I saw an ad for the new iwatch, or Apple Watch, or as I think it should have been called: the watchamacallit. There was a guy at a restaurant doing bodyweight dips in between two benches. Someone else looked at his watch and then got up out of bed to exercise. And I don’t know why they didn’t run with the slogan: “the new Watch from Apple. Turning humans into robots since 2015.”
Now you can exercise anywhere at any time, every time your device demands your compliance. Way of the future – you couldn’t exercise anywhere before technology told you to.
Yay fitness! Many physique. Very athlete.
I’ve never written a post before on how to exercise after the holiday period. So here goes: with so much conflicting information out there, how do you train after Christmas?
The same way you train the rest of the year. Do what you like, what’s appropriate and useful for you. If you train according to a program, or some sort of periodization scheme, do what is supposed to come next. If it’s the off-season for your favourite sport, train appropriately to your off-season. If you move intuitively, keep moving intuitively. If you dance, dance. If you run, run. It’s yours. And if it’s time to just take a break and not train, do that.
Then, do whatever comes next.
So pretty much – nothing new here. My same old tune. Even after Christmas.
I was playing with our cat. She plays for the sake of the play itself – I love observing animals, they are unburdened by conception. They play when they have energy for play, and they rest when it’s right to rest. They don’t worry about their weight, or about effective movements or programs – when hunting, they naturally do what is most efficient or easy to complete the task, based on their target and their own physical makeup. All this happens intuitively, without conception, and so it is effortless and graceful, and sometimes hilarious. The pug jumps up the stairs because it is the best way for him to climb the stairs – she isn’t trying to be cute.
If it doesn’t improve your life in some way, you won’t value it. And of course – if you don’t see it improving your life, what is the point? Who would do that? There is no reason to spend time on training if it doesn’t improve your life in some way. That is supposed to be the point, when all is said and done.
Training does improve the quality of your life, as long as you’re training in a way that’s appropriate and useful to you. Doing what you’re told might not be a good fit. Following your intuition and instinct for satisfying movements and useful progressions is actually a pretty tough path to follow. It’s hard to know if you’re doing it right.
I’ve got a whole host of issues with the “strong is the new skinny” thing you see going around the internet these days. Others have written well about the problems with fitspiration – not the least of which is the fact that they always pick thin models to go with this phrase. If it really was true, where are the pictures of strong, fat athletes? We do exist, and we can be depicted for non-shame-related reasons.
But the thing that they’re going for – what’s good about it – is that they want women to value muscular development in the way we have been taught to value thinness. And that’s okay, actually – I like this. Muscle is good; strength is good; increased bone density is good, and a muscle-centric training approach reminds you to eat enough, it rejects excessive restriction. It’s just that they go about it in the same insecurity-exploiting way – be more sexy. But muscle isn’t valuable because it’s sexy, and the reason training is valuable isn’t because of the way it makes you look.
I lament this ubiquitous theme in fitness of style over substance. If image really was nothing, our whole language around fitness would be different. Oftentimes we love to romanticize ages gone by when whatever blah-blah was different; I like to imagine a fanciful time when people moved simply to enjoy their bodies in motion, to express their pure emotions, and if they trained it was not to pander to prejudiced and narrow-minded ideals, but to develop skills and become really good at a thing – something greater than vanity. Something else. Or maybe the point is just to be able to have fun, playing and learning at the gym, with joy and curiosity, with no judgement, no emasculation or homophobia, no misogyny, no condescending encouragement, no assumptions. It’s important to me because I’ve felt trapped and powerless before, and I don’t want that again.
We think we know stuff about things. I know I’m guilty of it. Here’s what we can choose: our intention.
That’s about it.
You can select, from foods that are available, what you are going to put into your mouth. And that’s where control ends. Even then, we are manipulated into making choices, not all of which are good. But we do not control how we respond to what we eat; we do not control the quality of our digestion, though we may be able to influence it in subtle ways. And we do not control our access to food, either. As much as we can play the ‘should’ game, it is naïve to expect a poor person to buy a head of organic broccoli, when they can get a burger for the same price. Hand-wringing and complaining about other people’s choices isn’t all that helpful.
You can choose, based on your mobility, knowledge, health status, strength and fitness, how you wish to exercise. You do not magically have access to a wealth of exercise science if you have not previously researched it, you do not control the weather, and you have limited control over your access to fitness equipment. And having access does not give you time or energy. You can research, but you cannot force yourself to feel confident what you are doing is safe or correct, and you do not control how exercise effects you. You can influence how you recover, with your choices to a point, but when you are always told to exercise more and eat less, your ability to both exercise with vigour and recover well will be hampered. In short, you can set your intention, but you cannot control the outcome. That’s what makes competitive sports interesting: chaos.
