I’m truly at a loss.
I’ve purposefully waited a few days to let the dust settle, but my community here in Birmingham has suffered yet another terrible blow. For the second time this year we’ve lost someone dear to us.
I’m trying to tread very carefully here. Both of the friends I’m speaking of were greatly loved. Their advocates are fiercely loyal — and with good reason, these were beautiful souls who greatly enriched the lives of those who knew them.
And yet, from where I stand, they both left with time to spare.
Philosophically I stand upon a paradox. I believe in a spiritual continuity to life that extends beyond the borders of what we see here as physical birth and death. I believe that life here has purpose, that we come here with a job in mind. To that end I believe in a sense of destiny. BUT, I also believe that we have significant say in how things go while we are here.
The choices we made before affect the choices we have now and the choices we make now affect how many choices we will have in the future.
Personally, I like to keep my options open.
A large part of what I do is minister to others. My gym exists as a temple of the self. A place where people can come, work on themselves and struggle, safely, with their limits, pushing their boundaries out, a little bit at a time. The goal is to maximize our choices. On the surface we do this through movement. We find ways to become more mobile, through strength, flexibility and awareness.
See how this works? The better we move the more options for movement we have.
This physical truth has metaphysical implications as well. I’ve long said (and therefore it must be true, right?) that ability leads to confidence and confidence leads happiness. It doesn’t take a high degree of mental gymnastics to see the validity of this expression. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a high degree of physical gymnastics, either.
The ultimate goal is a better world. Sounds nice doesn’t it? No, not through some plasticence vision of externalized versions of fitness, not some utopia of the uber fit where everyone has a trim waist, a firm biceps and an apporpriately sized butt.
No, an honest to goodness better world, where people are happier, treat themselves and others with compassion and act decently. Achieving that world is made possible through empowered indiviudals.
I can’t do anything about the past. I can’t help friends who are no longer here. But I can do something about the here and now. I can raise my voice one more time. I can let you know that there are options. The gym doesn’t have to be what you remember from middle school P.E.
My generation, in particular, was done a grave disservice by an army of P.E. instructors poorly trained and improperly motivated. Many of us began to take pride in our marginalized statuses and to, ironically, lionize the trappings of the non-athletic. Now that we’re in our forties we’re starting to pay a price.
Gen Xers, as we’ve been called, don’t have a monopoly on dysfunction but we certainly reaped a hearty helping of it. Latch key kids raised in a culture of stranger danger left many of us to be raised by TV and passive forms of engagement. Often the first to rail against the over consumption of our society we find ourselves largely mollified by our own consumeristic tendencies — all too often in the forms of alcohol and drugs. Which in my own history I found to be passive substitutes for the activity my body craved.
And here lies the crux of my quandry. I know first hand the struggles of many of my peers. I walked the road they’re on, I just got off before the consequences of my choices became sufficient to limit my future options. My fear is that I’ve been off that path so long they no longer recognize me and instead see the face and the figure of the jocks and coaches they’ve avoided the better part of their lives.
It’s true, many in my industry look down on those who struggle. They bolster themselves with snide comments and opinions of those who “don’t have the stuff” or “just can’t hack it.” They tell you your excuses are invalid, that you’re weak, and your fears are justified.
There is much about the fitness industry that is wrong. There are snake oil salesmen who profit off your fears and insecurities and there are well intentioned souls whose misinformation can be downright dangerous.
I can tell you that my gym is different, that my way is different, but in the end your best advocate is yourself. Are you happy with where you are? Do you feel like your options are limiting? Are you ready to try something else?
There are still options. Chip’s Movement for Beginners series is a great place to start (episodes 1 and 2). The Mental Meat Heads group on Facebook is another. This is a forum of like minded individuals who represent the best the fitness industry has to offer. It’s an open group and very friendly. Post any question, find a like minded gym or fitness professional. To join Mental Meat Heads GO HERE. If you’re in Birmingham and interested in what I do email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you’re outside the city but interested in learning more, consider coming into town for one of our workshops. The next on is January 16-18. Learn more HERE.
To our perfect imperfection,