A few things in life are certain: death, taxes, cardio (I suppose diets fit here also, but we're not talking nutrition for another few weeks) and Uber.
Eventually, you and I will die.
Every year around this time, we also have to pay our taxes (or hopefully get a refund!).
If you ever visit or live in an urban or metro area (even suburban areas now!), you will almost certainly ride in an Uber, even if like me, you have never personally downloaded the app and called for a ride.
And at some point, you have and/or will try using cardio to lose weight.
By now, millions of people have tried the phenomenon that is "cardio for weight loss." Calories out versus calories in. Burn more than you eat. Move more, eat less. Eat this, not that. I'll plug my ears now before another weight loss buzzword or catchphrase comes out.
Don't even get me started on who is trying to tell us to lose weight (everyone, except old-school Jewish and Italian mothers worried about us not eating enough, haha).
Vanity has been an increasingly great promoter for the health and wellness industry over the past handful of decades. I fully appreciate that.
People should desire to look good, to put forward their best selves, I believe. A healthy interior of your body looks especially good on the outside. To paraphrase Deion Sanders' famous quote, "Look good, play well. Play well, get paid well." While I'm not into high-fashion, I do believe the best accessory to any outfit is a great body. Nothing can beat that. If you look good naked, how can you not look good clothed?
Well, despite anti-discrimination laws in hiring, is it not fair to say that good-looking people get further by leveraging this as a skill? Just look at social media. Fitness (or any) person looks good, is also hawking a product that, if you buy via their link, they get a cut of the proceeds. Cool.
However, is this really what capitalism has been reduced to? An impulsive consumerism? I believe the pendulum has already started to swing back in the other direction. For example, Amazon, less than a decade after making Borders stores extinct and pushing Barnes and Nobles towards extinction, is now opening storefronts for various reasons?!
Brick-and-mortar retail is dying, in a way. All along the streets of New York, commercial real estate locations are becoming available, but do not seem to be taken up. Even in SoHo, stores that were around for decades are closing their doors and putting up signs in the windows to go to their websites. Same goes for First and Second Avenues. Even Madison Avenue is not immune to this, as evidenced by "everything-must-go" sales on the street associated in name with shopping.
I was chatting with a family friend last week about this exact topic. He has owned and operated a marketing production company for over 30 years. His professional take on this situation is that recognizable brands that sell physical goods are looking to simultaneously increase their reach and lower costs by going online. This, he believes, is that natural course of things, and is probably a good thing. On the other hand, companies who do not yet have a mass-level recognition resort to a combination of increasing brand awareness online and in-person stores (the old school way). In other words, they are trying to become the widely recognized brands that CAN sell online in high volumes.
This friend also brought up the point that, while the strategy of shifting emphasis in sales to online may benefit companies who sell goods, it will not work the same way for service-based entities. I happened to like hearing this from him, because I work primarily in services, and I prefer living in the "real world" to the one online.
To me, it appears only banks, major coffee chains, large retail chains (like Apple and Nike), real estate and consulting firms can seem to afford commercial space here anymore. The phenomenon of NYC Mom-and-Pop stores shuttering and being replaced by the aforementioned outposts has been well documented over the past decade.
Every street in New York already has a coffee shop, a gym, a dry cleaners, and some sort of organic food shop selling avocado toast and platters (a protein and two sides) for $12. Even grocery stores like Food Emporium are starting to sell and close as Fresh Direct, PeaPod and delivery from brick-and-mortar storefronts such as Whole Foods becomes more common.
What else is left?
[Side note: A phenomenon I have noticed since moving to New York nearly 6 years ago: It is very "city" of people to outsource things that are nonessential to their main business operations. Most everyone in this town is "about their business." Everything else must eventually be outsourced in a step-wise manner, hence my current occupation. People outsource their fitness and some health-related thinking to me!]
Moreover, what does this have to do with fitness?
Well, tax season makes me reflect (okay, a lot of things make me reflect) on where things have changed since this time last year. A client of mine gave me this piece of advice a couple of years ago. Advice he received from his father.
"If you're getting money back on your tax return, you're earning too little."
There's further incentive to earn more, if it was ever needed.
Businesses that turn profits have to pay taxes on the profit. If the company is a partnership, then the partners pay taxes when they are paid, whether via payroll or as a profit.
But what about those companies that are operating at a loss? This is where we come to Uber. We were out to dinner with some friends a couple of weeks ago One of the couples came in from Hoboken and was telling us just how significantly cheaper it was to ride over in an Uber than a standard taxi. How is this possible?!
It is no secret that Uber is losing money as part of the design to gain an increasing number of loyal customers, which has become a tech way-of-life. Gain users, figure out what to do with them later. Minimally viable product. Startup Owner's Manual. Everyone wants to be the next Apple, Google, Microsoft by following this blueprint. But that level of company growth and impact is an extreme rarity. It appears the people backing this company believe in it enough (or want it enough?) to be okay with its suspended growth.
If we think about it, though, everyone on the planet is technically "operating at a loss." Every dollar ever made was first borrowed from a bank. So, what we are placing value on with our money is energy, effort. Before cash was a thing, gold and silver were dug from the ground and traded. And before that, we only had the material wealth with which the Earth originally provided us. Trading beaver skins for meat and veggies, and whatnot. I still believe that land ownership and hard physical goods such as farmland are the best investments, but we do have a nice wealth creation system that works around that to provide people with other opportunities. All I ask is that we not forget from whence we came.
It drove me nuts a few years ago to discover that Under Armour (over-)paid $400 Million to acquire MyFitnessPal and, especially, the information of its users. In my previous clinic, over four years, I only had three clients who tracked their diets even remotely closely using this app. I personally believe that nutrition does not live in any app or cloud; it must be automated and made intuitive within the person. Health occurs within people!
I can only think of five logical reasons for Under Armour making this purchase:
1. Out of fear - everyone riding the tech wave. Get on, or be left behind. Be decisive.
2. MyFitnessPal did some really good wool-pulling.
3. Under Armour really wanted the info and access to the users for things like direct advertising.
4. Under Armour had some serious cash burning holes in its pockets.
5. Perhaps a combination of the above?
Anyone who reads digital marketing articles or seeks advice for their business is now bombarded with ways to "learn more about their customer base" and "get to know their customers better." Think about that for a moment.
Now, I'm from a small town. When I wanted to buy a surfboard, I went to the local shop and talked to Mike and Sue. Super nice people. I trusted them because I had seen them surf enough to know they were good and knew what they were doing. They also taught surf lessons, so I knew they had a feel for the relationships between other people and their surfboards. Also, I had surfed with their sons who were very good and could provide additional guidance. So, I was very happy with my expensive purchase.
But now marketing seems like a sociopathic game in order for everyone to increase their scope (read: profits) and audience. I do not believe it is the destiny of every company to increase its reach to "everyone." Who's your target demographic? No, it is NOT "everybody." Grow up.
It reminds me of the point in Bill Madison where Billy starts talking about "The Puppy Who Lost His Way."
We have taken to recent technological advances so quickly for their benefits such as increased speed of informational exchange that we have yet to fully assess the negative trade-offs and then decide what to do with them.
Like Jeffrey from Family Circus making his neighborhood rounds, we should have known the proper assimilation of scope for modern technologies would not be a straightforward process. However, I'll bet Jeffrey gets in his 10,000 steps a day!
Again, what does any of this have to do with fitness, cardio and weight loss? Everything, actually.
We listen to half-assed advice and go to our goals indirectly instead of pausing to listen to ourselves, know ourselves and simply go directly towards that which we desire. For example, people spend upwards of $30 Billion annually on supplements, and I'll wager at least 50% of it is bullshit. More on supplements when we reach "Micronutrients" in our Performance Pyramid. We'll be taking a wrecking ball to that topic.
See, the answer for weight loss and cardio is really simple. As said before in the "Tapas" article, the type of cardiovascular exercise you ought to be doing is the one that you will do. There is no replacement for intrinsic motivation. Aside from weddings and major life events, you will never be able to keep up a level of extrinsic motivation to stay on top of your physical game. This statement comes from experience.
Even professional athletes who are paid handsomely to be in excellent physical condition can falter from time to time. Such is being a human.
