Fred Hahn, Fitness Prophet…

Being a prophet can be a frustrating experience–especially when the people you’re trying to help don’t seem to be getting your message, no matter how true it is, or how insistently or persistently you might be delivering it. This has certainly been the case for many religious evangelists. The power of a listener’s disbelief, often fueled by the comfortable familiarity of lifelong entrenched convictions, can be a seemingly insurmountable barrier to receptivity. Consequently, they will often turn away from the knowledge they’re being offered, though embracing it would certainly nourish their souls.

Of course, this observation holds true for more secular prophets and evangelists, which include everything from political activists to investment gurus, to garment-district pundits predicting upcoming trends in fall fashion wear. And it has certainly held true for folks like Fred Hahn, a fitness expert whose revolutionary ideas about exercise and nutrition are finally starting to catch on with the American public–but only after years of relentlessly spreading his truth and battling traditional, outdated beliefs about fitness, which, like brain-eating zombies, simply refuse to die.

Fred is the author of two books on changing America’s fitness thinking, most notably “The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution” which he co-wrote back in 2002 with Drs. Mike Eades and Mary Dan Eades, authors of the highly successful “Protein Power Lifeplan” and recognized leaders in the nutrition and fitness reformation slowly taking shape in America today. Slow Burn is a wonderful book. And its central premise–that thirty minutes of strength training a week is the only physical exercise necessary to achieve optimum fitness–is solidly backed by a plethora of scientific studies researched meticulously by Fred and demonstrated repeatedly in his own fitness studio. The book also provides a simple, elegant workout and nutrition program (courtesy of the Drs. Eades) that will bring health and well-being to anyone who gives it an honest go.

If reviews of Fred’s book-and his turn-the-fitness-world-upside-down ideas-are any indication of just how beneficial joining his “fitness revolution” can be, then the decision to get fit the Slow Burn Way should be a no-brainer. But, like most prophets in history, Fred Hahn and many of his forward-thinking compatriots in the health and and fitness industry are still looking to be “recognized in their own land.” Consider this: despite a wealth of new evidence strongly suggesting the low-calorie, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet is exactly the wrong way for humans to eat, (take a look at Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories for an enlightening report on nutrition and fitness-related science) people persist in touting its benefits. Equally mystifying is this: despite new evidence that hard and sustained aerobic exercise is not the way to lose weight and keep it off (again, see Taubes, above)–and is, in fact, a leading cause of injury in sports-exercise gurus and even a majority of physical trainers (who should know better) are still recommending increased aerobic exercise to trim the waistline.

Apparently, people can be as resistant to a new way of thinking about their nutrition and fitness habits as they are to a new religious cult.

But Fred is undeterred, methodically putting the word out about his fitness revolution. His second book, entitled Strong Kids Healthy Kids, is due to be released mid-October, and there’s a possible e-book in the works aimed at adapting Slow Burn to folks who live full-time in RVs. He’s making public appearances, even actively writing a blog, which he updates regularly. And nearly every day he takes the stairs down to his narrow below-street-level studio-dubbed, appropriately, the Serious Strength Personal Training Studio–on New York City’s Upper West Side (one of three locations in the area, including one in the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel!)–to continue proselytizing to his steadily growing congregation of converts to the Slow Burn way of thinking, helping them to find their way to the narrow path of righteous fitness.

Still, there are times when Fred wonders why things are taking so long, given the obviousness of his program’s benefits. Here he muses on a recent post to his blog:

“Why does the American Heart Association continue to advocate aerobic exercise when orthopedic injuries caused by such activities dwarf the amount of benefit received?

“If we do have a finite number of heartbeats available to us why would we want to waste them doing daily cardiovascular exercise?

“Why do so many think weight lifting is dangerous for kids yet gladly send them off to football or gymnastics camps?

“Why does the American Diabetes Association advocate the ingestion of blood-sugar raising dietary carbohydrates when doing so requires taking medication to lower it?

“Why does the American Medical Association support the use of statins when ALL of the scientific evidence shows no benefits to taking them and instead shows tremendous detriment? Worse, far worse, why is it that when you educate people as to this fact they fight with you about it?

“Since eating fat and protein is known to be essential for health, why are we being taught that is is bad?

“How come the government food pyramid indicates that most of our daily calories should come from grain based carbohydrates – a food group that is completely non essential to human life?

“If rigorous physical activity is so healthy for us, why are the vast majority of athletes’ careers over at age 30?

“It appears that ethanol (gasoline with added alcohol made from corn or sugar) fuel gunks up the engines of cars. Most engineers agree that this stuff is garbage for the car’s circulatory system and recommend that fuel thinners be used to keep the engines from ceasing up. Might this be true of our circulatory system as well?

“Why did the American Council on Exercise (a leading fitness organization that pledges it’s soul to help educate the gen pop on health and wellness of which I have been a member of for 2 decades) send me 2 letters asking me to let them know about what I do to help the fitness community when I am a bestselling fitness author and the owner of a popular NYC gym?

“Why do we cheer on marathon runners when the activity is so physically detrimental? It would be like cheering on a throng of people trying to see how fast they could smoke 10,000 cigarettes. (If you disagree with this, think about it for more than a second.)

“Explain to me the logic behind an insurance company paying for gastric bypass and not for an exercise program?

“Why do insurance companies ask you if you smoke and what your cholesterol is but not if you are a runner or are vegan?

“Why do we think exercise will cure our obesity when the lack of it is not how we got fat in the first place?

“Why do many women say they don’t want any muscle and then in the next breath say they want to feel tight and toned?

“How come comic book characters and action figures have turned from lean athletic figures into impossibly gigantic muscle monsters? How does this affect a child’s self-perception?

“Why do you need to be 21 to smoke but not to buy a can of Mountain Dew?

“If our normal core body temperature is ~98.6 degrees and 100 degrees is a fever, why are we dictated to warm up before we exercise? I put to you that it is essential to cool down before an exercise program not warm up.”

Fred asks these questions with a thinly-veiled tone of exasperation, evident even in writing. There are things terribly wrong with the way people continue to think about nutrition and fitness, and, frankly, these things anger Fred Hahn.

But then, great people, especially prophets and revolutionaries, are usually angry with the way things are. Maybe that’s what keeps them going. And why we need them so badly.

I’ll talk more about Fred and his Slow Burn Fitness Revolution in later posts. Please come back.

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