It’s Not About Exercise

I’m writing this from an airplane that’s traveling at 601mph and 35,746 feet over Nebraska.  My girlfriend Katie is sleeping on my shoulder, and we’re flying from her sister’s wedding reception in Los Angeles back to our home in New York.

When I say our “home” in New York, I really should say we’re going to Mark Fisher Fitness.  Katie and I both work at MFF and we owe a great debt of gratitude to the magic that’s been created there. MFF is where we met, became best friends, and fell in love.  MFF has provided us the opportunity to work incredibly hard on things that are important to us.  When we leave MFF tonight, we’ll go home to our new apartment in Harlem.  I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in the past three years of my life.

When I joined the team at MFF, my identity was challenged.  It’s a fantastic, incredible team, but my knack for sarcasm and dark cynicism didn’t feel quite as at home there.  The culture at MFF is woven with a fabric of unconditional positive regard, one that is naturally resistant to the dark cynicism that’s felt like a part of my identity.

In 2011 I started, and it was about strictly about evidence-based fitness.  I started writing as a student, before I had a degree or had any experience training others.  I wrote about what I was learning in my classes, how I was experiencing that material in the real world, or my realization that what’s taught in a classroom isn’t always indicative of what happens in the real world.

Most of what I wrote about was about things that wouldn’t work well.  I was a disproved of fitness fads, an eliminator of hype.  I’ve always fashioned myself a scientist and a skeptic, and I’ve much preferred a journal citation to any anecdotal evidence.  I don’t care if you think that something will work, damnit, I want proof!


In recent years, I’ve felt disconnected from that identity.  It hasn’t felt as much like me as it has in the past.  Something has changed within me, something is not the same.  I still love fitness.  I still love science.  I love getting better, and my focus since I’ve been at MFF has been getting better at getting better.

If that sounds way too meta for you, I’ll temper it with this: I don’t want to be the self-righteous fitness douchebag.  There are things that are more important than fitness.  There is more to life than squats, sets, reps, what your stomach looks like, or if your posture is stressing you out.

Health is important.  Fitness is important. But It’s not the most important – quality of life is.  My question is no longer, “What are you doing to take care of your health and fitness?” Now I ask, “How can we better take care of ourselves?”

Fitness will always be part of that answer, and I hold it on one of the most powerful tools we have to rapidly increase our quality of life.  As such, I’ll continue to write about a whole helluva lot of health and fitness.  The viewpoint for that conversation has changed, and it’s not about fitness just for the sake of it.  Now we’re looking through this lens:

What if we examine exercise as an empowering tool to enrich the quality of our lives?

Quality of life can sometimes be about putting living over fitness. It’s meant knowing that sometimes you should stay up late, or skip a workout, or drink a glass of wine, or eat In-N-Out Burger when you’re in LA.  I didn’t grow up with a double double animal style, and it’s the greatest burger of all time.

How’s this for meta: How can you help others work to get better if you aren’t actively working to get better?  Personally, getting better has meant that I’ve been focusing on some things other than writing recently.  I’ve been coaching my pants off at MFF, coordinating our program-design team, our new internship program, and hosting our third Motivation and Movement LAB at MFF in October.  Each of these projects and roles helps me connect with people, and share the tools that will help them change more lives, starting with their own.

It’s also meant making a home with my girlfriend, assuming the role of Chief Laundry-Doer, taker-outer of garbage and recycling, and coffee man.

It’s meant taking time to learn more about who I am.  I’m learning more about what makes me authentically me.  It means that somedays I feel stronger while rock climbing than doing chin-ups, or I get more of a rush riding my bike than I do swinging a kettlebell.  It’s realizing that I feel the best when the people around me feel their best, and that I can live my best life by sharing it with others.

It means that I’m more aware than ever about how our politics can both unite and alienate us, and my belief that it’s our responsibility to share and discuss issues that may be uncomfortable or polarizing.  In the wake of the presidential election, I’m nervous that we’ll see both social and political change that compromises the rights and equality of all Americans.  These conversations are not going to be the most comfortable, but neither is interval training, and we’ve learned to love wind sprints, so let’s get our shit together, America.


If we’re going to live our best lives, let us do so by ensuring that everyone can live their best lives.  Let’s truly look at how we see the world, how we see others, why we interact with each other the way that we do, and live with the spirit of helping everyone live their best life possible.  On I’m not going to focus on the role of exercise and physical activity to live that best life, but I’m not going to shy away from more important issues.

Let’s examine exercise as an empowering tool to enrich the quality of our lives.

That’s my purpose as a coach.  I’m here to help you focus on what’s really important: Living your best life.  We’re now traveling at 609mph and 36,869 feet over Detroit. I look forward to chatting with you soon.

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