Extreme training is for extreme athletes…and so is extreme motivation, argues powerlifter N.C. Harrison.
There has been a lot of talk lately, on The Good Men Project and elsewhere, about the so-called “fitspiration” posters which circulate around on Facebook and other places. These posters, which usually feature an artistically moist, semi-naked woman or chap who looks a bit like Khal Drogo, are scribed with a ferocious legend intended to guide a poor Foul Bachelor or Bachelorette Frog to the heights of athletic success.
It’s a fun game for me, when I’m really bored, to look at them and wonder if they are Nietzsche quotes, Courage Wolf memes or things that were said in Conan the Barbarian. Some of them have included, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body,” which has the distinction of being offered by USMC General Lewis Puller, Courage Wolf and one of my more insane football coaches. “Tradition becomes holy and inspires awe,” a popular meme among traditional martial artists, is a grotesquely out of context quote from Nietzsche (he didn’t mean it as a compliment) and “Steel is weak; the flesh is strong!” was said by Conan’s nemesis, the evil wizard Thulsa Doom. Considering he practiced human sacrifice and worshiped a giant serpent it is possible that he is not the best person in the world from whom to take fitness advice.
I have often considered making a fitspiration photo of my own. It would perhaps feature a muscular, sweat-soaked athlete, like an NFL running back or linebacker, in a darkened locker room, towel draped over his head. The words scrawled across, perhaps in blood, would be, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women.” Or, even more to the point, “Vomit and then crawl through the wreckage to reach your goals!” I would, at this point, be abusing sarcasm and probably deserve to have the police called on me. It would be especially bad because the guy who shares the most annoying fitspiration posters on my Facebook–a pretty hardcore Crossfitter–would probably take my joke poster and make it famous. He goes to his box six or eight times a week, takes it very seriously and I don’t think owns a shirt. If he were to go to a formal dinner it would be like a Chippendale dancer in a bowtie, Vibrams and fight shorts. I don’t want to do anything that might contribute to his sickness.
My point is this: extreme training is for extreme athletes. Most people neither want nor need to be extreme athletes. I was a very good football player. I never made it to the Big Show on Saturday afternoons (though I was scouted by a couple of 1AA schools, including Georgia Southern, before being put out by nagging injuries), but I played under the vaunted Friday Night Lights, spat blood a few times and played in a couple of games that I cannot remember with the clarity which I would like. My current hobby involves picking up very heavy things and putting them down again and, in pursuit of it, I have dead-lifted around what I was afraid might have been a hernia by changing my stance. This was stupid. My mom and sister, on the other hand, who want to exercise lose a little bit of weight, don’t need to go to these lengths. They need to do what is recommended for them to achieve their goals. My best friend, who has undergone numerous back surgeries, needs to lift light weights to maintain muscule tone. She needs to do what her doctor recommends to achieve her goals. Fitness–the capacity to perform a task–is not a one size fit all goal and we are foolish to pretend that it is. I learned that from Daniel John, a wise man, and it has stuck with me more than anything else.
I do have three posters in my little gym. One is an Adventure Time poster because Adventure Time is my favorite show. The second is Julie Newmar in a catsuit and the third is Katy Perry in a sundress. When I am at the bottom of my squat I can look at Julie and when I am standing upright I can look at Katy. I happen to find this terribly inspirational, much more so than a sinewy person shouting at me in text, because some things–like the delectable curves on a gorgeous woman–never go out of style. I learned this through personal experimentation and, like a good scientist, repeat the experiment whenever I can.