Our bodies are incredibly adaptive. As a matter of fact, each one of us have a body that has faithfully adapted to our lifestyle. Or, in otherwords, our bodies accurately reflect the lifestyle we have chosen.

Yes, that body of yours, of mine, has expertly suited itself to the lifestyle we each have imposed upon it.

People often ask me if swimming will help burn fat. We could easily find a hand-full of essays on the metabolic characteristics of avid swimmers. But what I suspect is often behind that question is the plea, “Please tell me that I can add a little activity to my current lifestyle and therefore get a more pleasing body shape.”

I am sorry to say that this is not a reasonable expectation. If a person’s body is not in the shape they would like, it is more likely the result of a whole lifestyle pattern, not something a mere tweak or addition of a little activity will transform. Address the root issue behind poor fitness and fitness will not be so difficult to achieve. The root issue behind most poor fitness (aside from limitations outside one’s control) is a lifestyle that does not support good fitness. So simple to point out, eh?

Despite the ads to sell us some new product or idea, no, none of us can “have it all.” Instead I recommend that we pick a few things that have the most long-term importance to us, both for this life and for what we believe comes after, then devote ourselves to excellence in those few things. Pick goals for the body, mind and spirit that are worthy of complete devotion.

And when it comes to achieving a form of physical fitness, don’t make fitness the goal. Make the achievement of ability, of new skill, of new physical opportunities the goal and fitness will follow naturally. A lifestyle that is designed around good goals will be supported by a body that is adapting to the lifestyle.

If you want a rock-climber’s body, well… start rock-climbing, a lot. If you want a distance-swimmers body, start swimming distance, and often. [Though I strongly suggest getting some good TI training first- it will help tremendously.]

Yet, to those who enjoy the body that comes with their athletic deep-practice, the body-shape and fitness is really not the point. The body is just a vehicle in which we engage in the activity, in which we experience life. Form will follow function. Pick a dream and follow it. The body will follow.

So the obvious application is: if you work in an office on your keester all day, well, make significant changes to the rest of your lifestyle outside that office, or get a bike courier job. No, you just may not be able to keep the same pay-scale job and get the kind of fitness you want.

For that matter, you may not be able to keep the same pay-scale job and get the marriage or family that you want either. (No extra charge for that advice. I only preach what I’ve practiced.)

But I can think up dozens of examples among my friends of those who’ve negotiated with their careers to build healthy activity into their lifestyle. Bike commuting to work, choosing to walk instead of drive, chopping their own firewood, standing while reading, growing their own food, taking dance classes instead of watching TV, etc. (Not many of us actually make a living while exercising. I made some drastic changes in my life to be able to do this and I still have to put out effort to protect what’s most important.)

On a less philosophical note, to answer one of my students questions about the fat burning value of swimming, I explained that what we are doing in our TI training is building an efficient, stable, injury-free platform from which he could then choose to be more active, whether it be swimming or some other complimentary activity. With the TI technique a swimmer is now freed up from all that struggle that prevented him from swimming kilometers a day rather than mere meters, if he so chose. And when he starts swimming kilometers on a regular basis his body must start adapting its fuel-burning system to suit longer-lasting activity, and he’ll be wise to adjust his eating to suit as well. And then yes, he’ll start seeing a significant difference in his body shape. But burning fat or changing body shape is not the best motivator to make a lasting change in lifestyle.

TI will give him a platform for fitness, but he must choose to do something with this platform- he must choose to change his lifestyle and make exercise an inseperable part of it. In order to do that, he must be drawn into exercise by something far more powerful than chasing an external self-image. A new passion that feeds his heart must drive the activity. Fortunately, most of my students come to me wanting TI training after they have already found this deeper passion to pursue a worthy goal.

Only the rock climber knows the powerful pull of the mountain’s stoic flat face; only the open-water swimmer knows the pull of the glass-smooth sea. Become one and fitness will faithfully fall in behind, because you won’t be able to stay away.

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