There’s no such thing as laziness. Only resistance, disinterest, and fatigue.
Think about it. The only time people use the word ‘lazy’ is when they’re trying to make you do what they want, or the ‘right thing’ – but it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, just because you won’t do what you’re told.
So what’s really going on? Why aren’t you exercising like you believe you should? Why aren’t you motivated?
Maybe you’re resistant to doing what you’re told.
Maybe obedience and compliance aren’t what they’re made out to be, and you really aren’t interested in being an active participant in your own subjugation. Maybe you’re too damned fatigued and can’t muster the energy to guilt-trip yourself anymore.
I know so many young, beautiful people who only feel ugly, out of place, or insecure about their bodies.
And I think it’s worthwhile, learning to appreciate being young and beautiful – why? Because it’s precious? Yes. Because it won’t last? That’s half right. Youth doesn’t last.
But youth and beauty are two quite, quite different things. As are sex appeal and thinness. They might or might not occur together, but they are not the same.
And these beautiful young people, as we age, sooner or later it seems we come to realise – why didn’t I appreciate my beauty? I was so cute – why didn’t anyone tell me how cute I was? I hated my legs, or my belly, and look at these old photos – there isn’t a thing wrong with me. Why didn’t I realise?
But it’s not about appreciating your beauty because one day it’ll be gone – that’s simply another lie designed to keep you compliant and insecure. The fear that your beauty will evaporate – all this reveals is the continuous state of feeling bad about your body – in the past, the present and the future. This idea that you should “appreciate yourself now, because...” is based on the threat of future ugliness.
If you look back, and you see yourself as cute – why not now? Why is it lost? What is it about your character and uniqueness that you feel has vanished? It should not be “appreciate yourself now, because of the future”, it should be “appreciate yourself now, because of the now”.
I am, among other things, a sceptic. This means I require some kind of evidence, or at least a persuasive argument, before I really start to take onboard new ideas.
It’s not the same as being closed-minded. Being closed-minded means you’re unable to take on new ideas, so it’s really quite different. I am also a bit of an idealist, so I will seek out good ways to achieve stuff, but I try not to invest too much time or effort in methods that don’t seem worthwhile. In this way, idealism and scepticism complement each other nicely.
A theme I’ve been picking up on lately – something I find quite strange about our culture – is how we think of negativity and positivity.
It often seems that being sceptical is regarded as having a negative mindset, whereas doing what you’re told without objection, question, or reflection is regarded as being positive. I have often heard people say things like “you just gotta do what she says, no thought, and in three months you’ll be thin” – but to me this doesn’t seem positive, it seems foolish.
When you decide to (try to) accept your body and stop trying to lose weight or play to the beauty standard, it is often seen as being defeatist, as giving up, as being negative – as if you’re accepting illness, a poor quality of life, rather than fighting against it and trying to change. This is mostly spin. It denies the uncomfortable truth that illnesses often cannot be overcome by strength of will, and trying to do so without thought, without question or reflection, is unlikely to lead to an improved quality of life. And anyway, obesity and sickness are two quite different things, much as the status quo would like you to believe they are the same.
I wrote about putting this idea of beauty (as something out there, something you can qualify for, as something, anything that is not within you already) putting this idea of beauty to rest; putting this idea of needing to qualify to rest. Accepting yourself as you are. If you want to ‘work on’ something, work on discovering your own true character – not on serving the status-quo’s exploitative agenda.
But what then?
How do you motivate yourself to care for yourself, to exercise and all that stuff, when you’re over pandering to their demands? If you really are worthy now, as you are, then what’s the point of all that hard work?
That’s a good point.
It’s not worthwhile because some day it might make you beautiful. If that’s all you’re focussed on, you’ll miss the forest for the trees. If you’re constantly seeking this other thing, you’ll neglect – you won’t even be able to see – the real benefits that you’re getting right now. You’ll take them for granted, always looking for this other thing.
The fear with body-positivism and fat acceptance is this: what if I accept myself as I am, cease these constant efforts to be thin, and then wind up fat, immobile and bedridden? If I have to accept myself now, does that mean I’ll have to accept myself then? How will I be able to approve of myself?
It is this fear that the status-quo exploits.
If it does happen to you, the fantasy is that obedience could have prevented it. But who wants to be immobile and bedridden? Who signed up for that, and intentionally set themselves on that course? And if that is how you live, or if you fear this possible outcome, how is judging yourself for your circumstances helping?