Here I talk about the adaptive nature of Cheetahs and Gazelles, and relate that back to your fitness program.
CHRIS: This is the Core Balance Podcast, I’m your host, Chris Janke Bueno.
A few months ago, my wife and I took our very young and active 2-year old son to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. I don’t know if you’ve ever been here but it’s not a zoo, it’s a big expansive park so, they don’t have cages. You have to actually get on a tram to go from one enclosure to the next. And again, it’s not a cage but it’s just a big vast open space where the animals can just be a little bit more natural than in a zoo.
So, we’re in this tram and we’re going from one exhibit to the next and just looking at the animals and I thought it was really fascinating how the tour guide was talking to us about the different adaptations that some of these animals made. For example, over here, we have the camels that are from the Sahara Desert in Africa and these camels are these exact color because that is the same color as the sand in the desert. Now, it’s not a conscious choice you know, the camels don’t say, “I’d like to look that same color.” It’s evolution over thousands and thousands of years. So, the camels that were not that color, maybe they’re a little darker brown or maybe they’re a little lighter, they stand out more and so, they get preyed upon by the predators. And over time, only the camels with the sandy color complexion are able to pass on their DNA. And the same thing happens with Cheetahs and Gazelles.
In Africa, the Cheetahs are the natural predator of the Gazelles. And they’ve actually clocked to the Cheetahs and the Gazelles where every generation is getting faster than the previous generation. And for the longest time, they couldn’t figure out why but they finally did. Only the Gazelles that are fast enough to escape the Cheetahs actually get to live and pass on their DNA. And the opposite is true that only the Cheetahs that are fast enough to catch the Gazelles get to pass on their DNA because they’re the only ones that really get to eat enough.
And then, the tour guide said something that was just very, very interesting to me. The Cheetahs and the Gazelles that are living in the wild animal park are no longer getting any faster you see, because we feed them all the food that they need. The Cheetahs get all the meat they need, they don’t have to hunt and the Gazelles are protected by this enclosed fence and so, they really have no natural predators. They are in what’s called a contained environment. And I thought, how interesting this is because we, as humans, are kind of in a contained environment as well, right? I mean, if you really think about it, almost all of the natural human tendencies that we would have in a natural environment are gone. We don’t have to hunt our own food, we don’t have to escape predators. We walk into a grocery store, drop some money and we can have food. We have buildings and houses and corporate buildings that we go and work in, that protects us from the elements and protects us from animals and for the most part, all the animals have gone to the woods anyway, because we’ve kicked them out of the city and things like that.
And so, what I want to talk about today is I want to think about health and fitness from this classic perspective. The same way that when you were a 2-year old kid, you would just move all day long and just play, right? We don’t do that anymore as adults but our ancestor did. Thousands and thousands of years ago, maybe tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors maybe they didn’t play all day long but they moved all day long. They hunted for food, they threw spears, they climb trees, they ran to escape predators and maybe in the middle of the day they took a little nap and they woke up and did all that all over again, right? Their bodies, our hunter-gatherer, cavemen bodies almost in a way, have been implanted into our modern lifestyle. And this is wreaking havoc on our bodies, we all have back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, all these weird new names like restless leg syndrome and frozen shoulder syndrome. It’s like every new pain has its own syndrome named after it.
We are out of our normal environment and for our cavemen friends, it was all natural movement. You had no choice, you had to move. Now, it’s a luxury or an option. But it’s so artificial now, we go into a gym, we park ourselves on a treadmill or we go to a weight machine, it’s a very modern way to just move.
Why is this important? Does this really matter? I think it really does because if we always go back to that classic perspective, what was our body actually designed to do, that’s always going to give us the best answer. And then instead of asking questions like, “Oh, is this treadmill good?”, or “Which one’s better?”, “What’s the right heart zone to be in?”, or “What’s the best split for weight lifting, should I do biceps and then chest or should I do biceps and back?” I mean, those might be important questions to a certain extent but what about the bigger question? What is my body meant to do? What am I designed to be able to do on a day to day basis?
And so, I want to encourage you, I want to encourage you to try to apply this principle to your life on a day to day basis. First, I want you to think of what it was like when you were a kid not like a ten year old but really like a toddler, 2, 3 maybe 4 years old, before you started kindergarten, before you started all these expectations of learning and what you should do and it got real serious, right? Personally, I mean, out of anyone that I know, I feel like when you’re 2 and 3, my toddler son is learning more than anyone else that I see out there. So, it’s through experience, it’s through moving, it’s through interaction, it’s through trying something and failing and then trying again and failing and then trying a third time and succeeding, that’s how you learn, right? And moving is a big part of that. I think moving is a huge part of that. We, in our modern world, tend to go up in our heads.
I have a mission for you. I have a challenge. You don’t have to do this in the gym, you can enclose yourself in your room, lock the door if you’re embarrassed or whatever, I want you to reconnect with what if feels like to move just like a toddler would do. What do you want to do right now? You’re going to notice your brain is going to kick on and say, you have to do these many repetitions and these many sets and this and that and this or you have to feel this muscle or that. Now, again, that’s important stuff to know, you need to know which muscle to engage when you do certain exercises. But what about you just start moving? How about you just feel comfortable moving again? What area of your body feels tight? Let’s start there. Let’s start moving that. It doesn’t have to be a certain quota for a range of motion, you don’t have to hit the full range of motion this way, the full range of motion that way, just move. Remember what it was like to move when you were a kid, reconnect with that toddler feeling that you’re invincible. You just want to move. You just want to play. You just want to be happy.
You could argue that, as adults you know, we’re really not meant to do that and this and that but again, I would argue that 10 thousand, 20 thousand years ago, adults, males and females were moving. We didn’t sit and stare at the computer screen, we didn’t sit and have our hands clench on the steering wheel with our neck locked down staring at something. So, take 5 minutes today, if you can do it right now, do it right now. Take 5 minutes today, maybe at the end of the day or maybe tomorrow morning right when you wake up and I want you to just enclose yourself in your room and I want you to just move. Start with your hips, move your shoulders, your torso, your legs, your arms and just reconnect with that wonderful feeling of childlike movement.
You’ve been listening to the Core Balance Podcast, I’m your host Chris Janke Bueno. We’ll talk again next time, until then, let’s be fit, let’s be healthy, let’s be happy. It feels good to move so, keep moving.
Stop relying on willpower, motivational tricks, and pump-up strategies and learn how to top into your inner fitness fire with Chris' 60-minute audio book: Ignite Your Fitness Passion (published 2015)
Relieve your back pain with this easy-to-follow video program designed to get to the root cause of your pain: muscle imbalance. Check out the Back Pain Module.
Learn the basic principles that make a successful fitness program with Chris' 60-page book, Functional Strength: The Key To Pain-Free Movement (published 2008)