The battlefield; the 11th question

A battlefield exists, different than any you can imagine. A barren place, where the landscape is nebulous; void of boundaries and borders. It’s a place of infinite width, depth, and breadth. It’s a place with everywhere to run, and nowhere to hide. A theater where an ongoing battle takes place between the opposing forces of ability and reason, and where the tenets of can versus should regularly attack each other unprovoked. Ironically, these two opposite sides of an identical concept, take direction from one leader – instructing both camps and orchestrating both sides to fully leverage their potential against one another. This battleground? You guessed it – it’s all in my head.

This battle which takes place between the two sides of my mind, ability and reason, only sees victory in the clear answer to one simple question. A question that is at the very core of my daily cause: Just because somebody can do something in exercise and fitness, does it mean that they should?  Even with no answer, their can be great value, and knowledge gained, just by considering the question.

There are many concepts in exercise, many methods, trends, agendas, and strategies offered by so many, too many, practitioners. On the receiving end, there are many objectives, much desire, and many, too many, wants — plenty to go around on both sides. Is there a right way, I often wonder? Who’s to say what’s wrong? Just because a 73 year old woman can bench press 90 pounds, does it mean she should? Will that action improve, in any way, her health or her quality of life? Before that question can be fully answered, the question should also be raised: What might be the consequence of that action? Question further: Could it hinder or adversely affect, in any way, her health or quality of life? Further still: If the 73 year old woman can bench press 90 pounds without consequence and chooses not to, is that choice wrong as well?

That was just a sample question, but the ideology behind it can apply to everyone who exercises regularly, within any genre of fitness. As well, it can also be applied by those who compete in athletics, whether at the Olympic level, or just running the neighborhood 5k: Just because you can, does it mean you should. Though I might be able to run a marathon at the age of 47, should I? What will be gained? What will be lost? Will my life, my health, be affected by this positively, negatively, or not at all?

The idea of healthier eating can be contemplated by this question as well: Just because we can eat low-carb, low-fat, Zone, Atkins, or Primal diets, etc., does it mean we should? And if we can eat this way but we choose not to, does it mean we have failed ourselves? The answers to these questions are not as easy to come by as one might think, and they are very personal indeed. One has to exercise supreme honesty to gain anything from asking and answering these questions of one’s own self.

These answers ultimately are relative to one’s objectives in exercise, in eating, and in life.

That’s the point I am attempting to make should you wish to begin or expand your fitness regimen. Before you join a gym, sign on to work with a trainer, before you even plan your next workout, run, ride, or swim, or subscribe to a particular style of eating, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is it you are trying to accomplish?
  2. What is the risk involved with your long-term and short-term health?
  3. Is your goal achievable?
  4. If it is achievable, is it realistic for you and your circumstance?
  5. How long will it take you to achieve your goal?
  6. How much time do you have to dedicate to this endeavor?
  7. Do you have the financial means to achieve this?
  8. What gets sacrificed along the way; family, work, friends, other hobbies, etc.?
  9. Will the results be worth the sacrifice, the investment of your time, and the investment of your money?
  10. Who are you doing it for? (To me, this question is as important as any)

Only after these questions have been answered, can a form begin to take shape with one’s fitness structure. A plan can be conceived, a framework constructed, a timetable can be set, and the work towards completion can begin. But then still looms that other question, the 11th question: Just because somebody can do something in exercise and fitness, does it mean that they should?

Ultimately, I believe the answer to this question is unattainable. However, my belief that it’s an unattainable answer isn’t enough to stop me from considering this question daily as it relates to my own quest in exercise, and on behalf of those who trust me with their time and their money, to culture their fitness objectives.

Most adults who take to exercise for the first time offer me this simple statement; “I want to look and feel better”. Good reason enough I suppose and it is probably be best left at that. However, I have always suggested people new to exercise contemplate the 10 questions above before they begin. As I grow older though, the 11th question has eclipsed the other 10 — just seems more important than the others.

In my own life I have trained as a springboard diver, a soccer player, a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, a cyclist, a sprinter, a kayaker, adventure racer, and even got caught in the yoga trap for a while. I just completed my first marathon – because I could and because I wanted to. Still, does that mean I should have?

This is a question worth considering. Though no clear answer may ever come from asking yourself this, much knowledge and personal insight can be gained in the search for the answer. And even if it is answered in the short term, it is likely that in time that answer will change as it is applied to different forms of exercise and competitive goals throughout your life. As we grow older, the term fitness should evolve to mean different things at different stages of one’s life.

I do believe this, and perhaps this is as close to an answer as I will offer to others: If you can, if you want to, if you don’t sacrifice too much to achieve it, and your health won’t be adversely affected, then just maybe you should.


One response

  1. Everything is a battle in the mind, for me. I’m pushed and pulled and split between everything that it is I do in my life. Many times I feel like a walking contradiction.

    Ah, so many great questions chameleon (< -my nickname for you).

    I ask myself all these questions and lots more considering my mental/financial/physical (thyroid issue, being underactive) state and circumstance. Almost unforgivable. However I'm not complaining. But I'm aware unlike many who may need assistance in bringing out these types of questions and possibly the answers to them in the first place. I guess, one of my top question is: Will I make it fully to where I want to be? A thing out of a magazine. My vision.

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