“Why do we persist to encourage ‘failures’ and discourage prevention?”
The past weekend I completed the Raw Challenge on the Gold Coast Hinterland. It is an 8km obstacle course designed to push yourself out of your comfort zone and for many the true achievement is to complete each obstacle as best you can and finish the course. It is a true embodiment of achievement through participation. Many completed the course as part of a team and as a team they would help each other over the obstacles and push each other to finish.
I did the course with a friend, who didn’t have the same level of fitness as me, who I did not see from 400m into the race until he finished half an hour after I did. I finished and decided to wait and watch for him at the finish line. I planted myself at the foot of the final obstacle. This obstacle was a large half-pipe which required you to sprint up and use the power in your legs and momentum to surmount the wall. As I waited I saw many attempt to surmount the wall and many who actually did make it to the top. For some getting to the top required 2-3 efforts and the help of others to pull them up, whereas some simply run straight up on the first time with no help from anyone else. Right here I noticed an inconsistency in how we view health and fitness. Right here was a glaring hypocrisy we harbour in how we view achievement in particularly in the category of health and fitness.
Take the case of Jim, a rather large man (basically he was very overweight), who was in a team of 5 people. The rest of his team had made it to the top of the wall and he was the last one to go. He was determined, he began to run as fast as he could but unfortunately there was nowhere near enough speed to get him even close to getting up the wall. Inevitably he made it half-way and slid back down. He gave it another 2 goes but never got close. Yet he got the biggest applause from the crowd for his efforts and his whole team, including the personal trainer responsible for him, were hugging him and saying how proud they were of him. Soon after, as a convenient juxtaposition, a fit early 30s male went straight up the wall first time, no help required and pranced down to the finish line and accepted his prize for finishing and was not to be seen. Absolutely zero fanfare. This man actually made it to the top, yet received not a single reaction from the crowd other than a few comments, “geez he did it easy”. I couldn’t believe it, not a single clap or encouragement from anyone. He actually made it up, yet the man that tried and failed got all the accolades. Where were the accolades for the man who tried and succeeded?
Right here encapsulated the issue I believe is rampant in our society and particularly our views towards health and fitness. We applaud people who lose 20kg and change their entire life. This I have no problem with and is fantastic. Yet when someone stays fit, healthy and strong for their entire life and never requires to lose weight they get no recognition of this feat which I think is even more impressive.
The message we are sending is that we glorify those that create a problem and then are able to find the solution. As part of this message we exclude those that don’t require a solution as they prevent any problem before it arises. Our health system is built on being prescription based and the majority of the time is spent addressing issues and treating symptoms. This psychology is the reason when I go to the shops I feel unwell. The majority of people simply don’t look healthy. Skin should not be so opaque and colourless. Postures should not be so poor. Legs and arms so thin that it appears those muscles have gone on holidays yet a stomach so large it would take weeks to fill it. But this is considered ‘normal’. This is not normal, normal is your brain and body working in perfect unison to do exactly what you want to do. If you want to go and run after your children it ‘should’ be normal to do that. The gate is locked, so you ‘should’ be able to jump the fence. Our physical capabilities on just a daily functioning level are being lost. Yes we are living longer. But like most things in life, it isn’t about quantity it is about quality. Is living for 82.45 really that great if most of the time is spent with health issues or failing bodies? Are we really better off? Why do we persist to encourage ‘failures’ and discourage prevention?