GPP and you

I originally was going to write this post about how developing more work capacity was going to be good for you. Higher level of general fitness has good carryover to many of the things that most are actually after in their training such as lower levels of body fat and other general health markers.

But then I read this article and it made me pretty mad so I thought I’d better write this out while having a rant. See, the big problem in this article is the use of one word – disease. Calling obesity a disease is likening it to cancer. Except unlike cancer it’s entirely preventable by you. Unless you deliberately stick your head inside a microwave as it’s running, or ask to have x-rays taken without lead shielding there’s a fair chance you’re not going out of your way to get cancer. But obesity isn’t like that. No one wakes up one morning to discover they’ve gained 40kgs overnight. No one goes to the doctor who runs some tests and says, “I hate to tell you but that big lump under your shirt is obesity”. NO. It’s been there all along, present, obvious and totally created by you and you alone.

Before I go too much further I will say that if you’re a little kid and grossly overweight that is your parents’ fault. Let’s not pull punches. No six-year old is going to Safeway and deciding what to eat – the food purchasing and preparation decisions are made entirely by adults. So if your kids are overweight that’s on you. But at some point as they grow up those kids will face the same dilemmas as the rest of us – at what point do they start taking accountability for themselves and their lives and realise that even if they were overfed garbage as a kid that they’re now able to rectify it on their own? I know in today’s world we’re all big on stopping bullying. I’ll get more onto this in a bit, but let’s face it – at some point in time everyone has been bullied. I know I was bullied terribly at school and there were times I was in a fight every day for months when my patience gave out and it was my only means of getting back at my tormentors. Funnily enough, as my skill at martial arts got better and I got stronger and able to really hurt people if I chose the amount of bullying I suffered became substantially less – because I took control of it. And that’s my point – instead of letting what happened to me as a kid shape my life forever and perpetually blame the next fifty years on what happened at school I took charge of  the situation. And kids who grow up overweight need to do the same. No sitting around whinging in years to come how your parents fed you badly when you were ten. Take charge of your life and learn that you need to be the one who looks after yourself.

The world is an increasingly unhealthy place to live. You only need to look at the size of supermarkets and the actual volume of food sold in them to figure this out. In most supermarkets there is only about ten percent of store space given to actual food. For the sake of simplicity let’s call food anything that doesn’t come in a box or packet or doesn’t need manufacturing. That leaves animal protein such as meat, chicken and fish and the fresh fruit and vegetables as the only actual food in these places. Bread, milk, biscuits, snack food, soft drinks, pasta, chips and the entire rest of the supermarket are worthless junk. Oh, I know that the advertising will tell you that you need the goodness of whole grains but you don’t. The only person that benefits from you eating whole grains is the person selling them to you.

And this isn’t something that Australians should be standing on their high horses and smugly thinking that the USA is so much worse than us. It’s not. Last time I checked there was only a minimal difference between obesity statistics in Australia and the USA. (For example, read this 2008 article by The Age which says we are, in fact, worse, or the Wikipedia page for Australian obesity placing it third behind the USA). This is a problem for all of us.

The real issues with obesity is not in being overweight but in what follows after. About a decade after obesity rates rise in a country there is a knock-on effect with other illnesses like diabetes and heart disease following suit. A friend of mine who is a bariatric surgeon in India has told me that India too is now seeing the same phenomenon. As the level of wealth in India has increased the rate of obesity has rapidly increased too and now they’re starting to see a surge in Type II Diabetes and the other issues associated with weight gain. Long term the costs on the public health system for the large percentage of our population that has these issues will cripple us. How bad will it be? Well, given that now sixty percent of Australians and US citizens are overweight or obese it’s time to quit pulling punches. It’s time to quit being PC. Just on odds there’s a fair chance that you’re a fatty. Yes, you. And you can call me a bully or whatever other label you want to pin on me to make yourself feel better until you can get to the ice cream and eat away your pain but you’re still a tubby bitch. Hell, there’s even overweight personal trainers. Well, it’s time to man up. In the case of overweight trainers – what kind of role model are you setting for your clients? Ever wonder why they aren’t getting great results? It’s because of your shitty example showing them that half-assing things is ok. (The same goes for weak and unfit trainers too – clients come to you for knowledge and inspiration. Try actually providing it instead of just providing lip service about a fitness lifestyle).

If you had a friend who was dying of alcohol addiction or drug abuse you’d step in, right? You’d get them counseling or help them kick it I hope. But when it comes to people killing themselves with a food addiction we don’t say a word. Mostly, I believe, we don’t say a word because we don’t want to be branded a bully. The world has gone so over the top with political correctness that we’re worried about denting someone’s delicate feelings. It’s time to stop. It’s not appropriate to label obesity a disease – it’s not. You don’t catch obesity. You give it to yourself. And you gave it to yourself because you have zero self-restraint and take zero responsibility for your health.

Believe it or not, I am still going to talk about GPP. GPP is the best way to combat obesity. GPP, or General Physical Preparation, is basically just doing some exercise. Because you know what? When you’re fat and out of shape you don’t need a specific plan other than get off the couch and get moving. You don’t need periodisation or what the SEALs do. You just need to do something on a regular basis. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Because if you’re 40kg overweight anything will help you lose weight (along with only shopping in the actual food section of the supermarket). Lift some weights, go for a walk, ride a bike, push a sled – it doesn’t matter. Just do it daily for as long as you can until you fall over exhausted. Don’t worry about refueling your body either after your sessions – you’re covered in enough fuel to last a long time. Even at ten percent body fat I have enough fat on me to fuel running for over one hundred hours. So at thirty or more (the number obese people will show) you have enough fat on you to fuel many, many sessions without needing to worry about how much gas you have in the tank.

The biggest thing I see people failing with is how many times per week they train. Look, if you are only managing to barely swing a 20kg bell for a few reps then you need to train more, a lot more. Three sessions per week – a pitiful three hours of exercise – isn’t going to do much versus the other 165 for the week, or even worse, against the years it took you to get out of shape in the first place. You need to get it in your head that if you want significant change you need significant effort. Three hours per week isn’t what I would call significant. And if you go to one of those useless trainers who promises you’ll get results on half hour sessions…? Well, kick him in the place his balls used to be and go find a real trainer who understands that volume is a bigger key driver in the development of foundational fitness than intensity. In other words – you can’t rain hard much when you are out of shape, and it takes years to develop that kind of ability. So you need to rely on volume – go do something daily. Trying to train hard daily will ruin you quickly if you’re an absolute beginner, but moving each day won’t. Split your week up with two to three hard sessions and the days in between as just some moving. Go for a walk, play a game of soccer, hike, do some yoga – but move every day.

If you take some responsibility for yourself, what goes into your body, and how many times per week you move it you’ll find that obesity isn’t something you’re likely to catch. It’s a really simple equation. However, as my friend Dan John said to me recently, “Everyone thinks it looks easy, having this simple outlook. It’s not. It’s incredibly difficult to distill life down to just a few essential things”. Make the hard choices now and watch how it pays off in the long run.