In the past day, TV covered the two extreme ends of the exercise and fitness spectrum. First, the World Strongest Man Contest from South Africa, in which humongous guys (bigger than NFL lineman, with lats so developed their arms lifted away from their sides) dead lifted cars and carried 250 lb. kegs over twenty yards of 6 inch sand. Brutal! And, second, the U.S. Marathon Trials in Houston, in which skinny ectomorphs ran and ran and ran. The announcer spoke of a 5:50/mile pace for the runner in third toward the end of the race. Damn fast after already running twenty miles!
The winners in these events are at the top of their games. They had proof: who lifted the most weight, who had the fastest time on the clock. Genetics, training, diet, and coaching paid off for them.
Of course, they are only good at their game. The strongest men could not even run a 10K at a 10 min/mile pace because they are so heavy and muscle bound, and the marathoners would be lucky to dead-lift 250 lbs because they are almost muscle-less. At the very level top of any sport, the winners train for mastery of specific motor skills.
My son emailed me the link to an article in Men's Journal in which the writer, a recreational surfer and rock climber, lashed out at the fitness industry - expensive machines, long term contracts, mediocre trainers, faddishness, wall-mounted televisions, and one-size-fits-all exercise regimens. He was lost and bitter in the fitness maze, doing lots of different exercises and, unlike the strongest men and marathoners, not getting better at anything in particular. He realized the problems were not just with the fitness industry, but also himself because "vague goals beget vague methods."
Then he had a personal exercise enlightenment at a minimalist, no-nonsense training facility in Jackson, Wyoming, operated by a what sounds like a re-incarnated Spartan warrior. No wimpy exercise machines at 25 reps. No dweeby trainers in golf shirts. This place trains people in special ops. Here's the demanding, ultimate weight lifting goal for exercisers there:
To Front Squat 1.5x your body weight
To Dead Lift 2.0x your body weight
To Bench Press 1.5x your body weight
Up in Wyoming, Daniel Duane discovered the enormous physical rewards for getting down to weight training basics: "True sport-specific training, for literally everybody except elite athletes, isn’t sport-specific at all. It’s about getting strong, durable, and relentless in simple, old-school ways that a man can train, test, and measure." For him, they were squats, dead lifts, and bench presses.
He discovered how important it is to have measurable goals. They provide him direction and purpose. He found his fitness game.