Hey friends, in the next 6 minutes I’m going to tell you about how I’m not a car guy, but why cars could be the perfect metaphor for modern fitness culture. To help convey the points I’ll make today, I decided to record this from the backseat of my Hyundai Tuscon, just because.
Let me start by telling you that I don’t identify as a person who’s into cars. For the longest time my dream car was a Subaru Outback, and if you asked me to choose a dream car today, it would be the new Subaru Ascent, mostly because it can hold more gear. If you really pushed me, I’d splurge on the Rivian pick up truck mostly because I love the idea of throwing a mountain bike over the tailgate. The Ford Raptor is awesome, but electric is the future. I’m not a car guy, but…
When I graduated from high school I could recognize the two-tier wing that Vin Diesel’s crew of Civics made popular in the original Fast and the Furious, and I like the new Supra mostly because I love every car that Paul Walker drove… except for the Porsche.
I’m not really into high-end supercars, or massive trucks, or even tiny coupes. The size and performance extremes of the spectrum that garner all of the attention just don’t appeal to me mostly because I think that function is more important than form, and this is how fitness and cars are similar. I believe that function is more important than form and that in modern fitness culture, there are two unique ways in which people could improve their decision-making process.
The first is that we’re often choosing exercises based on what they look like. Exercises are now considered by the internet to look “cool”, “fun”, or “hard” and chosen based on that appeal, rather than based on how an exercise can change your body. This is basically the same as getting a tiny sports car when you have a family of 5, or a massive pick-up truck to use for commuting to your desk job. You may think that it looks cool, but you don’t have a legitimate need for it.
When it comes to fitness, it’s important that you choose your training program like you’d choose a daily driver, something that’s going to be great for helping you accomplish 90% of the tasks you need to do, rather than being distracted by the outliers of what you might to one day.
Everyone wants the Dodge Viper, but we actually need the Dodge Magnum. If you don’t know, the Magnum was a performance wagon, which is my favorite car category. Station wagons are the most functional thing you can drive because they have plenty of cargo space for grocery runs or a weekend away and they get great gas mileage. In all honesty, the hatchback Prius might be the perfect car for most people.
To quote one of my mentors, Dr. Pat Davidson:
“Training general population clients is like driving Toyota Corollas. Don’t make them go too fast. Don’t jump them. Just drive them normal and they’ll go forever. They’re never going to be a Lambo or a rally car, so stop pretending like they will.”
This might sound like Pat’s being disparaging towards general population training, but I don’t think that’s the case. He’s got a Ph.D. in exercise science and is a high-level competitor in the sport of Strongman, so he has intimate knowledge of how that style of training can improve performance but also compromise quality of life.
Athletes, and cars, that are performing at high levels require a deceptive amount of recovery work to be ready for the next bout of high-intensity effort. NHRA dragsters get complete rebuilds between races, and professional athletes have massage therapists on-call. There are a lot of people who want to train like they’re pro athletes, but they don’t have the means to recover like they’re pro athletes. If you don’t have that type of support structure, maybe don’t train like the pros.
To conclude this point, remember that instead of choosing an exercise program, or a car, because it looks cool, we should instead be weighing the pros and cons of what the program does for us.
Now, let’s move on to the 2nd biggest mistake people make in fitness, which is choosing the wrong exercises. We often put our well-intended energy into exercises that don’t provide the best bang-for-our-buck.
The focus is on the quick-fix aesthetics of our bodies, rather than doing the admittedly harder work of becoming more capable for the tasks at hand. Instead of developing the ability to perform better, which takes dedicated strength or cardio training over months and years, we focus on quick fixes like rapid fat loss in a few days or getting a pump before going out.
Please know, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with dieting to lose fat, or finishing your workout with an arm-farm: My point is that we too often focus on what our bodies look like they’re capable of rather than improving what they’re actually capable of.
Take a trip down memory lane and think about your high school parking lot. Maybe you or a friend had a ‘93 Honda Civic that squeals when you start it in the cold and vibrates when you hit 50mph. Rather than addressing that squealing sound or a wheel that’s not properly aligned, we choose to focus on what’s the easiest, like trying to put bigger rims and a racing stripe on a ride that’s not performing very well.
No, you can’t really tell what a body or car is capable of at rest, but starting with aesthetics won’t actually get you as far as a long-term focus on performance. If the human body relates to a car, I’d rather be delighted by a sleeper build then bummed that someone splurged on a body kit without any performance mods. YES, most people start exercising because they want to see an aesthetic change in their body, but I don’t think that’s what keeps people exercising. I can summarize the proceeding eleven hundred words in just six:
Focus on Function, and Prioritize Performance.
Is it going to help you do the things that are most important for you, and will it help you do them well? Focus on Function, and Prioritize Performance. Do that, and you’ll be far more likely to succeed in choosing the right fitness program, and the right car!
Alright friends, that’s it for this episode of HGTV – Thanks for joining me! If you’ve got comments or questions please leave them below. I can certainly help you out if they’re related to fitness, but I might not be so much help with the car content. As always, if you’d like to read this piece, you can watch it on Instagram here: