The Gap Between the World, the Gym, and the Words We Use

Some gyms pride themselves on providing “real-world fitness”. The things done in here will help improve life out there, so please give us your money and you will be able to run, jump, push, pull, lift, and carry things in your every day life with ease and ability.

But there are some problems here.

The definition of “functional fitness” is currently so vague that it can mean anything from CrossFit because of “functional movement across broad time and modal domains” to one-leg -on-a-Bosu ball Powell raises that build “functional stability” to spinning around in circles with Indian clubs reclaiming “functional patterns” to powerlifting because being strong means “harder to kill and generally more useful”.

And the divide between the work that is done in the gym and the things that are required in life is widening. There are no barbells in nature but in the gym it is the primary tool. Athletes flail around on rings for years trying to “get” a muscle-up. Heavy things without symmetrically designated places to grip, hold, or carry are seldom found and even called “odd objects”, though they fit the description of almost any object one would need to pick up and move in the outside world. And after 32 years on this planet I still have yet to encounter in real-life that resembles anything close to the intensity and movement of 45 thrusters and butterfly pullups for time.

Sprinkle into the mix a large serving of the attitude among non-professional athletes that training to be good “at a sport” improves their health and that being hurt, injured, or dysfunctionally sore is a sign of good training or “just a part of life”.

Are there benefits to barbells, high skill gymnastic movement, and puking your guts out post workout (every once and a while)? YES.

But if our claim to fame is directly improving real-world fitness,  maybe it’s time to reevaluate the words we use to describe the things we do to see if we’re telling the truth.

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