A few days ago I got up early on a Saturday morning to make sure I got to a gigantic fitness event at Red Rocks Amphitheater. This is an outdoor venue that usually hosts concerts of all sorts, rain, snow, or shine, just outside of Denver, Colorado. I happen to live about 12 minutes away from this facility, which is a very happy thing for me!
In addition to hosting great concerts (think Santana, Sting, Willie Nelson, The Grateful Dead, even the Beatles in 1964), this facility is open 24/7 for people to use as a place to hang out, experience the amazing geography, and/or exercise. On this particular Saturday, they were hosting an event called “Fitness on the Rocks”.
Let me back up a little. A few days previous to this event, I happen to have slipped on some stairs and bounced my way down a bunch of them on my butt. I mention this because I was NOT feeling enthused about dragging my aching bones over to a fitness event where I did not know what to expect. In fact, I was really hoping for a nice mellow yoga class, and some soothing music.
Boot Camp for 5000!
What I found there was Boot Camp for all 5,000 or so of us that showed up.
Not being one to make excuses, I went ahead and participated as best I could. It was fun. The music was motivating, there was a touching pause at the start reminding us that we are never alone, and then there was a decent warm-up, interesting exercises, and a cool down.
In between making sure I didn’t get kicked in the head by the person next to me during planks with leg lifts, I started thinking about fitness. Even though the Boot Camp had been fun and I had rallied myself, I was aware that it was my basic level of fitness that was pulling me through.
And as the event continued, it became apparent that there would be no yoga class. No Pilates, no stretch class, no low-impact aerobics. There was a kick-boxing class, Zumba, and another high-energy aerobics class. There was regular boxing, sand-bag lifting, chin-up and push-up contests, and a burpee challenge (if you don’t know what burpees are, trust me…you don’t want to know). There was also a “one mile run” which consisted of going up all the step/seats in the amphitheater (70 rows) 9 times.
But guess what? NO ONE was running! Maybe because I was already hurting, or maybe because I am older now, or maybe because I am so aware of the statistics on how many people do not exercise enough, that I found this reassuring.
You could argue that even considering going up 70 levels of steps 9 times puts you in line for some serious pain. But, I liked it that this group was not going for broke. And, some were clearly not planning on finishing. The same was true for the Boot Camp participants. People seemed to know their limits, and were fine with that.
On the other hand, the message was clear. Fitness is supposed to be about pain and testing your limits. Still.
It was at this point that I found myself being really disappointed in the event. How can we expect people to be attracted to “fitness” when this is the message?
To my mind, fitness is about getting yourself to a place where you move better, feel better, and have a better life because of it. It’s about respecting your body, taking care of it, and giving it a chance to take care of you. That includes being able to do more things, be more focused, and have better brain health. It may mean that you get to live longer, but it can also mean that you are more fulfilled in your life. And, that will certainly affect those around you.
The Missing Link
To put it into a phrase, I find that there is still a big MISSING LINK, a GAP in fitness that is not helping people get engaged with it. The official guidelines are for us all to get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week. Or go for 10,000 steps a day. But, in fact it has been found that people here in Colorado, who have the lowest obesity rate in the US, are averaging around 5,000 steps a day. And more and more studies are showing that light intensity exercise improves feelings of well-being, reduces depression, and diminishes the extent to which pain interferes with daily living.
So why not give people something else to look forward to besides pain? How about fitness that actually helps with pain of all sorts? This is more than a “copy problem” or a “marketing issue”. It’s a real shift that can potentially change lives. That is what the “design” in Design for Fitness is all about.
© 2017-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.
Image credit © 2017-2020 David Paul Carter. All rights reserved.