Contemplating Fitness…. And Americanness.

Busy travel week last week, so nothing new until Friday, July 16th when I will post a column on short cuts and laziness.  In the mean time, there is from last year.  Seems to be resonating with me all over again.  I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for dropping by.  roy

Our American lives, as important as we make them out to be, are pretty meaningless the way we tend to live them.  All too Americanly, we seek to view, we seek to hear, we seek to touch, taste, and buy all that catches our senses.  Then, we seek to display all that we have accomplished on behalf of our sought senses.  We perceive mostly, that we should be well perceived, and we spend much of our time pursuing the best possible perception we can gain from our would-be perceivers.

A large part of how we wish to be perceived, is based on the aesthetic we wish to convey.  We quaff our hair in unnatural ways with unnatural chemicals, so it can look… natural.  We apply manufactured scent to ourselves, as to suggest our own hard-earned smell is not worthy of others.  We like to arrive in style – in the car that best suits our personality.  We clothe ourselves with style, if not with taste, by wearing what we hope makes us appear smaller, and we seek to live in homes which are much larger than they really need to be.  We don’t just love to be seen, we love to be seen well – Americanly well.

On the body front there’s one problem; despite all we do to be well perceived, we are always going to be seen in our own body – there’s just no getting around it.  No matter how we adorn it, prep it, clothe it, cover it up, the true condition of the physical self is most always visible, and is likely to be identified by the perceiver for its truest state, and that is likely to be a perception well retained by the perceiver.

Now I spend a good deal of time contemplating where and whether fitness should (or should not) fit in to the American lifestyle.  Countless moments spent arguing with myself as to whether exercise and sound eating are truly important in the scope of a life, or do these matter just within the scope of an American life.  The only clear answer born of this debate, is that I have classified fitness into two distinct categories; functional fitness and aesthetic fitness. Click here to read more. Most of what goes down in gyms across America relates almost exclusively to aesthetic fitness – which is meaningless. 

Now there’s no judgment here – certainly not from me.  I am very Americanly when it comes to exercising to maintain a certain look.  My vanity is the size of 10 Grinches plus 2, and growing still.  I work hard in the gym as well as the kitchen, to look my best to my perceivers, and I’m proud that I’m ahead of the game for pushing 50.  But I don’t exercise exclusively to look good. I have a great respect that the path of looking good can be paved with the bricks of functional fitness.  I have no illusions or expectations that at 70, I will look like I’m 23.  We are designed to get old and decrepit and I embrace that.

I prioritize those exercises which serve functional fitness, and I never put my aesthetic fitness ambitions ahead of my functional fitness ambitions – they coexist. Most of what gets done on behalf of my aesthetic gets done at the dinner table anyway. I understand that exercising for functional fitness can translate well into achieving aesthetic fitness; toning, shaping, and clarifying muscular detail, so long as there is good nutritional support and consistency in the process. 

 Looking good is an age-old addiction and not exclusively American. However, as we seem to do so often in so many ways, Americans have much more ambition in looking good than those of other countries.  I am careful to reflect that, in the end, we will not likely be judged by the shape of our abs or the size of our pants.  Stephen Hawking, Mother Theresa, Max Born, Anwar Sadat, Jesus Christ, Mohamed, Moses, and countless other great contributors to humanity have given little thought to how they appeared to their perceivers, and they were certainly not gym rats – nor were they Americans.  Did I say Moses?  Scratch that one.  Be well.  rc

11 responses

  1. You do make a very good point. And when we die, no one is going to sing our praises and remember us for our gym workouts. BUT, I would also add that some of us exercise not for how we look, but how we feel about ourselves and what we do for our bodies. I started exercising as an adult to lower my cholesterol, for example.

  2. Ok, this statement Roy: I have no illusions or expectations that at 70, I will look like I’m 23. We are designed to get old and decrepit and I embrace that.

    I had to pull that one out cause I don’t embrace it.. I fight it all the way. I am going down fighting it! 🙂

    I really like the meaning behind this post though although I still hope people remember me for how hard I worked to stay fit & healthy at all ages…

    Thx Roy! Great post!

  3. Yes, but the legacy we leave in terms of our health and how we lived our lives is a reason for me to exercise. I know I won’t always look like this, and I’m good with that. When I get to heaven I want to look better!

  4. Karen: I agree 100%, some do. But my experience in recent years is that a large majority of people put looking good as the top reason to exercise.

    Jody: Perhaps I was a bit glib with the word “decrepit”. I must say though, I have yet to meet the person who, on death’s door, looked as they looked in their youth.

    Diane: “I know I won’t always look like this, and I’m good with that. When I get to heaven I want to look better!” Very well said — if one believes in heaven…

    • Oh Roy, I agree.. I already see it in certain areas but I still will fight it all the way! 🙂 And actually, what I meant but did not come out right.. I am not good at accepting this age stuff! I hate it! I am not growing old gracefully & don’t embrace it like some! 😉

  5. I don’t mind aging if my body don’t ache and I am healthy enough do what I’ve always enjoy doing. If I am only exercising to look good, I probably would not bother. But since my car accident, if I skip a few workout session, my body feels it. And the hours of sitting in the office does not help either.

  6. Asithi: Thank you for dropping in!!! I too was in a very bad accident 17 years ago. If I take more than a week off from strength training, my body begins to come undone.

  7. This is a great post, but I would have to say I may be the very small minority… At least before I started working out seriously I didn’t notice other’s vessels – as much anyway. I tend to focus more on the brilliance inside and that conveys my attitude towards the individual.

    That being said, there is such a thing as a first impression – I think it’s more of an issue of human nature – but I love it when I’m proved wrong from a preconceived notion.

    Oh, and yeah, I do think Americans do everything big. I’ll happily live in my small ranch home on my quiet street and keep existing. I’ve never understood why the majority of Americans have to do everything loud, bigger, better and just more obnoxious. Most of the time, less IS more.

  8. This post relates to my post today about how I am being negative about my appearance!!! When you are trying to lose weight, appearance is a big motivator. But now that I am maintaining, I am doing it for the health reasons. I want to avoid having to take a ton of pills when I’m older like my parents. That scares me straight to the gym!

  9. Bobbie: Love the use of the term, “vessels”! And agree 100% about the human nature part of this — lest we forget, the “first impression” is always our most immediate defense mechanism….

    Carla: RE – Exercise vs. pills: My oldest client is 88. He takes no medication of any kind, which is very rare these days for a man that age. Oh, and he hasn’t missed a scheduled workout in nearly 10 years. Coincidence….?

    Tami: Thank you for dropping in. Agree with trying to look your best. Like I said, my vanity suffers from gigantism. That said, I work very hard to keep it subdued and to remember that, in the end, we will not be judged by what we look like, but how we lived.


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