I've been a personal fitness trainer in Boulder, Colorado for the past 13 years. For the last 10 years, I've had the honor of working with and studying under the tutelage of this nation's premier corrective exercise expert, Sam Iannetta. During that time, I've learned the value of analysis as it applies to identification and correction of movement dysfunctions. Now I admit, I was very into performance based training when I first met Sam. I had worked with many elite level athletes in my career prior to working for Sam. I had a prolific athletic background myself and even molded from scratch a University of Colorado female tennis player into a national champion competing on the pro circuit. Then about five years ago, everything changed.
It was around this time that the Crossfit /Boot Camp boom began to get popularized and people started sacrificing their bodies in the name of fitness. I was astonished at how many people started getting referred to us with major injuries from exercising too intensely. Living in Boulder, Colorado I just thought this was the standard. If you've ever been to or visited Boulder, you know that this small town is filled with people who think they are of the same caliber as the many high level athletes that live and train here. Basically, Boulder is the mecca for the "Weekend Warrior." Something didn't seem right though. I was noticing a trend in the fitness industry that was sure to end in disaster. Little did I know how right I was.
The following January, (2009) I was visiting with some friends in Los Angeles and had the privilege of bumping into the late, great Jack LaLane. The father of modern day fitness as we know it. There hasn't been a greater pioneer in the field of fitness ever. Case closed. I asked Jack if he had a second to chat and he told me he had some time before he was catching a flight to Hawaii. First, I thanked him for his contribution to the field of exercise and expressed my gratitude to him for developing a field that I was lucky enough to be employed in. I told him that if he hadn't done what he did and took the approach he had, none of us would have the opportunity to train anyone. We'd all be phys ed teachers or something. Secondly I began to bounce some of my theories on modern day fitness off of him and asked what his take was on this disturbing new trend in fitness that I often call, "beat em till ya break em." Jack LaLane agreed with me that the end game is to utilize fitness as a tool to better our physical bodies, not break them down. When I asked this legendary icon what he still did for fitness presently he said that he swam daily for over an hour and lifted weights daily for nearly an hour. Obviously as time went on, his intensity level and load levels were adjusted, but his consistency was steadfast and unwavering. The point is that if we engage in healthy, longevity based practices, the human body can endure such activities for a lifetime. Jack told me that he was proud of what we were doing at Functional Fitness in Boulder, Colorado. He said that we were the appropriate torch bearers for the next wave of fitness enthusiasts. I was ecstatic. I gave him my business card and told him to check out our website when he got a chance. One of my buddies to this day still reminds me that "Jack LaLane flew to Hawaii with your business card in his pocket." I asked Jack before he departed for his plane for one piece of advice that I can pass on to every person I would work with for the rest of my life. He told me, "Find something you love and do it every day." His advice has stuck with me and motivated me every day since then. Sadly he passed away within a year of our meeting. I was blessed to have my picture taken with him and it's the best picture I've ever taken in my life. Jack was 97 when he left this planet.
Fast forward to December 10th, 2013. As I write this, I'm thinking about all of the destructive forms of exercise that people engage in daily and wonder how and why no one has fully committed to Jack's philosophy of performing intelligent movements that help build a healthy physical body for a lifetime. Crossfit? Really? Middle aged housewives performing Olympic lifts with horrible technique? Negligent trainers pushing the envelope and beating their clients up until they break them? This is certainly NOT what the father of modern day fitness was preaching over the course of his lifetime. Luckily he's not around to see the damage we are doing to ourselves. If Jack LaLane were still alive and people asked him what to do for the torn rotator cuff they sustained while hurling a 25lb medicine ball off a wall, I'd like to think he'd give them my number and tell them to check out www.functionalfitnessusa.com.
So when people ask me why I'm always so adamant about "smart exercise", I simply say, "Blame it on Jack!" Our brief encounter reinforced for me that I'm on the right side of this whole mess. I teach corrective exercise and proper movement patterns to human beings. I don't take athletes and push them to the brink of injury. I don't take functional, capable individuals and bury them with exercises that degrade their joints and cripple them. Jack wouldn't do that. Sam Iannetta wouldn't do that. And I won't do it either. If anyone doesn't believe that I met Jack and had this experience, check the picture on my twitter, @Rich1ill. Thanks