Science in, science out

The cyber universe is a scary place; theft of personal information, political opinions running unbridled, pornography, what we now call news, and even cyber-bullying in the modern era. All disturbing. I find the internet just as disturbing though, as it relates to fitness and exercise. So many out there know so much it seems. I have been reading lately, a great deal about fitness and exercise from fitness related blogs (sources), as they relate to a variety of fitness practitioners, disciplines, and disciples. Weed through the crap though, and there is some powerful information available – by way of science, I guess.

I have stated for many years that I believe we over complicate fitness with science. That to quantify what can or can’t be accomplished by way of exercise, or in what time frame it can or can’t be achieved, all in the name of information derived from the scientific method, shouldn’t matter quite so much as we let it. Yes, I’m down with the scientific method; run an experiment, duplicate the experiment, review the data, make your conclusion – the method does work. However, I don’t believe that information learned from the scientific method should be the exclusive remedies for many of our fitness decisions – and ambitions. Fitness is much more personal than that.

As mentioned, there is much good information out there; information provided by smart, often brilliant people, trying to make a difference in the lives of others and in the world as a whole – valid information, confirmed with the scientific method. Will that information alone be enough to engage and help change everyone whom it reaches? I question further, in sometimes choosing against the scientific method – in taking a different path than what has been proven in the lab, does that automatically make a fitness choice wrong, as the scientist might suggest? I believe these questions are worthy of consideration. Fitness isn’t cold fusion, and it shouldn’t be linear; defined alone by charts, graphs, percentages, patterns, and probabilities. Fitness is much more malleable, and in my opinion, much more important than that.

Fitness (depending on how it is defined), above everything else, is about getting to know one’s own self in the most intimate way possible; by attempting to master one’s own physicality. The scientific method may provide a good trail, but it may not always provide the proper motivation nor the best reasons to stay on that trail. The best path to mastering one’s self may not necessarily come from an experiment and a data review from within the lab. Rather, a more appropriate path, and result may come from the lab within. That’s where philosophy, attitude, and instinct can not only help, but can sometimes trump the scientific method – so far as reasoning and motivation go – and results often follow.

A few questions relating to your personal fitness worth considering, which fall outside of the scientific method, are as follows:

  1. Do you enjoy doing it?
  2. What is the benefit of that enjoyment?
  3. What is the cost of that enjoyment?
  4. Do your instincts suggest you should not do this?
  5. Do your desires suggest you should do this?
  6. What is the emotional price of not doing it?
  7. What are your priorities?
  8. Where does your motivation come from?

These are just some of the infinite questions you can ask yourself, from the lab within, about your own fitness program – many of which have nothing to do with science.

In my own instance, my first fitness value has nothing to do with losing weight, decreasing bodyfat, lowering blood pressure, looking good, etc. Simply put, my daily cardio, for prolonged periods of time, keeps me sane. It is the methadone that keeps the shakes and shivers of my everyday life at bay. High-intensity, long-duration cardio has proven to be a great mood stabilizer – for me, despite that some data suggests this is a lesser protocol.

In his seminal piece, “case against cardio”, fitness savant Mark Sission (who seems much smarter than I am) suggests, by way of the scientific method, that my way of doing cardio is not only inefficient for me, it is counterproductive. This may be true on one or more technical fronts, but on the ultimate front, the science behind his article is inconsequential to me. The ultimate front for me has nothing to do with bodyfat, stress hormones, imunes system, or complex energy systems. The ultimate reason I do high-intensity, long-duration cardio is that it makes me feel good and I LIKE IT! My intense daily cardio has probably helped keep me from killing more than a few people over the years. Ask any cardio junky who has it taken away from them for a week or longer, just how important that calming affect can be.

My point in a nutshell: There is a lot more than science to be considered when nurturing and developing a personal fitness program, whether it relates to eating, or actions. Part of developing a fitness persona is to also develop a deeper soul and a more broad character, while operating within realistic boundaries. These questions above, in my opinion matter just as much, if not more, than those questions posed and answered by way of the scientific method.

Answering these questions honestly, and shaping your exercise and eating habits around these answers may not be scientific – but who’s to say that they are not valid. Science has it’s place, but fitness can be much more personal than that.  Be well.  rc

5 responses

  1. Excellent thoughts! I’m sure I have considered many of those questions over my years of working to stay fit. In the end, it has often boiled down to just doing it, even as a leap of faith on occasion.

    An “original” saying of mine, evolved over time, is:

    Genius simplifies complexity, and stupid complicates simplicity 🙂

  2. Hi Roy,

    Although Mark Sisson has repeatedly denounced intensive cardio, I believe he also concedes to the need of its place in many people’s lives. “As long as you know…” is the angle. Mark’s role, as I imagine, is to provide the fact so people can make their own decisions, perhaps because it remains probable that more people than not partake in intensive cardio with the assumption that it is the best modality to lose weight and get healthy. It’s not… at least not for the body. But for the mind, yes.

    In my years of training, I have developed the philosophy that it’s not just health and fitness that one ought to chase but the ultimate development of the entire person, which involves the nurturing of the psyche and, if you believe in it, the soul–and if that is achieved partially or wholly through the inclusion of “chronic cardio,” then put on your running shoes. I still occasionally ride my bicycle for several hours (hard) and sometimes I row myself silly until I realize the sun had just fell behind the Santa Cruz mountains. Under these circumstances, the stress hormone Cortisol is likely to thrash my body and punch holes in its walls, but that kind of physiological calamity cannot touch the clarity and peace that settle into the deepest part of my well-being. I guess I’ll keep my heart rate monitor for now.

    One can get technical and plunge into complex cellular processes and measure endocrine responses to all kinds of physical stresses, yes, but if you’re not enjoying or achieving calm or gaining some means of whole-person validity, then what good is all that science? I’m with you, Roy–absolutism does not have to exist only in the confines of science.


  3. John, thanks for stopping in. Excellent thoughts, and obviously I agree.

    I spoke with a 1/2-dozen climbers last years who have all summited Everest. In knowing and questioning them I learned something I had not considered until this point. I had always assumed it was the lure of Everest which attracted them there first. Though this seems to be true on the surface, all of them seem to choose climbing, Everest included, because they know of know better way to push the body hard, and for the subsequent euphoria that comes with that push.

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