On vacation in Baja, Mexico with his wife, Troi, a few decades ago, Pete Egoscue stayed at one of those five-star resorts on the coast, complete with pristine pools, incredible restaurants, breathtaking beaches, manicured gardens and wooded paths, all flanked by postcard-perfect tropical scenery. Pete was already well-established as the Father of Postural Therapy at that point, and so it was no surprise that he was immediately recognized by the resort manager, Manuel. Thrilled to have Pete as a guest, Manuel offered to give the couple a thorough tour of the property.
“He showed us everything,” Pete recalls. “I mean, the kitchens, the banquet facilities, even the laundry rooms.” But there was one place that Manuel conspicuously ignored—a big circular building that he didn’t acknowledge as they walked past it toward the outskirts of the grounds then again as they returned to his own office for cool refreshments. Before the tour ended, however, Troi asked delicately, “Manuel, what is this building? Why aren’t we going in?”
“Oh, that’s just a fitness building. Would you like to see it?” he said nonchalantly.
Both obsessed with fitness, Pete and Troi were excited to take a look, so Manuel invited them in. It was a gorgeous, state-of-the art facility. One long stretch of the circular wall was a bank of windows that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and some majestic palisades. In front of those windows was a line of treadmills, all vacant. In fact, the entire gym, beautiful as it was, was a ghost town. Pete asked why, and Manuel explained that it wasn’t peak season, so there weren’t many Americans at the resort.
“They’re the only ones who use this facility,” Manuel confirmed. Then he shook his head, confused and disapproving. “We have incredible places for people to jog and walk. We have pools and beaches and so many ways to have fun and exercise. We just don’t understand why anyone who wants to exercise would choose a treadmill over any of those other options, but Americans always do.” He paused then before he added, “When they’re on the treadmill, they never look like they’re having any fun.”
“Somewhere in the not so distant past, fitness got off on the wrong track,” Pete says in hindsight. How? Accidentally. “It wasn’t malicious,” he says. “It was just an unintended consequence.” Which is partly why he created Patch Fitness back in the 1980’s. Patch Fitness is many things: It’s a great workout for any part of the body. It’s an efficient exercise plan for any busy person. It helps realign the body, improve metabolism and boost energy. It’s a workout that burns calories, enhances cardiovascular capability, and tightens the physique everywhere. But just as important as all of that (and numerous other benefits not mentioned), Patch Fitness is fun. And that’s no accident.
There’s a human compulsion to measure outcomes and effects, and in the age of endless data at our fingertips, there’s an epidemic of measuring just about everything we do, all under the auspice of charting progress. Today you may be able to do only 15 pushups, but after a month of working out, you can do 25 push-ups, and that’s progress. And that’s good, right?
“Not necessarily,” Pete says. “At no point are we measuring the joy.” In order to accommodate this focus on measurable progress, much of the fun gets squeezed out of the fitness in America, and the problem with that is that the less fun something is, the less likely people are to do it.
That’s why the fitness of the Patch emphasizes the enjoyment aspect. “Every sport ever invented is the combination of spontaneity and fun. Native Americans didn’t invent lacrosse because it seemed like a great way to stay in shape. Volleyball, tennis, football, soccer—you name it, they weren’t invented from a studied effort to stay in shape. They were invented spontaneously as a way to have fun,” Pete explains.
The Patch abides by similar principles—spontaneity and fun. “When was the last time you got down on the ground and crawled around? The last time you stepped up on a chair or hopped on a bench or squatted to get under a split rail fence? You don’t think of any of that as exercise, but it is,” Pete says. That philosophy is a primary impetus behind the Patch.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or a potato fresh off of the couch, when you bear crawl under a bench or jump over that same bench, you are doing it at your level. “You’re not focused on how many reps you’re doing or how fast you’re moving. There’s no digital readout of how many calories you’re burning or steps you’re taking, all of which removes you from the present enjoyment of an activity,” Pete says. “You’re just doing it to the best of your ability in the same way you used to just swing from a jungle gym when you were a kid or jump over a fence on the way to school. That focus on measurement is about fear. It’s about making you feel inadequate if you don’t do enough reps. If you’re exercising from a position of fear, you can achieve a sense of accomplishment at the end of a workout, but you won’t have any fun.”
Again that matters because a fun workout keeps you coming back. “It’s very unpleasant for people to try to get fit doing something they don’t love doing. If you don’t love running, but every day you’re way to fitness is a run, then at some point you’re just going to stop running.”
This fun factor also has an impact on the actual physical performance. “Over the years, I’ve worked with every kind of person, from hundreds of pro athletes to regular people who wouldn’t remotely refer to themselves as athletes,” he says. What Pete has noticed among all of his clients is that when they’re having fun with their workouts, their performance actually improves. Furthermore, the recovery time from that performance decreases. Even the pro athletes, when engaged in conditioning they don’t enjoy, tire more easily and think they are not in good shape.
“They’re constantly paranoid about what they’re doing because they intuitively sense they should be doing more,” he says. “They’re right, but not in the way they think. What they should be doing more of is trusting themselves, trusting their instincts, and migrating toward fitness that they find more fun.” When they do that, they get in better shape.
To date, there have been no studies measuring how much the enjoyment of exercise impacts the body as opposed to conditioning that’s less exhilarating, but relying on his 40 years of observation, Pete knows it to be true. Joy matters. Which is what Manuel at the resort in Baja intuitively knew and what Pete unfailingly remembers every time he puts together another Patch Fitness routine.
Photo by Hailey Wist
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By Erik Simon