Speaking of pro athletes, let's bring up another weight-loss analogy. Weight loss isn't something you "do," any more than a team can "do" winning a championship. One can visualize what it might feel like to hold a championship trophy, but you still have to execute in an excellent manner on a consistent basis before that happens.
While championship seasons or tournaments often have a handful of defining or "signature" moments, it is the aggregation of everything from the season and/or tournament that makes the team/individual successful.
When interviewed, whether win or lose, players and coaches don't say, "We won (or lost) because we had more (or fewer) points than the other team." They talk about the game plan and execution. This is how we ought to view cardio and weight loss.
If you have a game plan that you can visualize actually executing, then you have a great chance of succeeding. If you're just "winging it," then I hope you're a bird.
Seriously, though, we ought to think of weight loss and other fitness-related endeavors just like business or sports, or anything else in life:
1. It isn't black-and white.
2. There are seasons. Pace yourself
3. Even if you won the championship (hit your goals) this year, there is still next season for which to prepare.
4. Enjoy the journey!
This is a general guide.
The specifics come from your individual needs - goals for a year or two from now, pulled back to where you are today (read: assessment). Perhaps you need some help defining what your goals or general direction might be.
Here's a story that can help.
Surfing is what keeps me going in fitness. My freshman year of college was 2005. For those of us in Miami, that meant Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
I wasn't always a morning person. In 2005, my lazy ass was sleeping in until 10 minutes before class. I would chug a glass of water, brush my teeth, and skateboard to class (this was before I learned what I now know about nutrition, and well, life). Second week of class, I hit a rock skateboarding to class and flew off of it, broke my forearm. First semester of college! My grades were perfect that semester, but I was going crazy without exercise. I would go to the gym to cycle and use the leg machines.
Then Wilma hit. South Beach was firing - the waves were amazing. Check out the video of surf pro Chris Ward having an amazing time:
The sandbar at South Beach is really fun and can be challenging on the handful of days each year that waves actually break there. While living down there, I would even joke that, if I were ever a trillionaire, I would buy the Bahamas, demo them and dig them out to smooth out the bottom of the ocean there, then move to South Beach and watch the waves roll in (caution, I haven't done all of the topographic math on this yet, it's just a silly dream. Getting rid of the Bahamas could potentially sink South Beach, or leave it really exposed to severe storms. Plus, it's just plain mean).
Anyway, I was unable to surf during Wilma because I was still rehabbing my broken arm. It was then that I decided to never be in such a physical position again if I could help it. Also put on hold were my dreams of walking on to the University of Miami football team in the spring; I would never put on enough muscle in that short time, so I guess life told me to use my brain, not my body, in my profession. And now we are here.
If I had it my way, I would just surf all the time for my fitness. I would still likely need to do yoga and some strength or power training to stay physically balanced and for overall health, though.
Somehow, though, life has taken a different course. So I stay in shape for surfing, in the event that I can ever go at the drop of a hat.
Now, if you do not have a particular activity of interest that you love they way I love surfing, that's totally cool. We are all unique. But maybe there is something you have considered trying before, but do not currently feel comfortable doing given your fitness level. This is where having good, overall fitness comes in. It leaves you freer to enjoy the various activities life has to offer. This is my goal for everyone who works with me. You do not have to aspire to be a high-level athlete of any sort. But, it sure helps to be afforded the levels of spontaneity that comes with a high level of fitness.
Excellent Fitness Equals Excellent Quality of Living
You never know when the family is going to decide (perhaps on short notice) to go on a vacation that involves hiking an historic mountain, going skiing or kayaking. Even a Saturday trek through New York City can be treacherous! More in that in a later article when we get to Proprioception.
Next time around, we will get into a few more cardio and fitness myths that need to be replaced with some common sense, and then we will move on the Flexibility Training to round out the physical activity portion of our Performance Pyramid.
For now, though, this article should have plenty of ideas to get you moving.
I've been incredibly busy of late, and am grateful for that. Some dreams of mine are coming true, so I am happy to share those details with you in the near future. For now, though, we are going to shift these posts from every week to every two weeks or so. The blueprint is there in the Performance Pyramid if you want to do some self-educating in the interim, but I'll be back in two weeks with a new post.
Once again, this is food for thought; you do the dishes.