This is a scan I saw somewhere from the book “The Tao Of Pooh” (as in, Winnie the). You may or may not know that I’ve had an interest in Eastern philosophy such as Taoism, Zen and Bushido for quite a few years. Probably 18 or 19 years from around the time I first started martial arts training.
I read this scan and thought it was an excellent analogy to what I often talk about in relation to training.
Loosely translated, Wu Wei means “do nothing”. A more useful interpretation might be “do what comes naturally”. Go with the flow, in other words.
How does this relate to fitness, though?
In this article I’m talking about basic human fitness, which I define as the ability to manage the sort of tasks and activities you would expect a human being to do in day to day life under natural circumstances. That means outside of modern sedentary lifestyles. We’re not talking about training for a sporting contest, just training to be able to move and function like a human being is supposed to.
Let’s look at each of those statements in that scanned paragraph one at a time. I’m going to do it in a seemingly random order that is most convenient for me.
Cleverness tries to devise craftier ways of making pegs fit where they don’t belong.
This is a big issue! People are always looking for the newest, latest, most fancy or technologically enhanced fitness craze. Fitness gadgets are a huge industry these days. Now in some cases these are exercise machines that claim to measure energy expenditure or track performance data, but there are also many that are all about promising results without effort. Just stand on this vibrating platform and you’ll burn 1000 calories and get a full body toning workout!
It was explained to me that these vibrating platforms (we had them at the gym where I did my practical placement in the process of becoming a certified PT) are good for people who aren’t comfortable with coming to the gym and exercising… so it’s good that they can go to a salon and get the same results from just standing there and not feeling self conscious, right?
Ugh. First off, you don’t have to go to the gym, you can exercise at home or in the park or where ever you like. More to the point though, what bizarre stage of evolution are we at where people are thinking “move around a bit and perform physical activity at a moderate level of exertion? I can’t do that!”, and think a vibrating machine (or surgery for goodness sakes) is a more reasonable method to get into shape?
The first stage of a fitness program is simply to get into the sort of shape that you should be in according to nature. From there we start to think about really achieving our full potential beyond just being a normal ordinary human being… but to start off with we have a very simple goal of achieving a body weight, range of motion and level of functionality that is natural for a human being. There is nothing unreasonable, ambitious or intimidating about any of this.
Trying to achieve a natural physical state by using technology to avoid moving or exerting yourself as nature intended is certainly the opposite of “putting a round peg in a round hole and a square peg in a square hole”.
Knowledge tries to figure out why round pegs fit round holes, but not square holes.
Knowledge is a good thing, but too much knowledge and not enough understanding is a major distraction. It seems to have become common that people are over saturated with information, and sorting the correct from the incorrect, and the important from the unimportant is confusing and time consuming. Similarly many trainers who are aware of a wide variety of medical factors that may contribute to weight gain feel that they need to address all of these issues at all times, even though in reality they are only a concern in a minority of cases.
All of this is taking what is a relatively simple matter, and making it complicated. Perhaps so complicated that you never get started. It is far easier and more effective to just put the round peg in the round hole without worrying too much about why it doesn’t fit the square one.
According to the Tao Te Ching, the sages “learn to unlearn, to assist the nature of all things”.
Egotistical Desire tries to force the round peg into the square hole, and the square peg into the round hole.
Egotistical desire! I could (and probably will… probably already have for that matter, who can keep track of all this?) write an entire article just about this point. In fact… this entry is long enough already. Let’s pick this up again in part two, tomorrow.