Fun(ctional) Health: Part 1

My friends can confirm that I am health-obsessed – not in a way that means I look like a well-lubricated centerfold, but rather more, “that man can move, but he clearly doesn’t turn down biscuits.”

I find the topic fascinating: the fact that there are all these different tendrils and limbs and appendages to what it means to be healthy. The idea that your mind, colon, spine or any bit unique to you can each play the rhythm section of your health is a source of near-constant fascination.

I cannot be certain when my journey to health awareness began. Like all stories, it is hard to find a true beginning. A lot of people when asked how they became Doctors tend to start at the point when they were first aware of the profession, and not when a gynae pulled them from the womb in a manger of latex and screaming. In much the same way, I can’t tell you whether I first became aware of my health when I was kicked out of bed by my father on week mornings to go walking at the age of twelve, or when I looked in the mirror as a thirty-year-old and realized the probability-math on my tits was beginning to dip below the X-axis. Thankfully, that juncture, resulted in my starting to lose a considerable amount of weight. However, I cannot safely say that was when I truly became aware of my health. If I were to be trite, I can put a definite date on when my philosophy of health began to gestate: March 27, 2020.

The first day of South Africa’s now-infamous Lockdown.

Two things are very important for this story: YouTube and a fermenting crock.

Let us begin.

I was living comfortably in a flat at the bottom of a garden in the middle of Westville. For those of you who are unfamiliar with South Africa’s climate, it was Autumn, which meant that Westville was only moderately moldy and the last jihadist mosquitoes were fighting their bitter fight before Winter saw them replaced. Replaced by what you ask? More mosquitoes, except these ones were the blood relatives of Nick Nolte for all the good poison did them. I have seen winter mosquito’s scratching themselves at my door asking for their fix of Raid and a warm sink to sleep in. Durban mosquitoes are the consequence of asbestos and Cher fusing during a containment accident at CERN. When the last star blinks out as the laws of entropy end our universe, God will have to swat away one of those little fuckers and still miss.

Where was I?

Yes. A plague.

The night before lockdown I was given a fermenting crock. You may be curious as to why this happened but the sane answer of, ”the night before Lockdown was my birthday” will have to do. I wish to point out that I did not ask for a fermenting crock. Said fermenting crock was purchased some weeks prior when Mom took her sleeping tablets, obstinately fought off their desired effect, and decided to go online shopping. I am told that same evening she purchased a Russian bride to keep Dad company when she went to book club. Svetlana is one of the family now.

So, I am in an apartment, banned from breathing on anyone else by the government and all I have are my wits, YouTube and a fermenting crock.

= HEALTH.

No, seriously.

And now, a quick diversion into LITERATURE.

In Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune, a lot of song and dance is made about how the pressures of an environment can trigger two things: the first is a weeding out of weakness, and the second, the creation of strength. This is a broad outline of one of many ideas the novel portrays, but the underlying theme can basically be broken down into:

Adversity=strength

Cut back to Westville, 2020.

I do not think it right for me to talk about the lockdown period as a terrible one for me. Sure, it left some unpleasant psychological scars, but comparing my notes with those around me I can only conclude that my time in isolation was comparatively comfortable. However, that is not to say I enjoyed it, and having so many of my freedoms taken away from me (freedoms that previously maintained my sanity as a single man) was a blow to the system. Again, I was left to my own devices and the hope that I would not degenerate into fecal mural painting.

I had designed for myself two maxims regarding Lockdown which amounted to the following:

  1. I will not pick up weight
  2. I will not be idle

But where to start? I had no gym equipment to speak of. Anywhere that sold gym equipment was clean out. Also, I had this damn fermenting crock staring at me from the corner cupboard I had perched it on.

So, to the Search Engines, I went, and it was during this time that a strange new world began to open up in front of me. Like a computer developing self-awareness, I was becoming aware of how little I needed to be healthy other than myself. As though dialing into my very cosmic-essence, the universe (and YouTube’s savant algorithm) pushed a little channel into my eyeballs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bioneer.

Adam Sinicki is what happens when a nerd gets his wishes granted by a Protein Genie. The man is ninety percent Kobe beef, with the remaining ten percent an amalgam of Deep Blue and Hal 9000. Shirtless, he strolled onto my YouTube feed and said the magical words that made so much damned sense:

Functional Fitness.

There it was: a philosophy. From his extraordinary channel, I gobbled down the can-do attitude of one who has no other option. My lounge found itself converted into a Slavic gym; complete with broken broom handle, upturned chairs and a soundtrack by Heilung. 06:00am found the unearthly shrieking of Norsemen waking the neighborhood as I rolled, turned and maneuvered around the living room. If I couldn’t manage that, there were burpees to do, and a frigid pool to hold my breath in, and a table to hoist, and a garage beam to hang from, and…

The point was (is), I was awakened to the fact that for so long I had been approaching health as something I was told to do and not as a philosophy. I had been bound by rules and structures that suited the idea that I had to go to gym, eat supplements and turn my anus to the sun for thirty minutes each day. The fact was (is): it’s all bunk. In the philosophy of functionality, you are not only exploring your own body and what it can do (the basic premise of functional fitness is to train in a way that makes you capable), but also exploring the world around you for new and unique ways to train.

It was the movement equivalent of discovering a new taste. I had my eyes opened to the idea that health needed nothing more than a body and a creative mind. Exercises weren’t these regimented movements and forms – they were (are) expressions of your own desires for your health.

And with that I realized that limitations – such as they were – are actually very ephemeral when it comes to your health. Despite being stuck in an apartment with very little by way of equipment, the philosophy of functionality meant that this was not a limiting factor to how I trained and what I could do. If I looked carefully enough, I could find heavy things to lift and have to figure out novel ways to lift them (as would be the case in the real world). Furthermore, those all-too-human of tools were still at my disposal: my mind and my body.

And with that, free from preconceptions, I began to explore the idea of movement as health: the adaptation of the philosophy of functional fitness as it meant to me. I have been steadily working over the last year and three-quarters to being someone who is able to move. It doesn’t matter if its running, swimming, cycling or moving very quickly from being on my back to being somewhere in the roof (repeat after me: “I’m Batman”) – a personal, private philosophy has been formed that has been liberating.

And herein lies the rub. Up until that point, my obsession with health had been one built around the idea of what I was culturally expected to be preoccupied with. It is the kind that I think dents the confidence of a lot of people – even those who we admire to be particularly healthy and good-looking. But looking back, I cannot but grin to myself at the joy of the paradigm change. Alone in a flat, I discovered that health wasn’t about what your body at all, but how you thought about it.

Part 2 to follow when I have passed my exams.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s