The Generalist Method

I’m not sure whether it’s a human thing or a modern society thing, but we seem to be obsessed with labels.  Everybody has to be a ‘thing’, part of a particular group or tribe and you see this more than anywhere when it comes to health and fitness.  You probably think of yourself as a runner, a Crossfitter, a yogi. You might follow a particular diet so your a vegan, or a carnivore, or paleo or whatever.  That’s cool and I appreciate the importance of having these things in your life but what I’d like to explore is why we have to ‘be’ anything at all. Can we take part, join in and enjoy without the label and does it make more sense to be more things all at once?

When it comes to fitness I consider myself a generalist.  I’m not sure that’s really a proper term but it kind of sums up my approach to my own physical health.  I run but I’m not a runner. I do some CrossFit but I’m not a crossfitter. I lift weights but I’m not a bodybuilder.  I do yoga but I’m not a yogi. So what am I and do I have to be anything at all?

Modern life constantly changes and us humans can’t always keep up, that leads to a lot of problems.  Although we do adapt to our surroundings it takes time and I believe that it’s up to us to take control of that adaption.  It’s difficult to see how we can do this if we only train one disiplin. What if the surroundings that we are adapting to don’t suit our needs and should we be limiting adaptation?  

A lot of sports or training plans don’t account for everyday life.  Crossfit is great fun but it doesn’t allow for other interests, try being a runner when your doing crossfit 5 times a week.  A high intensity WOD isn’t ideal if you’ve had a bad nights sleep or are under a lot of stress. What’s the point in being muscular if you can’t move efficiently?  What’s the point of good movement if you’re not strong? Is being flexible with no cardio any healthier than having great cardio and limited flexibility? And when I start talking about stability why do people just start doing crunches?

The idea of the generalist approach is that you become better at a lot of things without being limited by a name or a specialist concept and you keep the body guessing.  That term (keep the body guessing) is mostly used when we talk about doing extra reps or throwing a few new moves in at the gym but I want to think broader than that.

If you think of yourself as a “runner” you will only see the world in terms of running.  It might be a natural human movement but it’s not the only one and your running will improve if you add different aspects of movement to your training.  CrossFit might claim it gives you the levels of fitness to cross over to any sport but it doesn’t train smaller movements like balance or hand eye coordination.  If you only see the world through one lense then your less likely to try other sports anyway. How do you find the time if your getting in for your WOD everyday and trying to balance that with recovery?

I’m not hating on running or CrossFit - I do a bit of both - it’s just an easy example and something I see a lot.  Your body needs different things physically at different times in your life. In my work I see a huge amount of people who are dealing with injury because they are training inappropriately for their needs.  As life changes, your body will change and what you do with it and what you do to it should also be changed when and if needed. If you’re stuck in the mindset of ‘I am this so I can’t do that’ you’re just limiting your physical health.  

Of course do the thing you love, no physical exercise or movement is negative if done properly and for the right reasons, just keep an eye out for attachment.  In all aspects of life unnecessary attachment can lead to problems and attachments to fitness and health are no different.

You should define your movement, not be defined by it.