s authors. “If the issues go to the heart of people’s deeply held world views, they become more entrenched in their opinions if you try to update their thinking.”
Whenever I hear Mike Boyle’s Evolution of a Strength Coach idea, I like to apply the idea to most people that exercise, not just coaches (or trainers.) According to Coach Boyle, strength coaches go through 4 stages:
- Stage 1- The Bodybuilder.
- Stage 2- The Powerlifter
- Stage 3- The Injured Powerlifter.
- Stage 4- The Functional Training Guy.
When I adapt this to include exercise enthusiasts and lay people, it looks like this:
- Stage 1- The Nervous Beginner.
- Stage 2- The Die-Hard
- Stage 3- The Injured or No Results Die-Hard.
- Stage 4- The Functional Training Guy.
Everyone starts in Stage 1, and has no idea what they’re doing. As a personal example, I used to do bicep curls on a BOSU ball for my core. I’m not making that up; it’s why I tackle people when I see them doing the same thing. To save them from making my mistakes. As you progress into Stage 2, you’ve already fallen for what your doing, and will defend it in an argument against anything, up to and including the PBS budget. After a while, something goes wrong; maybe you get an injury. Maybe you aren’t seeing the results that you want. You may consider this being disillusioned; I like to think of it as being re-illusioned. You’re frustrated, and/or hurt, and you do one of two things. You totally quit what you’re doing, which means your evolution ends, or you progress to Stage 4, where you adopt a well-rounded program that addresses your physiological and psychological needs. Let’s call that Functional Training.
When you get to Stage 4, you look back and say, “Wow, what the hell was I doing in Stage 2.” That is your Christopher Columbus phase, when you were just running around searching for gold, using your sword to cut the heads off of reputable sources rather than asking nicely. This is the world of bro-science, of making up physiology as you go. After a while, you’re tired, or hurt, and you realize that there might be something better out there.
Could you do it without the willy-nilly nonsense? Sure. Would you be better off if you went straight from Stage 1 to Stage 4? Obviously. Would you have the same journey? Probably not. You know what the best part is? You’re always in Stages, 2, 3, and 4. You’ll always have the opportunity to look back at any given program and say, “This is what worked, this is what didn’t work.” You should also be confident enough in your current program that you can train with a purpose. If you’re somewhere in between, you’re in Stage 3. You’re disillusioned. Let’s become reillusioned together.
I’d like to help you skip the blind faith of Stage 2, and the disheartening misery of Step 3. You should not be so enamored with a program that you don’t see results, or that you become injured. That’s just crazy talk. If you’re in stage 1, 2, or 3, shoot me an e-mail or drop a comment below, and we can talk about how to get you to Stage 4. It’s 2012, not 1492; We’ve come a long way in the last 520 years. Our exercise should reflect that.