(Editor’s Note: A giant welcome back to weekly columnist Jonathon Cabot is in order. WELCOME BACK! Especially considering how much of a slacker I’ve been this past week, a great post from a great fitness writer such as J.C. is just what FFDC needed!)
by Jonathon Cabot:
“Nations have passed away and left no traces, and history gives the naked cause of it. One single, simple reason in all cases: they fell because their people were not fit.”
To kick this one off with my trademark good humor, the average human body in the developed world is a pretty sad state of affairs. It’s both bemusing and worrisome to me. Perhaps at some other point in our history, I could regard this as some sort of grotesque comedy–the irony of the “corporate granola” types lecturing on the threat of global warming, yet proceeding to drive the three blocks to Starbucks when they think no one’s watching. Or the prematurely senior-ized citizens who likely never really needed such a device in the first place, yet now find themselves utterly dependent on some electric scooter for all of their mobility. There’s the disturbing trivia of just how much it’s cost the American emergency services and medical industry to somehow transport and otherwise accommodate the ever increasing girth of the infirm, and the morbidly fascinating data of how this same dilemma has been affecting the funerary industry–seems that in addition to the plus-sized caskets, vaults, and upgraded payloads for hearses, most crematoriums have had no choice but to declare a 500-pound limit for their clients. Makes me wonder if dear old Mark Twain, who famously declared that he ironically got all the exercise he needed from acting as a pallbearer for friends who exercised would reconsider this witticism if he could see us now. But perhaps most exasperating, the ever increasing number of twenty-somethings who appear more capable of rolling at a faster speed than they could walk. Yeah, this might have been nothing more than a bountiful source of dark humor in days past, but if there ever was a time for this mirth, it’s long gone now. And it ain’t coming back.
As you read this, somewhere, someone is training to kill you. Humor me and let that happy thought sink in for just a moment.
I have no doubt that there are at least a few folks reading along who would emphatically declare that I’m full of it. That’s their call, and they’re free to do so. I also have no desire to engage anyone here in any debates dealing with moral relativism–that’s not the intention of this blog. However, and regardless of how we’re supposed to feel about it all, the proverbial elephant in the room we’re supposed to be ignoring remains that there are appreciably sized groups of our fellow carbon based lifeforms that seek to violently bend us to their will, and they do so by exploiting the weakness of human superstition to build up their own power base; harnessing the power of imagination to create subjugation and to destroy individual liberty. Their strategies cost pennies to put into effect, and cost us trillions to respond to. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not a part of their agenda, unless you happen to fully agree with their exceedingly narrow definitions of these terms. To disagree would mean finding yourself marked for death on their deity’s behalf. While we can try to dismiss all of this with the withering argument that it’s nothing more than the actions of “a tiny minority of extremists (TM),” I never really understood how that was supposed to make us collectively feel better. It only takes one, after all, to really ruin your day. And unfortunately for us, I have a bad feeling that we’re about to start seeing a whole lot more of these “isolated incidents” (“manmade tragedies”) right here on the homefront. I don’t want to be right about this. You’ve got no idea how much I want to be proven wrong.
The majority of this nation’s citizens may not realize just how many close calls America has had over the past two years alone. I suppose that this can partly be attributed to the soccer fan mentality, in the sense that our goaltenders can make a thousand saves, but the only ones that anyone ever remembers are the ones that got by. Or maybe it’s simply the unspoken rule that no body count equals no media interest, so we won’t have to be distracted from keeping up with the antics of our favorite celebrities and similar pressing news items.
Alright. Now that I’ve likely either bummed us all out (which is understandable, and I promise it wasn’t exactly a lot of fun coalescing all of this to begin with) or possibly even offended a few (which is okay, I’m on scarier poopy lists than yours), what is it we can do about our deteriorating physical state, and simultaneously perhaps make us less of a liability and maybe even an asset when we find ourselves the lucky recipients of front row tickets when the world suddenly goes to hell? We can start by building up our legs.
It’s been said that an athlete is only as young as his legs, and that’s not an unfair assessment. When we think of the term “sports,” our minds tend to conjure images of competitors running, jumping, kicking, and any number of activities generally requiring two good gams under us. Just to clarify, I’m referring to athletics here, since I’m fully aware that the definition of sports somehow loosened up enough to include poker and billiards under that heading (oy). Sprinting for the end zone, or sprinting after the guy trying to get there. Hustling down the court over and over again as that ball keeps changing hands. Rounding first base and making a beeline for second (possibly even for third, if the throw was a little too high or the baseman couldn’t catch, and the biggest kid on the sandlot proclaimed that ‘only-one-base-on-an-overthrow’ shall now be deemed “girl’s rules.” He was also likely the captain of your team). All the obvious examples.
Less obvious would be the role of the legs in the expression of total body power. You may have heard the quote that you can’t fire a cannon from a rowboat (well. maybe you can. Once, anyway. And your results may vary, but I’m digressing). To use boxing as the example again, try to imagine yourself suspended with your feet off the ground, but otherwise in full control of your movement. How much power do you think you’re going to generate in a punch without that solid base? Not very much at all. While it might seem counterintuitive, genuine knockout power comes from the legs, in particular the hips (we might talk about that one some more at another time). And despite what we’ve been seeing in any number of martial arts flicks, the same rule holds true for kicking. While the legend is that jumping kicks were intended to bring down opponents on horseback, trying to pull off one of those in an actual scuffle will probably only ensure that you go out looking like a cheerleader.
So an athlete is only as good as his legs, but I’d go so far as to say that rings true for us all–doubly so these days. With or without living under threat of attack, we just never can tell when bad stuff is going to go down in this world, and there might not be anyone around more qualified than us to save the day. While I’m not necessarily expecting all of us to overcome our deep-seated instinct for self-preservation and go the John Wayne route each time disaster strikes, I have no doubt that you have someone counting on you. Doesn’t matter who you are. And it would not do our souls any favors if we weren’t fast, strong, or capable enough to save them from ending up a statistic. So before that moment comes, let’s start building some strong, quick legs that won’t quit when we need them most. A good pair of the resilient, car pushing, door kicking, casualty carrying and dragging kind. And once again, we can make that happen with minimal gear.
Let’s be careful out there.