Posted: July 2, 2009 in The Past Life Experiment


episode 001:


So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide where I should begin my experiment of digging into my past. I’ve settled on fitness. Aside from any New Year’s resolutions I may or may not keep, I must ask myself, “Why is fitness important to me?”

Being close to the start of the New Year, it seems that most of the collective consciousness of society is geared towards fitness and weight loss. Actually, come to think of it, the concept of losing weight is relentlessly pounded into the collective psyche year-round these days; it’s just a bit fiercer around this time of year. There is the pressure to lose all of those excess pounds gained from gorging on all that rich holiday food, typically in time for Beach Blanket Bingo in the summer. Advertising frantically conveys the urgency to shed the pounds and the message is reinforced by media icons and starlets who ultimately influence the behavior and habits of the masses, and so on, and so forth, and the whole machine keeps rolling on.

Like George W. Bush always said, “You’ve got to keep repeating the propaganda for people to believe it…” And so countless scores of people put themselves through the rigors of cycle-dieting, doomed to live a calorie/carb-centric life, obsessing over body-image, only to inevitably return to that which gives them comfort: FOOD. And for a good reason. Food is supposed to comfort us.
It’s like a biological imperative. How many other life forms on this planet obsess over their body image? It seems that only humans could be so flamboyant towards something so survival-based.

But what does fitness mean to me personally? Fortunately, I was raised in a very fitness-conscious household, so I have been lucky enough to have those values instilled and reinforced in me during my childhood and teen years. But for all of my efforts, my own fitness always seemed out of sync with the rest of the world. I loathed all of those silly little exercises they make you do in gym class. They were boring, exhausting, and I didn’t really excel at any of them. I wasn’t into sports, or jock-like camaraderie. Gym class to me was just another way that the popular kids got to show their dominance, just like the good old days of sandbox rivalry.

I would stand by and watch the effortless physical prowess of my peers and wonder how they could virtually sprint the entire mile run. Or how they could fly up the climbing rope like some sort of weightless human-monkey hybrid. The only explanation for these seemingly abnormal feats of human capabilities I could think of is that they were the products of some freakish genetic experiment, or that they had had drill instructors for parents. Every time I did the mile run, I would heave and gasp for breath like an 80 year old smoker. Every time I tried to climb the rope, I made it about as high as the gym teacher’s head. No, I didn’t really see much value in these forced physical rituals.

Enter my post high school/early adult years. I got most of my exercise bicycling to and from work, racking up dozens of miles per day just in transportation. I look back on the experience and wonder how I ever kept going. The thought of bicycling 20 miles round trip per day through the slanted hills of Greenwood Village just to get to and from my day job, seems to me, today, as being daunting and excruciating. But there was a time when it was automatic.Maybe I have become stingy, over the years, over my choice of energy expenditure, selecting more comfortable venues. They say that people become more sedentary as the years go by, and I’m sure that it is true, but I have always thought of lifestyle as being a conscious choice.

I do realize now, that there were a great many things that used to come relatively easy to me. I rarely ever had to watch my weight or monitor the things I ate, or how many calories I burned, or any of that nonsense. Now it has become an ever-increasing theme in my life. Every little choice I make concerning food, diet, exercise, nutrition could have far-reaching consequences, not only of an aesthetic value, but more importantly, affecting my life-long health. It is all those things you hear as a kid, things that adults obsess over, then you realize that you are not invincible, and nothing lasts forever.

So I re-visit the question: Why is physical fitness important to me? There’s always the looks factor, immortalized so eloquently by Kevin Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham in the movie, American Beauty. When asked by his athletically-savy neighbors what his fitness goals were, he simply answered, “I want to look good naked!” Yes, there is that. But other than cosmetic reasons, why drive myself to the point of madness and exhaustion just so I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “Great BOD!”

I have never been a huge fan of trends, especially the kind that involves sycophantic posturing in order to be more acceptable in society-at-large. The truth (or the skinny, if you will), is that skinnier, and well-proportioned people tend to be comelier to the opposite sex, therefore generating more positive attention. This is obviously not true in every case for every person, but in the case of our society, it is mainstream to want to lose weight. You don’t see advertisements on T.V. promoting massive weight gain. You see the opposite. But I think where things have gone wrong is where body image and self-esteem have become the image of what others think it should be, rather than a personal preference.

But it takes a lot of hard work to have and maintain that BOD. I don’t care what anyone says about so-called “naturally skinny people.” They are not natural. Either they starve themselves, have a drug habit, a tape worm, or some sort of personality disorder that causes them to fidget a lot. The only other way to stay thin is to work at it, whether it is achieved through a person’s occupation, active lifestyle, or the dreaded D: dieting. The only reason why people in third world countries are skinny is because they are on the brink of starvation, not because they can’t get enough of: America’s Next Top Model.

That being said, I believe that there are many valid reasons to stay physically fit, with or without the BOD to show for it, and here are my reasons:

1. I want to live a good life. Now, this saying can be interpreted in many ways, but to me, the continued ability to experience the physical activities I enjoy, means living a richer life. Fitness is life-prolonging, age-defying, health-generating. I want to enjoy my life throughout the duration of my life, not just the brief window of my prime years.

2. Mobility. If I could sum up my fitness goals in one sentence, it would be something like this: My ultimate fitness goal is to maintain the ability to move my body through time and space. Once again, this could be a loosely interpreted concept, but to me it means that I am ultimately the captain of the good ship Chadstract. I can never become so dependent on vehicles that the sudden loss of them renders me paralyzed.

3. Survivalism. Ever hear the old adage: Survival of the fittest? Well, fittest=fitness. For reasons I will divulge in an upcoming episode, I believe that survival skills are going to be an indispensable asset to anyone that has the discipline to learn them. Before all of this technological wizardry came along to dazzle and distract us, humans were more in touch with the natural order of things. The reliance upon modern societal conveniences has enabled me to distance myself from nature to directly provide my needs. If I want to hunt and gather, I go to Burger King and King Soopers. But ultimately, this is not a sustainable practice. Corporations and the World economy might just let me down someday, and it will be up to me to survive in the wild.

Animals in the wild are naturally fit because they have to be in order to survive. Roughing it, as it were, is about as natural as it comes, and if IT-ALL-COMES-DOWN, the more physically fit I am, the more I will be able to endure the hardships that such a paradigm shift would imply.

The world is tough. The world is cruel. Nature does not make distinctions based on moral fortitude and good intentions. If my intent is to live, then I need to possess the strength to really live. If my intent is to live, then I want to live well. What is living well? The strength to keep getting up everyday, to take me where I need to go, and a body that’s in it for the long haul.

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