I have been a runner for years. In between runs, and in pursuit of better health and fitness, I have tried yoga, spin, and cross fit. Lift, by Daniel Kunitz, is a study of fitness trends. And in this study, he describes his own fitness journey, running, cross fitting, and military training. He has not only tried many different forms of exercise and trends, he writes about them in detail here. He talks about cross fit quite a bit, and though I have tried it, I just don’t get it.
Going back to the ancient Romans, he explores fitness trends, fitness ideals, and how the idea of the perfect body has changed. As the idea of the perfect body has changed, so have ideas about the perfect workout. He includes a study, a history really, of many different types of workouts, but does not offer any advice or draw any conclusions to what the perfect workout is. He notes a change in attitudes about how women participate in sports and fitness, as have attitudes about women’s bodies. This was important to me, and I have actually noticed this in my own life. Women are now more active, participating in a variety of sports and types of exercise.
He describes the turn of the 21st century as the New Fitness Frontier. And though cross fit had been around prior to 2000, it has grown in popularity in the past few years. It brought back old-school exercises, functional strength – and cross fit’s creator, Greg Gassman created this type of workout for soldiers, firefighters, police officers. In this new frontier, there was a focus not just on exercise, and instead on lifestyle. Athletes, and active people in general, accept pain and discomfort as a part of training and fitness. In the new frotier, there is “a rejection of the ideology of ease”. And it’s here, on his explanation of changing ideals that he compares our modern ideals to Aristotle. Aristotle believed that by bettering ourselves, we can better serve others.
He studies weightlifting, acrobats, military training, the original olympic games, running, and ninja warriors. Although extensive, his study of fitness, sports, and exercise is not comprehensive. One of my favorite parts of the book was about Muscle Beach, which is in Santa Monica, California. Here he mentions Vic Tanney, Steeve Reeves, Jack LaLanne and Joe Gold. These were some of the original stars at the beach. Which was more than just a beach, by the way. It was more than just lifting weights, there were acrobats, bar routines, which eventually led to a popularity in weight lifting, and a specific type of weight training.
I was really surprised by this book. Inside is a lot of information – a history of sports and exercise, that could be daunting, but it’s not. In the new frontier, there are always new ways to be fit, exercise, and new ways and things to eat. One of the most important things about the new frontier he mentions in his conclusion, is the need for exercise. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically in just a few generations. He mentions that the rise of the suburb (beginning in the 1950s) gave rise to the gym. The emergence of new technology correlates to the rise in obesity. “American kids are paying the price of progress”. The important takeaway from this book is the need for exercise, and as he points out there is a variety of ways to get and stay fit.