On Health, Fitness & The Hero's Journey
"Heal thyself, harden thyself - change the world." -Keith Norris
The Hero's Journey is a concept that has been explored throughout history, spanning many a culture. An accepted Western conceptualization and definition has been identified and explored by American scholar, Joseph Campbell. The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative that appears in religion, ritual, myth, art, film, psychology and personal development. It describes a framework from which the pattern of adventure for The Hero archetype and their journey can be understood. This generally involves a person who goes out into the world to achieve and contribute positively for their respective group or humankind, facing a series of passages and confronting their fears.
From childhood to my undergraduate work in writing to present day, my creative, right-brained side has played an omnipresent role in my life and thus is always barnacled to whatever work I undertake. This includes the usual right-brained activity, such as writing, film appreciation, how I speak, and more. Health, fitness and science-traditional left-brained, logical phenomena-are no exception.
I see health and fitness through this lens. Those who know me best know that I don't believe in the Western health approach of fragmenting health into this, that, and the other, compartmentalizing the bigger picture, and chasing symptoms over guiding people towards optimal health. This design flaw is philosophical in nature, and leads to masking the symptoms with some form of band-aid (pharmaceutical, or otherwise) rather than focusing on the root cause of the problem and its relational effects to everything else.
Both existing research and my own experience has lead me to believe that health and fitness is not the absence of disease, but rather a journey of optimization and fulfillment.
This isn't to say that holistic, functional medicine has it completely right, either. Although a thriving state is an improvement upon 'the absence of disease' or being out of shape, I believe health isn't a destination at all.
Health is a perpetual Hero's Journey in which The Hero-athlete, urban athlete, health-seeker, weekend warrior, and everything in-between-walks along an ever-unfolding path towards ever-evolving goals. This isn't unique to getting lean, ameliorating disease, prepping for an athletic event, or any one health goal, either.
Rather, this Journey is panoramic and health represents the panoramic view-body, mind, emotion, spirit, self.
You see, not once have I encountered a person with a chronic health or performance issue who did not also have a fundamental non-dealt-with-trauma or blockage in their life.
We're all trying to find our way
I realize this all sounds a bit on the 'woo' side of things-and I'm not what you would call religious-but even the most logical, left-brained inclined people can surely acknowledge some relational effects here. Surely, you've heard athletes say things like, "the game is half/3/4th's/___% mental, yes?". Perhaps you've felt the physical manifestation of stress on the body yourself?
Progressive doctors, nutritionists, trainers, and various health professionals have built their 'why' on health and fitness as a panoramic concept, driving home the message that everything relates, and we should be guiding ourselves towards total optimization rather than chasing pieces.
NBA Coach Phil Jackson introduced his players-including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant-to meditation for sport-and life.
I feel the next evolution in health science is going to come in a form of a change of consciousness-a marrying of these left and right brain concepts. In fact, there's already research out there in various capacities if you want to explore.
We've observed the effects of mindfulness in athletic performance.
We know there is a physiological manifestation of stress response in the body.
Frontiers of genetic research is linking genetic predisposition to not only disease susceptibility for informed health choices, but for behavioral explorations into who we are.
This is why I take a panoramic approach with my clients; I do my best to not only deliver value and support in various health and performance elements-including diet, exercise, biohacks, etc.-but attempt to inspire personal growth.
I inquire about their life circumstances, whether they have things to look forward to, what their journey looks like, their relationships, etc....in addition to the usual body composition, available biomarkers, athletic metrics, strength numbers and anything else that may apply.
I believe in having personal development and education components in each of my client programs in various forms (from meditation protocols to reading material) to introduce (but not force) people to new ideas and concepts (should they be open) to further them along in both their physical goals and otherwise.
This isn't the last time we'll dive into this concept of The Hero's Journey, but for now I invite you to marinate on these concepts and contemplate. Whether you're an athlete, someone needing to reclaim your health, or anything in-between, take a look at your self. Examine not just your health and performance goals-but your life as it stands now and what areas of change you've been resisting or need to acknowledge. This can help you find that proper intersection of being able to make a change and see the change, which will help you not only in the gym or on the court, but in life.
Discover your own questions. Come up with your own answers.
Because what we're really chasing here is total optimization and self-improvement, both in the gym and out.
Till next time.