As I write this, I am sitting at a cafe here in Sunnyside, a newfound home for me. Considering the fact that I have been living in Calgary my whole life, I find this neighborhood to be a new and exciting place to be in. It feels like a small town within a big city, and as such, carries with it that small town experience since I see familiar faces all the time. I find I go out of my way to explore and walk along the various neighborhoods and streets that are scattered throughout as I head home. Compared to the concrete living that is downtown, it is wonderful to see trees, plants, and community. The liveliness of this area is enigmatic, and I love it.
When I started my journey as a trainer, I was but a babe, only knowing how to make people happy with food while being a recluse; it was part of what made working in restaurants attractive as the need to be “chatty” wasn’t really important. The experience I gained from that time has helped me to problem solve, work under pressure, and manage my time (to a degree.) But I have noticed that those aren’t as important in a world where making connections are what make training enjoyable.
My time at Urban Athlete has been a journey for sure. I have been at it for…I suppose six years now as a trainer – full time for four years. When you are working towards being a better version of yourself, you end up on a path of growth for some time, or rather, for an endless amount of time. For now, the community of Sunnyside, and Urban Athlete has been fun to be a part of. My former misanthropic attitude seems to of subsided, for what I gained from the time spent connecting, building friendships, obtaining knowledge, listening to different perspectives, and receiving emotions that would fill a bottle with “love” to drink from if you need a quick boost midday; it has made a big impact on me.
“Live in the moment,” or “Enjoy it while it lasts.” You may of heard those before, and they are ways to approach a time in our lives where we push onward towards a resolution that leads to growth. School is a good example. You meet people that carry you forth for years to come, and everyday is highlighted with a lesson to take home with you. You grow as you get closer to a stage in your journey. Exercising is very much the same. If you disagree, hear me out. I am not so credulous as to believe our efforts in the gym is the same as going for, oh I don’t know, your PHD for example. But there are similarities.
We have a slew of empirical evidence around us that suggests to lose weight, you need to do this and that, and to gain mass and muscle, there is also evidence that shows us the way. However, when you look at Canada’s obesity rates, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, it has been increasing, with mortality rates going up, and Canada spending billions on treatment and healthcare. And the fitness industry also seems to be cashing in too… but if our goal is to help people, why isn’t it showing? If we have all this evidence that paves the way to success, with increased muscle or weight loss, why is it that our statistics show us what looks to be a population that is suffering in this respect. With all this information at our fingertips, and with greater access to knowledge via technology, and a logical and empirical approach, you would think that we would be much closer to reducing the spoken diseases; but instead, it suggests that there is a greater disconnect between researchers and those they intend to help.
You could chalk it up to hedonism, as it is something that plagues our society with television, social media, and other pleasures to distract us from learning, unless we choose not to harbor any of those distractions and instead, retreat to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but the mountains, lakes, trees, and wilderness; a journal or a book… that sounds quite nice actually. But before I retreat to my imaginary cabin out in the wild, I want to elaborate on what I think it is.
I was looking at a Muscle & Fitness magazine for women the other day, and I was shocked to see that even in 2019, a lot of what was in magazines, television, or other sources of consumption still exists today: a latching to our insecurities. With how the women looked, to what they were promoting; it is no wonder that a lot of women feel insecure in their own skin, within their own bodies. With products being sold to help you lose weight, or workouts to “enhance you butt,” or “shape your curves,” it feels like it is all to appeal to the opposite sex, similar to a Cosmo magazine of days past (or maybe still.) Men aren’t exempt from this either as you have similar advertising at hand, to look a certain way, be a certain way, do this to “confuse you muscles,” “shed your body fat,” in the hopes that women will come in droves. Advertising that appeals to our insecurities. Nothing new really, but it is a major problem that I have with this industry.
The thing I find interesting about the fitness industry is the focus on our appearance. I am sure I got some eye rolls there as you may be thinking “Well no duh Sherlock.” But you have to admit, for all the empiricism, logic and reason that we have when it comes to physiology, bio-energetics, and bio-mechanics, we are so emotionally invested in this area, and are romantic with our actions. Or maybe we aren’t if you think of our biological determinism, what our biological imperative is. But let’s be real, we don’t think of that when we say “I want to look good naked!” Our emotions flow from us so as to bring us to a time long past, or to chase something that we don’t see in ourselves.
When you paint a picture, is it about finishing the painting? When you pick up an instrument, are you playing to finish the song? When you hit the heavy bag, are you planning the end of your round? You are in the moment during those times, nothing more. Think of those relationships you built in school, university, or in your neighborhood. Remember your current journey in your vocation as you strive to challenge yourself and find continued growth. As you think of this, or as you already know, you may realize that it is endless; just like our journey with movement, exercise, and listening to our bodies. This may sound disheartening as it isn’t so sexy to think that losing weight isn’t done in a short amount of time, however, we can find out our joys as we move forward.
Ask yourself these questions with your goal:
Why do you exercise?
Why do you want that goal?
What will achieving that goal do for you?
What will that do to improve your life?
Will that make you happy?
It is important to consider what the implications of what our goals are. What you will see, most likely, is that there are deep, intrinsic goals you may have that are hidden away, masked by other emotions and feelings. Look within, reflect and truly note what you want. We can deny and hide it, or find other ways to cope with our insecurities, but that only continues the negative connection that a lot of people have with exercise. I am sure you know what I mean, like exercising out of guilt to punish our nights out, or going dry when you notice you have been drinking too much during the holidays. I am now reminded of a line from Rocky where Paulie drives Adrian out of his house to go on a date with Rocky. He says “Enjoy your freaking life!” He was quite the ass, but he kind of has a point. Why are we so hard on ourselves for living, and having fun? Balance is important, but alas, I will leave that for another time. It is important to remove that stigma, especially as the holiday season approaches in where I hear such things connected with guilt.
I want to finish my rambling here with an excerpt from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations:
Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself, and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise. This applies even to the more mundane forms of beauty: natural objects, for example, or works of art. What need has true beauty of anything further? Surely none; any more than law, or truth, or kindness, or modesty. Is any of these embellished by praise, or spoiled by censure? Does the emerald lose its beauty for lack of admiration? Does gold, or ivory, or purple? A lyre or a dagger, a rosebud or a sapling? – Meditations. Book Four, Chapter 20