Define Your Terms

“You want to start working out. Great. Why? Health and fitness? Good. What’s that? Low body fat and a high vertical jump? Great. Have you always thought these associate with health and fitness? No? So why now?”

It’s quite the dilemma, using precise language for an imprecise and moving target. However, I think it is (sometimes) this ambiguity that leads to the falling off of a path toward health and fitness.

Be Aware of the Phantom

First, let me warn you about the phantom. I’m not talking about Billy Zane, but rather the phantom of the social psychology standard:

A phantom object is ‘an unavailable goal that looks real and possible; it looks as if it might be obtained with just the right effort, just the right belief, or just the right amount of money, but in reality it can’t be obtained’ (Pratkanis & Farquhar, 1992; Pratkanis, 1995).

So at the risk of sounding contradictory, that ideal self you’ve set up for your soft determinist mythology is impossible. Absolutely. Totally. Impossible. Frankly, that’s not a bad thing unless you have exceedingly high perfectionist tendencies (if so, you should find a blog that tells you that you’re different and can achieve this phantom with harder work. Go on. Get.)

In the meantime, my point here is that while you want an ideal to steer the ship, understand that it’s an impossible dream to fully achieve. You’ll (likely) end up better for your efforts and have achieved many of your goals, but you won’t reach that ideal. Fortunately, the articulation of this phantom only exists in your head: everyone can’t see the exceeding detail of the phantom and, when you fail to reach it, they really won’t care nor experience the gravity of your disappointment. They have more important things to deal with…like their own silly illusory fantasies.

Finding “Fitness”

So now that you’ve tempered your Type-A enthusiasm, what now? Well, that depends. You want to be stronger? You’re going to have to lift weights or take on bodyweight training. You want to have better metabolic conditioning? Short rest training, sprints, bike, basketball…they all work. You want to run a marathon? I will drive beside you. What I’m not asking is for you to create a concrete life-long idea for what fitness is. That reeks of training-cult, “The One Way” behavior (I know this: I started as a Superslow-only trainer). I hope that your goals change as you grow but those goals should:

  1. Rest on a strong foundation, the “bare minimums” if you will.
  2. Be integral.

By integral I mean that there are different facets/areas/realms of fitness. What I’m not saying is that you have to be an Olympic decathlon at working out (as my image above indicates) but rather that you understand that fitness is more than just Weight training, just metabolic conditioning, just mobility…they’re all there, they all exist. By nature of body type differentiation you will specialize, but you shouldn’t ignore everything else.


So knowing that you have all of these aspects of fitness and specializing in a couple, do you have to choose one activity and stick with it? No. I point this out as there are many individuals who are hyper OCD about running. They “have” to run to get their cardio and that’s bullshit. If you like running, fine. If you get tired of running, switch to something else under the metabolic conditioning “context umbrella.” That’s the thing: every category is a context umbrella and then content is expansive. You’ll find something you can do and improve or change to if you become bored.

Terms Defined

The path you’ll take to fitness will be your own, but by defining what you want up front, recognizing weak spots as you go, and not getting married to any one methodology your “health care” will be progressive and life-long. So use the future mythology to create an inspiration but understand you won’t get there. However, where you do get will be much more fulfilling and meaningful.

There are many paths up the mountain…choose one.

3 thoughts on “Define Your Terms

  1. Excellent essay, Skyler.

    We all have to start somewhere; somewhere small.

    My-thology, ‘m=1’, is simply venture capital for overcoming self-experimentation, ‘n=1’, inertia and for gathering momentum from time-to-time.

    Your ‘n=1’ tinkering experience then feeds back on your ‘m=1’ mythologizing context, and the path up the mountain diverges and converges in fascinating ways.

    All the way, though, as long as you are committed to working your way up the mountain, the path is both fulfilling and meaningful, however it meanders along the way.



    1. Thanks Brent,

      Isn’t the divergence great? I found inspiration to write this as a followup due information gathered from a class I’m taking and from client feedback. I keep reminding clients who aren’t used to the fact that this takes practice that it’s not a clear path.


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