Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is Fitness Strong Enough?

Over the past couple weeks I have been to a couple different areas of this country that are not necessarily known for their impressive population of fit people.  This has brought on a lot of thinking and conversation for me, as I have some pretty strong reactions to the sight of obese people.  It used to be pure disgust; but it has turned to a deep feeling of depression that people can actually get to be that way.  It is especially difficult for me to handle the sight of a young person who could be tipping the scales at well over 200lbs.  This should just not happen in my eyes.

But my views are perhaps biased.  I surround myself with fitness.  I live in the gym, visit a large number of gyms wherever I go, attend competitions and races, and head outdoors to trails and rocks and rivers where the majority of the people I would probably run into would be pretty fit.  I always say to surround yourself with like-minded people and you will be happy.  And the fact is, I still say that; but that does not mean avoid all other people.  Especially when it is my life's-work to help people in need, people who desire to be fitter and more active. 

There is an epidemic after all.  Despite the impressive growth of CrossFit around the world, the increase in the registration of runs, triathlons and other multi-sport races (warrior dash, urbanathlon etc.), there is still the ongoing problem of un-health in this country.  My question looms strong in my mind all the time: is fitness strong enough to defeat this epidemic of un-health and obesity?

Being so involved in the fitness world, I really do tend to surround myself with like-minded people.  In doing so, the idea that people do not know what CrossFit is, or do not know how to eat properly becomes unbelievable to me.  This is, of course, an ignorant view on my part, and if I truly want to help people make changes in their lives, and get involved in the changing of the world to become fitter and healthier, I need to always keep an objective view on how things are working.

Walking around St. Louis, around small town North Carolina, you tend to get a small sampling of what the majority of this country is actually dealing with.  It was almost impossible for me to eat properly in NC, my choices were fast food and chain restaurants, and I resorted to going into Texas Roadhouse and getting unseasoned chicken breast with two servings of steamed veggies.  They looked at me like I had twelve heads.  The side salad came out, iceberg lettuce with literally 15 croutons (yes I counted) and covered in shredded cheese.  Some salad.  I remembered that the minority are those that go to Whole Foods, and the fancy, often pricey grocery stores to purchase good, real food.  Most people find the need to resort to the cheaper version of things, which generally means packaged, "fake" foods.  But this is a whole different post (one that I am planning, so keep an eye out over the next couple weeks for that one).  What I really am curious about is the idea that with the growing strength of fitness out there, will it be strong enough, powerful enough to overcome the problems in health and fitness this country has let take over?  Will fitness, and those promoting it, be able to reverse this horrible cycle of problems that go from lack of education, to improper eating patterns, to sedentary lifestyles, to sickness and disease, to crazy medications, to obesity and to early death?  Will we be able to become a healthy, active, fit country?

God I hope so.

This post raises an ever-growing concern of mine; something that weighs at my mind every single day, and drives me to do more, help more people, spread the word of fitness as widely as possible.  I have no intention of supplying all my answers here, right or wrong, I simply want to put forth the question to people and perhaps re-ignite that spark under those of us who want to help.  As I prepare for my move out West, I am constantly coming up with new ideas to help people in need; and I truly hope that I can be a part of the grass-roots, perhaps unconscious at the moment, group that will lead this country out of its disgusting habits and on the road to good health.  And, as I always try to get my clients and friends to do: please spread your stories, tell people about your adventures in fitness.  Share your happiness as you challenge yourselves daily.  Do not keep it to yourself, do not hide all that you've learned.  Help someone next to you make a change.  If I can do it, and you can do it, anyone can do it. And you just might be their motivation to start, or to go a little harder, or to spread the motivation on themselves.

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage


Jen said...

The bad: It goes so far beyond physical activity. The causes of the obesity epidemic lie in our food policy, materialism, preference for convenience and instant gratification, the way we build and our auto-dependence. This article was just posted today on Streetsblog: Sprawl has even created access issues for our low-income and minority neighborhoods - grocery stores leave urban areas for the suburbs and corner stores don't stock fruits/veggies because they literally don't know how (there is a science to the way food is stored and laid out in a store to prevent it from ripening and rotting to quickly or reacting w/another fruit/veggie). Give healthy food to the poor and you're called a saint, ask why they don't have access to it and you're called a communist - go figure.

The good: Things are changing. There is a movement for locally-grown, organic food. Grocery store health/organic sections are growing and there are more options - don't give Whole Foods more credit than they deserve, there are lots of other grocers out there doing the same thing but less corporate (food co-ops!). Farmers Markets have never been so popular either and community gardens can't keep up with the demand for plots. People are getting innovative in how they educate and bring fruits/veggies to under-served areas - in Albany the Capital District Community Gardens started a Veggie Mobile ( Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and Jamie Oliver are getting their messages out to people. See Food Inc? Read Fast Food Nation? They are super insightful and explain a lot. At the national level there is an effort to get people more active - Michelle Obama's Lets Move campaign ( promotes physical activity and good nutrition. More people are demanding walkable communities and bicycle accommodations on their roadways and the federal transportation policies and legislation are supporting this with funding and mandates (its never been a better time to be a transportation planner... even if its in car-centric Albany!).

I'll stop now... I could go on for hours.

Josh Courage said...


awesome stuf right there. I am putting together another post where I will be focusing purely on the eduction and access to decent foods in America. Then, I will try to find some additional solutions to help this change that truly is happening. Hopefully we can all be around when the obesity issue is just NOT an issue anymore!


Jen said...

Super! I love that you are passionate about this stuff... maybe you'll have your own tv show one day?

Thought you'd find this interesting too:

I'm excited that public health is finally being officially addressed in transportation and land use planning. We've been citing health benefits of walkable/bikeable communities and denser land use development for years and everyone laughed at us. The only reason I can stay in planning is that I truly see things beginning to change slowly and I think the same is to be said for food policy, education and access.