In all of mankind’s history, fitness as an intentional endeavor is a fairly recent development. For thousands of years, fitness was both the means and the byproduct of the never-ending struggle to survive. Humans relied on a combination of our athleticism and superior wit to keep us safe from the predators we had yet to unseat from their place atop the food chain. For early man, the hunt was cardio, and if you were lucky enough to kill your prey, dragging it home sufficed for resistance training.
Today, we no longer face the same kinds of threats as our spear-toting forefathers, and fitness is no longer an intrinsic part of our way of life. In a strange twist of fate, our glorious modern society has made it easier to be fat, static, and unhealthy than it is to share in the physical strengths of our heritage. Strength has become a superfluous affectation of the Alpha minded–a hobby akin to playing dungeons and dragons or working on old cars. The men and women that abide by the biological imperatives of old and work to fashion their bodies into a means rather than an end, are no longer a species-wide norm.
Being a modern athlete is often relegated to the same corners of conversation as things that make people just awful, like being vegan or driving a Toyota Prius. However, fitness does have one thing going for it that other “hobbies” don’t: an ever-growing population of people who view upon your habits and their results, with a kind of annoyed admiration.
I’m no fitness model, and I struggle with the same types of body image issues that any man of my generation does–especially when it comes to getting a little softer around the mid-section–but it seems as though it must be pretty apparent that I work out a lot, because not a week goes by without hearing one of these gems:
“Well, in your line of work, you must have time to work out!”
“Sure, I’d love to get in shape like you, but I’m just too busy.”
“Man, you must be in the gym all day!”
No, no and no. My line of work regularly calls for spending long days locked inside my (admittedly homey) office, chugging coffee, typing like a maniac and hitting refresh on my e-mail like a junky waiting for another hit of heroin in the form of pull quotes and source confirmation. When I’m done writing, I migrate to my living room where I split my evenings between managing stories and spending time with my wife. Just like anybody, I work hard and I value the time I get with my family–I just also make the time to work out. There’s nothing more important to me than my wife (and inbound daughter), but fitness remains a priority.
There’s no such thing as “too busy” to get into better shape. If you’ve been living a mostly sedentary lifestyle up to this point, I promise you that going for a fifteen minute walk each day will get the ball of change rolling and make you feel better about yourself. If you already spend all day on your feet but have been meaning to get into strength training, chances are good that you can find thirty minutes, three times a week to push some iron around at your local gym. When you say that you can’t, what you really mean is that it isn’t important enough to you.
We all have limited time in our day. We all have a dozen professional and social obligations to juggle. We’re all tired and grumpy by the time we get done with work. But some of us, those Alpha-minded enthusiasts that force themselves to shake the centuries worth of rust off of the genes we share with our spear-toting ancestors each day in the gym, just make it work.
I can sense some fingers quivering. For some of you, I’ve struck a chord, and you’re going to write out a response in the comments below explaining to me that, while you agree that some people could make the time, you really can’t. Let me stop you before you start though: are you trying to convince me… or you?
The three most damaging words in an athlete’s vocabulary are, “I’ll start Monday.” It offers us a sweet release from the pressures of eating right or of postponing our plans to start working out yet again. If I start Monday, what’s the harm in a few more slices of pizza? We immediately reward ourselves for the promise of future pain by dismissing the guilt of yet another day gone by without making the positive changes we’ve been craving in our lives.
We promise ourselves that Monday because it’s the start of something, and we see fitness as a journey you can begin and end. That’s not the game, folks. Fitness isn’t a road trip, it’s a merry-go-round. You can get on and off whenever you like.
Stop telling yourself you have to run ten miles a day to get into shape, and just walk one today to start. Stop promising yourself you’re going to work twice as hard next week to justify not working at all now, and do a push-up-pyramid for 15 minutes on your next break. Stop wishing you had time to work out until you look like Dwayne Johnson or Sara Underwood, and start making enough time to just feel good about yourself and what you did today.
In today’s world, fitness may indeed be nothing more than an affectation. Our culture tells us that all bodies are beautiful, and that may be your belief as well, but I struggle to find the beauty in losing a foot to diabetes or a loved one to heart disease. In the minds of some, biceps and beards are nothing more than a tenuous grip on an outdated concept of masculinity, and women with muscle tone are too manly to be pretty.
But if you’re one of the folks sitting on the bench, waiting for Monday to come so you can get started, you aren’t one of those people. You’ve got that same caveman drive that pushes my friend Selena to add five pounds to her squat and my friend German to keep running for another half mile, you just haven’t decided to make the time yet.
Let this be your wake up call. Whatever day you’re reading this: start today. Because if you keep waiting for the time, the energy or the enthusiasm you think it takes to get started, I’ve got bad news: that Monday’s never going to come.
But today is already here.
Images courtesy of the author.