For me, the reason for training is to become better at moving. I mean training in a formalised sense - because the reason for movement itself may be to embrace the joy of a challenge or to express human emotion, or all kinds of things. But formalised training - it's about movement. It's what makes sense - because training is movement, and repetitive training is repetitive movement. And that all comes down to skills, function and efficiency, which include concepts like strength, power, endurance, mobility, flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning.
If you want to get better at running, you run - if you want to get better at throwing, you throw. But if you want to get thinner - what's the movement you practice? There is none, and maybe this is why our training is so vague these days, why it lacks substance and maybe it's why we're striving harder to find an authentic experience of training. The modern cult is to be found in fitness. We seek thinness and so we hop from one exercise to the next, trying new things, expecting to be entertained because we're not working on anything - then feeling bored and feeling bad because we don't love it like we're supposed to. But who could possibly love working at nothing?
"I'll try to keep motivated". I heard that said at the gym today.
I like to specialise, and I like to have my skills appreciated. I don't believe in deprivation any more, and I'm motivated by things that I enjoy. So for me, it's not really an issue. What are you working towards? An image? Would you resist that? I would, because I hate to conform, as much as I might yearn for acceptance. Ah, internal conflict. People speak as if this is in some way self-destructive, but I think it's the yearning for acceptance that does us damage, not our urge to rebel. My urge to rebel reminds me of who I truly am. But I'm not defined by what I reject in the same way as I'm not defined by what I accept. The thing is - our individuality is not discovered in our sameness, but I understand how terrible it is to be ostracised.
Rather than working at being thin, I put my work into not yearning to be the same - nor pandering to bullshit notions that being thin or athletic is the same as being a member of the moral elite. People talk as if not pandering to that crap is giving up - but it's not easy. It's hard work, body-positivism. You can't just say - "oh, I don't care about that stuff any more" - and then magically be immune to the exploitation. It's hard work, rejecting the body-hating status-quo - especially when they pretend to be body-loving.
I suppose - in terms of specific movements - muscle building is a bit different. There's more exercise specificity if you want to stack on muscle, than if you're trying to burn off fat. But there may be the same underlying disordered approach to training that we're somehow expecting to serve us for life? This leads to a body-parts mentality - and includes concepts such as toning and targeted fat loss, but again - if strength is your goal - training movements trumps training body parts.
What's always seemed kind of odd to me, is training to get thin. Because it's indirect and it lacks specificity. You can't pin it down. You just get people parroting vague concepts about calories and burning shit, but when you scratch the surface it doesn't hold up. When you train movements you become better at movements. And when you focus on that, there's a reason for what you do - a martial artist seeks to become better at certain relevant movements, as does a weightlifter, sprinter, dancer, archer, or any other sportsperson. Your training for strength and conditioning exists in reference to your athletic goals - not in a bubble. And so there's a purpose for every single session. You're never spinning your wheels, you're never bored, because there's always something you can investigate. Well, you might get bored. But that's just an opportunity to discover what dedication is, and investigate the notion of overtraining.
My perspective has changed so much. There's truth in it, to an extent - training changes the way you look, but not in the way we expect - but there's a massive leap of faith that we seem to take without question. This idea that exercise makes you thin.
I wonder, what would happen to gyms if people started training to become better at moving, rather than in an attempt to change their weight? I wonder what would happen to our motivation, our sense of self esteem, our feeling for body image and beauty? I wonder what would happen in terms of health and function? I suspect training longevity would, on average, increase - and I suspect people would have more satisfying day-to-day training experiences - but who knows? It might just be my agenda.