January 11, 2009

Riding in the car to Michigan over the holidays, I listened to Malcolm
Gladwell's new book Outliers. It's a fascinating treatise on how the very
successful got that way. According to Gladwell, it's more than just being born
with a giant brain or a perfect pitch. It has more to do with your particular
set of life circumstances - where and when you were born, what your parents did
for a living, what month you were born in, etc.

In other words, just because your IQ is 19 billion it does not necessarily
follow you will become a Nobel Laureate or a virtuoso violinist. In fact, you
may wind up being nothing more than a bouncer in a bar. Check out Chris Langon.

From a fitness perspective this is an important concept to understand. If
fully understood, it would save millions of people from despair and regression
in their fitness endeavors. Allow me to explain.

This impossibly 'perfect' man (Frank Zane)

is an Outlier. He inherited or,
rather, was born with several rare and unalterable (or attainable) genetic
factors like the shape of his skeleton (wide shoulders and narrow ribs), more
total muscle fibers, longer than average muscle length and width, low amount of
total fat cells, and several other hormonal markers which allowed him to have
the body he has. Lifting weights simply amplified these effects.

The same is true for this gal:

Now, I am NOT suggesting in any way that these people are to be envied; nor
am I suggesting that these people are perfect or beautiful. I am just pointing
out that if these types of bodies are something you are aspiring towards, the
chances that you will achieve your goal - or even come remotely close - are slim
to none.

These people and those like them are true genetic outliers. They are one in a
million. It is not because they eat right, or exercise more, or sleep better, or
anything else. If you don't already posses a body like this or close to it you
can never have it.

Think of it this way - since there are over 9 billion humans on the earth, if
only one half of one percent of all humans inherited the rare set of genetics
necessary to have bodies like these people (or even close), this means that
there are millions of people with such genetics.

All, and I mean ALL of the 'perfect' people you see in the magazines, on TV,
movies, etc. are one of these outliers. It is no different than having extremely
blue eyes, full, thick hair, or if you are very tall. It also pertains to the
opposite - being bald, short, stocky or freckled. None of these are good or bad
mind you - all have their advantages.

So remember, if you are exercising properly (strength training) and eating
healthfully (low carb/paleo) you should be able to reach YOUR complete genetic
potential in 1-2 years time. What you will see in the mirror at that time will
be about as close to YOUR ideal self as possible. Rejoice in this whatever it
turns out to be.