We’re bullied into training. The usual approach is to exploit your guilt and shame and make you feel like you should be training; like you’re wrong and the way to make you right is through penance at the gym.
But there comes a time when we start to respect and care for ourselves enough so that we’re no longer vulnerable to that kind of exploitation, and we stop training. We know that we ‘should’ be exercising, but on a subtle level we rebel. We feel guilty, but not guilty enough to train.
That’s the point of self-respect we associate with laziness – we stop training because we don’t want to be cruel to ourselves any more. Sooner or later, the constant negativity and prejudice might wear us down enough to get us back to the gym, we might give in to the prevailing view that we’re lazy, uncaring and somehow morally corrupt, and we might start being hard on ourselves again.
This is why we think being nice to ourselves means not training, not pursuing our development, and why we think we need to be hard on ourselves if we want to progress – if we want to look lean, ripped and rugged. Wild. Strong and independent. Like we Do It For Sparta. Our chiselled physiques are a symbol of the dedication, devotion and damage we’ve endured.
We’re used to pandering to societal demands, to our desire to fit in, or pandering to our own disagreeable, individualistic and rebellious ego that keeps us from fitting in, but there’s another path beyond simply being nice to ourselves and no longer harming ourselves with exercise, no longer paying penance at the gym. It’s a hard path, it requires awareness and love to find the way, but there’s an understanding that comes with self-respect, awareness and knowledge, an understanding that this stuff – our life, it’s ours – and we actually are free to do whatever we damn well like. We understand responsibility and consequence, work and reward, and we see that the reward for training is fitness, it’s not thinness, it’s not cake, it’s improved athleticism, strength, mobility and longevity.
Why reward yourself with junk? The food that makes you sick? Why reward yourself with thinness, and buy into the system that exploits your fears?
Reward yourself with your own personal betterment for the effort you devote to developing self-knowledge.
What is the ultimate reward that’s worth having?
Hopefully, in time we realise we’re free from the prejudice that chains us to our gym memberships that we never use anyway but can’t seem to let go of, and we get to the point where we can go there, comfortably, confidently; we can exercise on our own terms.
And when you’re there, you’re free to play.
You stop caring if you’re getting your thirty minutes, three times per week, because you realise that really doesn’t matter – it’s a thoroughly meaningless measure of activity.
What’s meaningful? Fun. Progression. You have a body, it’s alive, and it knows what it wants.
The gym is the playground for adults.
The world is the playground for everyone.
Go nuts. Do whatever. Experience joy and freedom through movement; freedom through the physical expression of the body, without prejudice or adherence to dogma.
We’re so used to the ‘you gotta train because you’re not good enough’ mentality that we don’t actually know any other way to get ourselves to the gym. The fact that you are good enough as you are, does not mean there’s no need to exercise. It means that there’s no need to be exploited by people who only want your money and don’t care about your wellbeing. It means you should do what you want, because you’re the best judge of what’s good for you.
We’re told we don’t know what we’re doing, we need guidance, structure, sets and reps and processes, so we’ve forgotten that it is actually okay to just experiment – play on the equipment, find out what it does and what we can do with it – but if you drop a dumbbell on the solid concrete floor, they’ll kick you out of the gym? Bastardos!
It’s a gym. The floor can take it. It shouldn’t have a floor that can’t handle dumbbells.
But if you ‘should’ do anything, you should be free and curious, you should experiment and play. We can work out for ourselves our own sense of fun and achievement through movement.
As useful as ‘structure’ and ‘processes’ are, they are not necessary – they do help to develop your awareness and athleticism, but they get in the way equally as much. There is no training system that will prepare you for all situations you’ll face out in the world, and there’s no system that will develop your awareness for you, that’s something you do by yourself. Pilates don’t have a monopoly on awareness, yoga doesn’t own serenity, and the gym isn’t the only place you can go to if you want to get strong.
You learn about yourself through playtime and curiosity, through pursuing your enjoyment of movement.