Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fitness is…

Impartial.

It doesn’t care about circumstances, timing, or convenience. You’re either up to the challenge or you aren’t.

During three years of personal training in Washington D.C., I had the privilege to meet and engage with people seeking fitness from all walks of life. I listened to their goals, taught them the skills they would need to achieve them, and did my best to help meet and overcome each inevitable hurdle. During the course of these interactions and experiences I heard a million reasons why goals weren’t reached or why hurdles were too high. But no justification, no matter how convincing or true, ever transformed failure into success. No task, whatever it may be, will ever make itself easier to overcome because you are tired, sick, or haven’t had your coffee. This is fitness’s beautiful simplicity. You either lift the weight or you don’t. You get yourself to shore or you drown. Almost doesn’t count.

In many cases this kind of impartiality can be ruthless, but it is always fair. Growing up playing football and baseball I was exposed to kids from good families, bad families, rich families, poor families, families with dogs or cats or birds or whatever. The best part of any sport I ever played was that I wasn’t any of those things when I was on the field and neither were they. In that moment we were nothing but our ability or inability to perform.

Unfortunately, this brand of abject fairness doesn’t sit well with those that don’t get it done. Rather than acknowledging failure, finding their flaw, and working towards improving it, the vast majority of kids looked outwards and instead found an external excuse for their incompetence. Call it immature, irresponsible, or whatever, but it is the same in society at large. People blame violence on the influence of video games and popular music. Someone’s kid hurts himself jumping out of a tree and the city is up in arms to chop that tree down. Gone are the days where individuals are held responsible for the risks they take and the decisions they make and it’s creating the biggest and most dangerous epidemic facing the world: that of non-accountability.

Take obesity. There are plenty of medical explanations for why someone is obese and can’t lose weight: over-active thyroid, low bone density, slow metabolism, poor nutrition, previous injury, diabetes, psychological distress…the list goes on. One or all of these could be absolutely true in any given situation and I sympathize with the person fighting to overcome them. But the harsh, impartial truth is that finding a reason for your obesity doesn’t make you any less fat. I promise you, gravity isn’t going to feel sorry for your plight and decide to stop pulling. Yet so often this seems to be what people expect. They resign themselves to the status quo and deem it acceptable because some white coat wrote them a prescription. Their explanation becomes a psychological crutch that cannot be scrapped.

Even more blind are those who blame society for their shortcomings. How many times have you heard or read criticisms of the fast food industry’s corporate greed and deceptive advertising campaigns? As if the individual played no part in shoving that Big Mac and supersize order of fries in his face. The reason McDonald’s is a multi-billion dollar a year business is because people choose to eat there. It’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it tastes good. It also offers very limited nutritional benefit beyond hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. The choice is straightforward and stark, but people get it wrong everyday because they think a good justification is the same thing as a good decision.

I used to wonder how many people could use busyness as an excuse for not exercising. No joke, I heard it at least 6 times a week during personal training sessions and every time it was the sincerest plea. “I’ve been swamped at work,” or “Things have just been crazy lately.” You mean people have to work for a living and sometimes that makes them tired and tight on time? Never heard of such a thing. Things are always about to “calm down” or “lighten up.” Such excuses are the purest form of psychological masterbation. They do absolutely nothing to break the barriers between you and your goals, but, rather, serve only to make you feel better about not reaching them.

I love fitness because it’s a results based pursuit, the purest form of meritocracy. You set goals and you reach them. Or you don’t. No list of excuses will ever change the fact that you didn’t make the time, lose the weight, or prevent the heart attack. SO STOP MAKING THEM. Some people have it harder than others, I grant you. Tough shit. The mirror doesn’t care and neither do I. If the individual reaps the benefit, then so too must he shoulder the burden. Whatever the challenge, just get it done.

18 comments:

  1. aint that the truth! well done bro!

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  2. Well said, I could not agree more.

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  3. Hey Blair been following your workouts for awhile now, good job man. I was wondering what the tatto symbol meant on your back? Also, do you do any bodybuilding type exercises when you have a short WOD?

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  4. Excellent post, tired of hearing and making excuses. Thanks for this great Blog!

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  5. Love it. I consider this post you coming out as a libertarian and I for one welcome you to the fold.

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  6. Blair, been following your blog for a while now and just joined as a follower. I'm a 40 year old husband, father to six kids, and attorney with my own law practice, so I can totally understand (but don't accept) the excuses we can make about finding time for health and fitness. As a former athlete who had put on about 40 extra lbs I started looking for fitness ideas about six months ago. Didn't want to join a gym, and wanted to be functionally fit (if I needed to pick up my kids or wife and move them fast or defend them I wanted to be able to do it) and I started looking on the web for ideas. Found Crossfit and your blog among others and got to work. Have dropped 30 of my 40 and am still working. I've incorporated a lot of what you do in to my workouts. Wanted to let you know your blog is a huge inspiration and encouragement. Keep it up and great work!

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  7. Couldn't agree more! Well said!

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  8. When I was 13 in a veerry long car ride, my father said to me, 'There are those who talk about doing and those that do. Those that do keep moving forward in life, those that only talk fall by the way side. Don't fall by the way side.'

    Your post basically reflected the same sentiment. Thanks for the flash back!!

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  9. well put, as a medical student i hear everyday about diseases/predispositions to obesity and other ailments, but i believe you say it best that the,..." harsh, impartial truth is that finding a reason for your obesity doesn’t make you any less fat" I look up to the people that have accepted their differences or "disadvantages" and push them to the side.

    again - great post, i love and share many if not most of your 'fitness is' posts

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  10. Don't think you have to be a Libertarian to agree on this. Awesome post.

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  11. Well said and written! You definately hit the head of the nail in your arguments. :))

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  12. Let go of your ego, or life will do it for you.

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  13. This is my soap box. You hit every point I love to argue. It's amazing how many people stand there and come up with more excuses to prevent them from admitting to themselves that they aren't getting it done. I'm miles from perfect, but I know that I am the only who can accomplish my goals. Thanks for the great post.

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