How does our new Get-Fit Guy look at fitness?
This week, we’re introducing Kevin Don, the new Get-Fit Guy, and answering an all-important question: what exactly is fitness, anyway?
Get-Fit Guy is hosted by Kevin Don. A transcript is available at Simplecast.
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My name is Kevin Don, and I couldn’t be more excited to be the new host of Get-Fit Guy! I’d love to take this opportunity to introduce myself and to define what being fit means, so that we can all look forward to what to expect from my time sharing fitness tips with you.
As you can probably hear from my accent, I am indeed from Scotland, although I went to elementary and middle school in Kenya and spent most of my adult life in Hong Kong, with some stays in Abu Dhabi, Arizona, Iceland, and Oman.
My own training background was firstly in martial arts. I started with wrestling when I was 5 years old and moved to karate at age 12. I trained and competed in a very “hard” style of karate called Kyokushinkai, which is full contact, and I was the Hong Kong Full Contact Karate Champion in 2012 and represented Hong Kong at the Asian Championships.
Because Kyokushinkai has no weight divisions, it was an advantage to be as strong as possible, so I was heavily involved in strength, speed, and power development. To this end, I ran the strength and conditioning facilities in a world-class mixed martial arts gym, with many world champions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Muay Thai training there as well as some current and past movie stars, Olympians, and UFC fighters.
In late 2012, I began to leave Hong Kong for 3 months at a time for training camps in America, where I learned from and trained alongside the greatest coaches and athletes in the world. From these champions, I learned a lot about training. But they also helped me formulate my ideas about fitness for what we call the general population, versus fitness for athletes.
From 2014 to 2020, I travelled to 18 countries and 16 U.S. states delivering seminars on strength training and fitness program design to 253 gyms and thousands of coaches and athletes. I also created a coaches certification course on strength for the world’s leading fitness education provider.
All of this is to say that this experience has given me a broad base of knowledge, and I hope that I’ll be able to pass on useful and actionable information to you for many episodes to come. I’m really looking forward to getting to read your emails and learn what you want to know from me and being in contact with all of you listeners.
To set the scene for what I think about fitness overall, I thought a good place to start would be with a quote from a coach I admire, Gray Cook. He says: “If movement is dysfunctional, then all things built on that dysfunction may be flawed, compromised, or predisposed to risk… even if it is disguised as acceptable levels of performance.”
In other words, we need to learn how to move our bodies to minimize risk. Another good way to say this is “motion is lotion.”
Athletes are not always the gold standard that we should look up to. Athletes move in a performance setting and may not, in fact, move well. And most of us are not highly-paid, high-performing athletes! (Though if you are, do write in.). Whilst it’s possible to take our little family car to the race track, it won’t be long before bits start to fall off.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be inspired by the feats of extraordinary humans, but when it comes to our own markers of fitness, we should look to health and not performance. We should care more about durability and longevity and less about intensity.
So what is “fitness”? According to the Macmillan dictionary, it is “the state of being physically healthy and strong.” Pretty concise! Nothing in there about having a bikini body or the biceps of an Avenger. The state of being physically healthy and strong. Physical health, of course, being the absence of illness or injury.
So this is exactly what I will be centering this podcast around. Giving compelling reasons why health—and not performance—is fitness and how best we can go about respecting our individual journeys towards that goal.
“Respecting our individual journeys”... This is a key point because fitness and health is very subjective. That is, where we are on a spectrum of sickness to wellness is unique. , we should all have totally unique prescriptions to help us move along the spectrum. So my goal will also be to arm listeners with information which can be used to help them make informed training and fitness choices rather than making black-and-white recommendations.
Equality is a very powerful word in modern society, but in some situations, equality isn’t what we need. In a fitness scenario, equality would look something like giving everyone the same training program to do. This being in spite of biological age, training age, injury, gender, or training intent. The needs of either the many or the few may or may not be met, because we have no data.
Equity is what we should be pushing for. This is where every person gets what they need to help them on their own unique journey. The best way for me to help this way will be to explain fitness and wellness protocols from a totally objective viewpoint and create compelling reasons for why fitness is more about being disease and injury free than it is about looking like a cover model.
For this week and our first learning, I think coming back to the idea that movement is function and lack of good movement is dysfunction would be a great place to start. What is good movement? Well, it is broadly accepted that there are several different movement patterns as well as ‘degrees of freedom’ within which we can express them.
The movement patterns are:
Core: Generally, core conjures up images of abdominal muscles, but the core really is the whole torso, shoulder to hip. We should be strong flexing, extending and rotating our torso, as well as resisting against being flexed, extended, or rotated and holding a strong, static hold (what we call an isometric contraction).
Squat: Whilst very primal and natural—sitting down, going to the bathroom, etc.—squatting is actually quite complex because it involves so many muscles and joints.
Lunge: Another low body movement, this one has more instability and challenges your balance to a greater degree due to the split stance.
Pull: Exactly what it sounds like, you pull yourself towards an object or an object towards yourself.
Push: The opposing movement of the pull, you either push yourself away from an object or push an object away from you.
Hinge/Bend: Bending at the hip so that you can pick something up off the floor. You send the hips back and bend over with a neutral spine to pick an obect up or lower an object to the floor
You can measure each of those movement patterns along 6 degrees of freedom:
Surge: Moving backwards and forwards.
Swaying: Moving left to right.
Lift: Moving up and down.
Pitch, roll and yaw: Three rotations around surge, sway, and lift.
In terms of fitness and movement, it would be healthy and admirable to have some degree of mastery or at least control of all of these in order to fully immerse ourselves in the the environment and therefore, our human experience.
If we can’t squat down and stand up, using the bathroom or sitting down and getting up from our favorite armchair may be challenging. If we can’t lunge and be stable with one foot out in front of the other, walking could become a dangerous prospect in terms of stumbling and not being able to recover the situation. Likewise, we want to be able to move around our houses, our workplaces, and out enjoying life with our families, friends, or pets by immersing ourselves in the different degrees of freedom. If we can’t move left and right or turn around, we will be bumping around the place like an automated vacuum cleaner.
There are many ways we can assess our abilities in these movement patterns and degrees of freedom, and that will help us be able to devise a plan of attack to fill in the “movement gaps.” Keep following the podcast because very soon we will be talking about how to find out your individual capacity and how to go about improving your degrees of freedom!