A guy named Mark Rippetoe once said, “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” I’ve found this to be true, not just in my military experiences, but in life generally.

I’m not talking about powerlifters. I’m talking about people who could help me move all my boxes of books without hurting themselves. People who could grab the A pillar of my car when I forget to put on the brake and keep it from rolling away while I do.

Nor am I talking about marathon runners. I’m talking about people who could run up five flights of stairs and tell me the building’s on fire without losing consciousness in the middle of the critical sentence. People who could take the scout troop on a hike or a bike ride and not get left behind.

Like the man said, ‘more useful in general.’

Where are these people? I look around and it seems there are fewer everyday.

In fact, the US is finally emerging from a long awkward period where, in the collective consciousness, being ‘in shape’ meant being either a powerlifter or a marathon runner. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a powerlifter or a marathon runner. The problem was not with the disciplines themselves. The problem was that people grew up thinking that anything different or less focused was not worthwhile. The concept of simply being in the kind of shape that would allow you to do a lot of varied physical work was lost. If you didn’t want to be a boulder or a stick figure, exercising was not for you. We are the poorer for it.

There’s a new movement out there that focuses on ‘capacity for work’ when it comes to exercising. It stresses the right things, in my opinion, and can be scaled to any desired level of intensity. Alas, I fear that my generation may largely be lost to it.

Working out under this school of thought is still hard. Varied work doesn’t mean easy work. The deal with the wall is still the same: “You hit the wall and the wall moves back an inch. Repeat.” The varied routines and exercises are more interesting to work through, but you still have to fight through the suck if you want to improve.

In my opinion one of the easiest places to start is CrossFit. Read up, be smart, and regularly push past your limits. It won’t take you long and as you learn it will get easier.

I promise you’ll feel better. Your body was designed to get stronger.

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