I had a chat with a dude in the gym the other day and he expressed that the beauty standard is harder for men than it is for women now, because you have to be big and muscular, but also ripped, and how that's tough because building mass while shredding are like, contradictory goals. So he basically just outlined why the whole "strong is the new skinny" thing is so hard, without touching on the real reasons that it's such bullshit. Hate the system? Don't ask more people to buy in, tear it the fuck down.
It doesn't matter if you're on your phone. Even if you train with 100% focus and clarity of intent, it doesn't matter if you're texting during your rest periods. They're rest periods. When you're on your phone you don't need to be thinking about weightlifting and when you're lifting, you don't need to be thinking about your phone.
You don’t need to shame or encourage people to exercise. It’s not really your job, even if you’re a trainer. If you are a trainer, it’s your job to teach people how to exercise. In a broad sense, motivation may come into it, but it doesn’t have to be dogmatic or cruel. I like helping people to get strong and become better at looking after themselves, in a certain context. And that context is fitness. The shape of your body is your business, what you eat is your business. Getting you stronger, helping you to become better at moving, that’s mine.
I saw a headline the other day: If I want to lose weight, does it mean I have internalized weight stigma? What they mean I imagine, is: I want to be thin, am I broken in some way? Is this yet another fucking thing I need to worry about?
What belongs to you, and what belongs to culture? We live in a weird, obsessive, toxic yet health-conscious culture. We’re constantly told we need to be thinner and there’s nothing in particular that’s wrong with believing what you’re told all the time. It can be somewhat overwhelming. It’s just that it’s pretty one-dimensional.
The reason we include exercise in our lives is to make our lives easier or better in some way. It’s not because we have to, that only leads to resentment, it’s not because of obedience – or when it is, our efforts are frustrating and short-lived. When you are coerced or manipulated, of course it doesn’t work out in the long run; there’s nothing wrong with you when you rebel against emotional manipulations. Sometimes it’s right not to play along. Exercise makes your life better when you do it on your terms. And so it is simple: exercise makes life better. It makes your life easier, that is why we do it. And if it’s not, then you need to reassess.
A couple of trainers were talking about physiques they find inspiring. It got me thinking – of course, nobody can out Jackie Chan Jackie Chan. Nobody can be more Christine Girard than Christine Girard. There’s nobody more Kardashian than Kardashian. We all know this, even if we do use other people’s physiques as some sort of inspiration.
And of course, nobody will be more Chris than Chris, but it’s far less glamourous to simply be yourself. Where’s the fun in that?! It’s just reality! Maybe it’s because it’s no work, and we like the idea of working at something, modelling ourselves after something, having someone else lead the way. Choosing to walk your own path is a bit lonely. You are automatically endorsed and comforted when you walk behind or with someone else.
A long time ago, I used to avoid chocolate. Like many, it was mostly a weight-loss thing. And I was disciplined about it and all that stuff, there were months at a time when I didn’t eat any.
But after a while, I noticed by avoiding chocolate, I wasn’t losing any weight. And when I did eat it, I didn’t gain weight either. So, why? Of course, this is because what you weigh comes down to an infinitely more complex equation than plus or minus chocolate equals blah.
So then the inescapable question, the choice that remained was this: whether I include chocolate in my diet or not, it’s not a weight-based decision. It’s not about desired weight outcomes. So what then? What do I base my decisions upon? Actually it opened up a whole world of possibilities. What I eat – what we eat – if our decisions aren’t based on shame, fear, or prejudice, what then? Desire? Even that shifts. When you’re not afraid or ashamed, your desires shift too. I started to trust myself.
Do Christmas. That is all, really.
If it really was only one day of indulging, I don’t think we’d have much in the way of any serious problems surrounding Christmas. But we have a way of freaking out about the multitude of celebrations, with much food, drink, all sorts. And it causes much confusion and anxiety, for any number of reasons.
Whether you’re religiously pious or a bit of a fitness nut, we have a long history – us humans – of believing there’s moral superiority in the rejection of pleasure. I used to buy into this myself to a point, but I’m less prone to moralizing in general than I used to be. Or perhaps to rephrase: morals where morals belong, but what about where they don’t quite seem to fit?
If I’m to think about the logical biology of pleasure and disgust, they serve it seems, to ensure survival of the species. I’m not a biologist. My mum is, so I hope she’ll correct me if I’m off-base, but what seems logical to me is this: things that bring us pleasure: eating, sex, sleeping, exercise, relaxation, social interaction – these things can all be linked with the survival of our species, in rather direct ways. Also, these things that disgust us: mold, rot, certain foods, smells, pain – the mechanism of disgust also clearly serves to keep us alive.
There are a bunch of different ways in which you can approach your strength training, and there are a range of tools you can use for different exercises too.
The imaginary barbell game is what we play, every time we lift dumbbells with the hands rigidly aligned in relation to each other. We don’t need to do this. The strength of dumbbells is versatility – they are less stable than a barbell, but more versatile. So they don’t lock you in, you don’t need to align the hands as if you’re holding on to a single, long bar, and you can move in the way that suits you best.
This is a topic I believe is better watched than read, so if you’re curious about variations to the bench press, shoulder press, or how to approach training with weights, please check out my new video about this very issue.