The Importance of Fitness
Thousands of years ago the ancient Greeks competed in a series of games known as the Olympics, which have to some extend survived to the modern day. The Olympics were so important the Greek culture that truce was called in all of the Greek world so competitors could attend, and it was even drew its name from the home of the Greek Gods. This was of such significance to them because they held a solid belief that physical fitness was foundational to the functioning of a proper, strong civilization. As many things did, this concept was also held by the Romans, who in their day had one of the most fit and awe inspiring armies to walk the Earth.
Similar beliefs were held by the Japanese, and can be seen in the texts of samurai. A samurai trained martially hos whole life, and no small part of that was his fitness. A fat samurai was a dead samurai in battle, and battle was their life. They, like the Greeks and Romans, also understood that a fit body was of little use without a fit mind.
Many ancient cultures held similar concepts, and trained their bodies accordingly. Even to more modern days, in England it was believed that victory on the playing fields meant victory on the battlefields. And it should be noted here, England was very victorious. for good or ill, they conquered a surprisingly large portion of the world. More impressive when you consider they did it from an island considerably smaller than many of the lands they once held.
The same cannot be said today. Not just that the United Kingdom is much smaller than it once was, but the world has lost it’s way when it comes to fitness. An appalling percentage of the USA, and the world, are now obese. Not, overweight, obese – overweight to a point that their health is directly and adversely affected. What’s more, the number of morbidly obese (literally, going to die from fat), is climbing. It’s been called out as a recent event in the world, and every month, if not every week, someone has a new theory why we are getting fatter. But, is it really a recent event?
Dr. Hans Kraus and Bonnie Prudden sounded the alarm on the decline of our fitness, specifically in our youth, in 1953, and again in 1955. In 1956 President Eisenhower created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. (were you even alive in 56? I wasn’t, my parents had just gotten married!)
Four years later, December 1960, President-Elect John F. Kennedy wrote an article for Sports Illustrated and called the nation out as becoming, as he put it, “soft Americans”. In the article he lays out his concerns over the decline of America’s physical fitness and why fitness is important in the development of the “whole man”, and the future of the country.
How new of an epidemic is it when the President-Elect is fat shaming the country more half a century ago? Today he’d be condemned and ridiculed for it by the very people that idolize him today. Go figure.
What does this have to do with you? Everything. Am I saying you need to go to the gym? Hell no.
How you Got Here, and Where You’re Going
You are the product of millennia of evolution. until about a century ago, gyms didn’t even exist, yet men stayed fit. They worked with their hands, exercised their minds, and moved. There is a vast industry now to get you off your ass and moving. Much of it is, yes, useless. More than a bit of it is even dangerous. But, you were meant to move. You were built to be active, to run, to hunt, to lift, to carry. An entire half of the human species was built for strength and speed. Our physical prowess, and our genitalia, are what define us as male.
Look at it another way. When you’re flying, you always get the safety lecture. Even if you haven’t been on a plain, you know the drill. In case of loss of pressure in the cabin, air masks will fall from the ceiling. Put your mask on first before helping others. We all know it, it’s been in TV shows and movies and everywhere. And we know what it means, you can’t help others if you’re passed out.
Your fitness is that mask. The planes going down, put your mask on.
As a man, certain things are expected of you, whether you like it or not, whether others admit it or not. If a building is on fire, you’re expected to rush in to save others. You’re expected to do the heavy lifting, to handle the manual labor around a house, to open the stuck jar lids. You’re expected to put your life on the line for others – especially children and women. They’re the first off the sinking ship, you very well may go down with the ship. And, yes, you are expected to defend her, even in this day and age. If she says otherwise, she’s lying. Whether you think it’s right these expectations are on you or not isn’t actually the issue. That’s a debate for another time. They are there.
So let me ask you, honestly, can you carry a woman down two flights of stairs with a house burning down around you? Do you have what it takes to stand between her and a would-be assailant. Do you have the cahonas to open that stuck jar?
Maybe more importantly, are you fit enough to play with your kids – outside, off the couch, away from game consoles? Are you healthy enough to be there for them on their graduation day? Wedding day? Will you be there, healthy and functioning, when they have their first child? Their first grand child? Will you be able to play with your grand kids and great grand kids beyond the electronics, or will you be the one sitting in the corner with the air tank after your sixth bypass surgery?
What is the life you want to live? Can you really have it without your health?
Skip the Gym
What? Skip the gym? How can you possibly get fit without a gym membership, or two? Surely you need to join a CrossFit box, right? No. Why would you? Are you aiming to be an Olympic bodybuilder or CrossFit athlete? You don’t need special diets or equipment. You need a real, functional diet that you can maintain (and dare I say enjoy), of proper portion sizes. And you need movement. Want to up your game, get to know calisthenics. Your ancestors didn’t go to the gym to get fit. How could they, gyms are a new invention. Your ancestors moved, lifted, and interacted with their environment, and you should, too.
Remember climbing trees? Go climb one. Get out an walk. Swim. Help a friend move, and be the first to opt to carry the heavy stuff, not the last. I move furniture around the house mostly by myself, including carrying desks up stairs. Can you? Can you walk 5 miles without crumbling or feeling the pain the next day? Can you?
Just how you find that movement will depend on a few factors, including your current physical health. Another is your environment and interests. Not easy to go out sailing (like JFK did) when you live in Oklahoma. Not impossible, but not easy. To that end I have a list of recommendations to help get you started.
(these are not affiliates, I get nothing from them)
Build the body you need to live the life you really want. A life with vigor.