Absolute Notions; Absolute Zero!


Like clouds, notions are formed from the confluence of currents and particles; the perpetual current of human perception mixes and swirls with particles of human knowledge, and a notion is born.  Notions can be insignificant, producing little or no mental precipitation.  Or, a notion can work its way toward another notion, joining forces to grow into a larger notion still.  These notions, captured by the thinker(s) and supported by reason, can produce the precipitation which has helped to nourish and grow all we know as a species.

Notions can feed and illuminate...

 Too many fitness notions though, are passed along with little or no reason, but prescribed as absolutes by the thinker selling the ideal.  These notions release intellectual acid rain, which can stifle the growth of the fitness constituency, which is perpetually seeking nourishment in the form of truth.  It is a sad reality that many such notions have become the hard and fast rules of fitness in the modern era; the absolutes of exercise and eating as prescribed self-appointed fitness shaman of this age. Aside from exercising regularly and eating mindfully, I believe there should be no absolutes in fitness, only possibilities.

 An absolute notion of how exercise should be:

I know a highly regarded fitness trainer, the head of the fitness and training department for a large chain of health clubs, who once told me that it is dumbbells, and dumbbells only that people should choose when strength training. He often declares to anyone who will listen that machines, cable & pulley devices, other contrived apparatus, and even barbells hold little or no value whatsoever compared to the common dumbbell – absolutely.  He insists this, born of his notion which has no reason assigned to it. Many who are not in-the-know cling to this man’s notion and accept it as gospel. Possibilities become stifled by advertising such notions as absolute.

Only dumbbells believe in absolutes...

 An absolute notion of how eating should be:

There is an internet fitness shaman who touts the Lean Cuisine frozen meal as, “among the poorest eating choices one can make at work” – absolutely.  This declaration of poor eating is a concept based on his notions, which are rooted well outside of reason. 

Far from perfect, but utility on the modern world...

 I rarely venture to suggest or define what eating poorly really means; in this era, this is an increasingly relative concept.  One might make a case against eating a Lean Cuisine for lunch; these are highly processed foods, full of additives and preservatives, and of lesser nutritional content than a wedge of salmon and a branch of broccoli. Though there is no contesting that the salmon and broccoli lunch is nutritionally much more sound than the Lean Cuisine, there is also no arguing the utility of the Lean Cuisine; portion control, nutritional balance, and convenience in this busy world.  A lean Cuisine would be a much better lunch choice at work than a double cheeseburger, fries, and a soda.

 A few notions, but no agenda:

I’m proud to admit that traditional strength training has its biggest fan in me.  I teach strength training, and I will sell its utility to anyone who will listen – based on my own notions.  I never sell it as an absolute path to fitness.  I also try to ensure most of my foods are more healthy than not – that they come from whole sources, and that they are processed and delivered within reasonable means.  But I am not even absolute in this observance or in this teaching.  I am not opposed to eating a Lean Cuisine or even a protein bar, out of convenience, or when on the run, though it doesn’t happen often.

Broccoli when I can; Lean Cuisine when I can't...

 I make my living in the fitness industry and I try hard to walk the walk based on my own notions, though I do sometimes fail.  I try to do what I what believe is (probably) good for me in the forms of daily movement and right-eating.  I encourage others to do the same; to move daily, and to eat mindfully.  I do so because I have a notion that we would all be better off if we lived this way – absolutely, and that is the only absolute you’ll hear from me.  Be well.  rc

12 responses

  1. Being a member of the “Arthur Jones Memorial Fitness Center,” I remember the discussions about using machines versus dumbbells/barbells for the best strength training. Some were advocating doing this or doing that, this number of reps, or that number. I am certainly not the expert you are, Roy, so for me, not really being sure which was the best way to go, I went with Nike, and just did it all the different ways! Perhaps I would have had a better result by doing it the best way, but that variety has kept me doing it, and doing it.
    Thank you as always for an excellent read, and voyage down a fitness memory lane!

  2. In my opinion, everyone is entitled to their own notion of what constitutes an absolute I love training with free weights. They work for me, but I’ve also seen people get great results with machines. I eat foods in their most natural state whenever possible. I wouldn’t touch a Lean Cuisine with a ten foot pole, but if it works for you, great. Perhaps we all need to be more mindful when offering advice to suggest good alternatives rather than claiming absolutes.

  3. I really enjoyed this post Roy. I think when people get hung up on the absolutes then when life doesn’t go as they “absolutely” think it should – they don’t know what to do.

    I’ve seen it over and over with people who were trying one of those diet centers we see on television all the time. Life throws a kink into their well laid out plan and they are lost. Then they regain whatever pounds they had lost.

  4. Yes I agree, great post.

    There are so many different opinions and variables at work here. It seems like everyone has their favorites, which is fine. But I’ve never believed in any one method being better than another, and this not only goes for fitness but everything in my life.

    It reminds me of when I was about to give birth to my first son. Back then it was the beginning of the “natural birth” craze. I bought into it because I was told it was the “best” method. I got part way through delivery and ended up getting some drugs. At first I felt like a failure, but then I realized no one gives a medal to you for how you deliver your child. The prize is your child.

    The same rings true with fitness. No one is going to pin a blue ribbon on your shirt if you only lift dumb bells. You have to do what works for you – and yes, I believe in that adage of if you move more and eat less things will happen.

    BTW, great pic, and great arms!!! 🙂

  5. Robert: My intent in this piece was not to debunk. That, and I see great value in dumbbells and use them daily. I will be writing a future be on the virtues of dumbbells, as well as the value of machines, cables, and bodyweight bearing exercises as well.

    Dr. J: I worked for Nautilus in the late 70s and was a Jones disciple. These days I believe it matters much less which apparatus are used; dumbbells, machines, etc, and matters much more HOW WELL THEY ARE USED. I have seen your pull-up video — always in good form with you.

    Karen: Thanks for the comments. Trust me, the Lean Cuisines for me are only in a pinch. Like you, I prefer few stages for mmy food between ground and me.

    Diane: Agreed. Also, that when people preach absolutes, its safer for them — they don’t have to work and think outside their narrow box.

    Bobbie:Thank you for reading between my lines. You figured out early that I write about life, not about fitness — fitness just being a vehicle for the thoughts I have beyond the gym. RE the arms: They were inflated with helium for that photo.

  6. I concur. There’s a lot of different ways to do things; not one is necessarily “better” than all the rest. Dispelling with absolutes is a good place to start! I feel very strongly about the value of eating real food rather than processed, but I also know that IN THE REAL WORLD, it’s not always feasable to ONLY eat real food. Therefore, we can have our notions, and work with them so that the edges are a little loose; we can make some allowances for things!

  7. I got so caught up in checking out those arms that I lost track of what I was going to say! 🙂

    Oh yes, endless possibilities when it comes to working out & we all have to find what will be right for us BUT I still think that resistance training & heart (cardio) training should be in there in some form, whatever that form may be.

    Yup, endless possibilities in workouts in my eyes! Great post!

  8. Sagan: Thank you for dropping in. Much Like Dr. J, you have a way of summing up my long-winded columns is a single paragraph — well said.

    Jody: Thanks. You and I are certainly disciples of the iron, and I loved your post today — will comment on it later.

  9. Being the visual person I am…nice Pic!
    Another insightful post Roy, hit home once again.
    Enjoyed all the comments too but I’m pretty sure I saw Robert at the gym using a cable devise…:-)

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