What is Health? What is Fitness?

This is the first of a set of excerpts from the Intervention DVD.

What is health? Health—and these are Phil Maffetone’s definition from this wonderful book called, Everyone is an Athlete, which lots of people make fun of. His vision of health and fitness is that no matter who you are, train like an athlete. You know? No matter who you are, train like an athlete.

His definition of health is the optimal interplay of the organs. Your pancreas needs to pancreas very well. Your…that’s the only term I know. Your kidney needs the kidney as well as a kidney can kidney. Your heart should beat.

Now we stop here for a moment because I say this and people always laugh, but here is the key to health. It’s a great story I have used a lot lately. For those of you who don’t know, a lot of my background is in theology, religious studies and religious education. So what happens is that especially—and I’m sure it happens in every field—but when somebody goes off and they’ve gone to theological school for a year or two, they come back a little bit better than the rest of us. You know, a little fuller of themselves. It’s like the first year law student who has to mention they’re in law school or if someone went to a kind of rich, wealthy, famous school in Boston, they have to repeat that name. There is also a Catholic school in the middle of Indiana that the person went there and no matter what the context is, they have to drop the Golden Dome reference all of the time.


So this young man goes off…goes off to study theology. After two years, on the way home he needs to cross a river so he hires a local boatman and gives him a few dollars to row him across. The guy is rowing and he says, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Studying theology,’ ‘What did you learn?’ The guys says, ‘Important things—philosophy, theology.’ ‘Did they teach you how to swim?’ ‘No, only important things.’ ‘Ahhh too bad, the boat is sinking.’ The end. That’s a funny story. You should be laughing hysterically right now.

The best thing that I can tell you to do for your health—for your health—is this. Have your wife and children take first aid. Why? Because if you need the Heimlich maneuver, your health is dependent on one of them coming behind you and ‘Uhh,’ So one of the best things you can do when you get hired is to insist that everyone around you take first aid. The most dangerous place in your house is your bathroom. Right? You need to go home today and install all kinds of safety. You should shower with a helmet on. You should have all kinds of gear in your house. That’s health. That is health.

Now we can…there are some rules of health that we can certainly share with you. I know statistically that if you smoke, you should stop smoking. We know, in America anyway, that smoking leads to issues. Secondly, you should wear a seatbelt. If a helmet is an appropriate thing for you to be doing at the appropriate time for you to be wearing it, you should have the helmet on. Interestingly enough, when I first started to ski, no one ever wore helmets.

Why? Because no one ever really went that fast and got that much out of control. The technology of skiing has advanced so fast that a new person can go so fast that they need to wear a helmet now. Trust me. Thirty years ago, you had to be a very good skier to go fast enough on that equipment to endanger anybody but your knees and ankles. Now true – true story? You know, when I was growing up and we had Stingray bicycles, no one ever wore a helmet because you couldn’t go fast enough to really hurt yourself. Of course now, you know, you look around and these kids have these tricked-out bikes that can do all kinds of things. That kid needs to wear a helmet. You follow the point here? Those are health rules. Those are good for your health.

Teaching your wife the Heimlich maneuver may save your life. Now I would kick in, just as a matter of principle, that maybe you should learn some of these important tools too so that you can help out. I’ve done the Heimlich maneuver twice. I’ve done the Heimlich maneuver to two people. My point is that one was a high school teenage girl. She was choking on something. Boy, I’ll tell you one thing. When you ever do the Heimlich, your adrenaline will kick in so much. I shot it and that piece of meat went 65 feet because we measured it. You know? Because I think it’s still a record but I am sure that her arteries were clear, right? Her pancreas was pancreated. Her kidneys were kidneyed. But with that piece of meat lodged here, her health depended on my Heimlich techniques. That’s health.

That’s all that health is and now to what everyone wants to hear. Let’s talk a little bit about fitness. Fitness is a different thing. Fitness is the ability to do a task – the ability to do a task. Now right out of high school, a friend of mine dived into a pool. He had been drinking. The pool was shallow. He broke his neck right here. He has two children because the ability for a male to have a child is not…it’s a different system than it is muscular. He is fit to have children but is not fit to throw the discus, so to speak.

Fitness is the ability to do a task. People always ask me, ‘Dan, why do you go down this road? Why is this so important?’ Because most of the skills…when people ask me about their goals, they will say, ‘Well I want to be the best discus thrower in the world,’ Well with being the best discus thrower in the world, for example, or being the best javelin thrower, you are going to have shoulder issues. Then somebody will say, ‘Well is that healthy?’ You see the problem right there. There is problem #1. You just asked me…you want to play in the National Football League…that’s what you want to do. Then I give you this program and then you say, ‘Is it healthy?’ Probably not! Being 6’8,” 315 pounds, and running as fast as you can into another human being is probably not healthy but that’s the task that you asked me to do.

So before you ever get started on a strength program, you have to ask the question, ‘What is your goal?,’ and then mentally have the courage to separate it out.

Very often, the healthiest thing you can do is to strength train. I have seen it change lives. Anybody over the age of probably 28 needs to strength train. It will make you, in an odd way, healthier.

Click here to see some of the preview clips from Intervention.

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