Lift and learn
For BodyTribe’s Chip Conrad, there’s more to fitness than meets the eye
There are no excuses as far as Chip Conrad is concerned, only missed learning opportunities. Conrad is the brain and brawn behind Bodytribe Fitness, the eclectic Midtown gym where members pump iron in an art gallery and flip 400-pound truck tires in the back alleyway. His experience in the fitness industry has taught him that most excuses to avoid exercise are based in fear, which in turn is based in ignorance. “Once we can identify that, it helps us to own the excuse,” Conrad explains. “Then maybe we can overcome it.”
He categorizes one of the major types of excuses as the “I-don’t-haves”: “People start off their excuses ‘I don’t have the time, the right shoes, the right equipment,’ whatever it is, they don’t have it,” he says. “It seems likes these types of excuses are based on resources; they don’t have this particular resource. But what it really means is that they don’t have the knowledge or education to overcome the lack of resources.”
Don’t tell this fine, upstanding member of the fitness industry that you can’t get in shape because you don’t have a gym membership.
“Gyms make you feel like you need them because they need your money,” Conrad notes, conscious that he’s treading deep in ironic territory. “You can’t possibly get fit without us. That’s not true at all. The beauty of the fitness industry is that we actually don’t need it. It’s not essential. So that excuse is simply a lack of knowledge of what you can do outside of the gym.”
What you can do outside the confines of a gym is considerable. Bodytribe is just around the corner from SN&R; I first met Conrad a couple of months ago, when he brought over a review copy of his first fitness book, Lift With Your Head. Since then, he’s introduced me to forgotten exercises such as burpees, or windmills and get-ups, which when done with a simple home-set can yield an intense, full body workout in as little as 15 minutes. Who needs the gym?
Conrad isn’t worried about going out of business anytime soon.
“If I were put out of business because people were self-educating and self-motivating, I’d be thrilled,” he says. “That would be awesome, but it’s not going to happen, so I’ll be here to point people in the right direction.”
One place where people seem to get off track is this abs thing. Everybody wants a six-pack, yet few seem able to attain them. What’s up with that?
“Sex!” Conrad laughs. “It all comes down to that. Honestly, the biggest reason people are in the gym is to look better to the person they’re trying to attract.”
However, they soon learn that like beauty, there’s more to fitness than meets the eye. “A lot of people want immediate gratification,” Conrad says. “They want it now. They want to look in the mirror and suddenly they’re a perfect human specimen. What we see in the gym a lot are people who look like they’re in shape, without actually caring whether they are in shape.”
The problem, according to Conrad, is that people who try to feel better by looking better put the proverbial cart before the horse. It takes hard work and a long time to become an underwear model. In reality, you’re going to feel better long before you look better—if you don’t quit first because of the lack of instant results in the looks department.
“If you feel good about yourself because of what you’ve done, by what you’ve accomplished and what you can do, you’re going to look better,” he says. “I’d rather put all the effort and energy into actually being in shape, being stronger, being more empowered as a human being, because we know that we’re going to look better in that process. That’s a required byproduct.”
To truly get in shape, it’s necessary to train hard, eat well and rest thoroughly. Each element is equally important. When it comes to training hard, Conrad says most people in the gym just aren’t pushing the intensity level high enough.
“Training hard doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself, but the average intensity I see in most gyms is way below what it takes to make actual changes to your body,” he says. “Most people don’t train hard; they train within a comfort zone. We have to step out of that comfort zone. We have to go beyond it. In the beginning, getting to the gym might be training hard. Getting on a treadmill and walking. Walking around the block. But no matter what, push your comfort zone.”
The rewards will come promptly. Your circulation will improve. Your clothes will start fitting better. You’ll smile more often. Other people will notice that there’s something intangibly different about you and your outlook.
“Let’s not focus on looking better,” Conrad says. “Let’s focus on being a healthy human being. Let’s focus on being around for our families to enjoy us for a while. Let’s focus on being able to do stuff. If we overcome real obstacles in the gym, then the mental, emotional and spiritual obstacles we meet every day are a little easier to deal with.”
That sounds all well and good, but suppose washboard abs are all you really want? “Honestly, if that’s your goal, instant mirror results, then why not go through liposuction and cosmetic surgery?” Conrad asks. “Take the money you’re going to spend on a trainer, a gym membership and the supplements and just go to a plastic surgeon already, and watch how it doesn’t work.”
For an entirely new approach to fitness, contact BodyTribe Fitness, 920 21st Street, (916) 444-2384; www.physicalsubculture.com.