Recently, I find myself hesitating on whether I do want to go to the gym. This happens during lunch break, or after work hours. This happens even as I was standing at the lift lobby that will take me upstairs. It wasn’t laziness. It was something else. This happens day in and day out. I had to sit down and ask myself a few probing questions.
What I discovered is this: the notion of exercising for fitness simply doesn’t make sense. Running on a treadmill or elliptical machine to lose weight and become fit begets a lot of questions. Please note that I am not saying that exercising is bad. But what I am saying is how we get that exercise and to what extent do we want to exercise is an important question to ask as well.
First and foremost, why do we exercise? For most of us, the answer is to lose weight and also to become fitter. For some, its because they want to be more toned and look good at the beach. For others its for health reason.
The next question is, how do we exercise? We are sold on this idea that the only way to exercise is to pay a gym membership and workout in a gym with all these equipments designed to help us isolate muscles and develop them individually. In order to do these workouts, we take time away from life itself (love ones, friends etc) and spend time at the gym. People who sell you on the idea of why you need a gym insist that this is part of the discipline required.
At some point, I find the idea of being at the gym working out, quite ridiculous. Life is about living. Living is about doing and interacting with life itself. Its also about doing what is natural to us. Using specially designed machines to isolate muscles and develop them specifically doesn’t make sense. This is because in life, if you need to carry something, you do not isolate specific muscles like your arm to carry something. Every part of your body needs to work together at the same time. Your legs muscles have to be strong, your hips provides the counterbalance, you need to adjust your gait, your arm and shoulder muscles will also need to work together to carry the item, your hands needs to be strong enough to grip the item you are carrying and your spine & core muscles will also need to work to remain upright. So what is the point of working out using a machine? It seems like you will get more done by putting on a rucksack filled with packets of rice and go for a hike.
Our ancestors did not have access to the gym. Yet studies have shown that they are lean and do not suffer from many modern illnesses. Why is this so? Well its because of the kind of food they eat. Human beings have evolved through millions of years eating other animals and plants. We have survived solely on meat, fats and plants. There’s not much sugar, carbs in our diet. The agricultural revolution happens fairly recent and it brings with it many of the illnesses we associate with modern living. With the availability of sugar and carbs, our body starts burning our own body-fats (the chief way in which we lose weight) and instead burn the carbs/sugars that is a readier source of energy. We need to return to the diet of our ancestors which our body has perfectly evolved to digest.
This brings me to my next point; a large part of fitness comes from preventive action such as having the right diet. For most people, joining a gym to work-out is a remedial action. After the damage is done. If you have a sheepish grin, well so do I. We are all guilty of this. But I realised that the reason why studies of original aboriginal and native american cultures shows lean-bodies is because these people were eating as nature intended them to be. Even for these cultures, when they made contact with civillisations who have experienced the agri-revolution and started eating food with higher concentration of carbs and sugars, they also start to experience obesity.
The point I’m making is this; The singular nature of life does not require us to take ourselves away from our life to go to a room filled with machines to work-out and lose weight. The formula for health and fitness can be embedded within life itself. By eating right, you will lose-weight naturally. When you lose weight naturally, you don’t need to exercise to lose weight. But if you really want to develop a functionally strong body, than do something functional like taking a rucksack, fill it with rice or sand, and go for a hike. Or create your own exercises such as taking a sand filled sack from the ground and hoisting it to your shoulders, than completing the action by lifting the sand-sack to your head, than back down to your shoulders, than return it to the ground. By doing these type of compound movements, you are exercising various muscle groups at the same time. And most importantly, you can do these exercises at home, within your neighbourhood, with your wife/kids, friends. You can go for a hike with your kids as well. Its amazing and don’t you think you will be less stressed when you are not isolated in a gym with many sweaty and prying eyes and vulture-like fitness trainers trying their best to convince you why you need a fitness trainer?
Life is a whole in itself. We should not be taking time out of our everyday life to exercise. We are already exercising doing the things life demand of us everyday. Walking to the copier or to the toilet, carrying stacks of life, learning to control your eye-hand coordination as you try to repair the guitar for example, all these are forms of exercise. You don’t need to be any stronger than you already are because if you need to be stronger for what you are doing daily, your body’s adaptive capacity will adapt naturally.
But if you do need to be stronger for personal reasons, than integrate this into your life. Take the stairs instead of elevator or escalator. Stand and work at your desk instead of seating down. I personally do this and I like it better than seating. And remember, don’t be the type of person for whom fitness is a remedial action to repair damage already done. In order to not be someone like this, make sure you are eating right. Stop eating junk food, processed food, carbs and sugars. Just focus on eating meat, eggs and plants. When you eat this way, even fats becomes your friend.
There is a singularity to life and Life is whole in itself. You don’t need to step out of life to achieve anything you want to achieve. Every moment of life is whole.