by Guest Blogger “Jonathon Cabot”
Civilized people are strange creatures. This was something someone wiser than myself once related, and expounded on this fair assessment of us by stating that we as sentient beings have a pretty much infinite capability to both absorb knowledge and communicate. Yet this boundless gift is used as much, if not more so, for pure amusement and fantasy as it is for relevant information and survival. Just for the sake of instance, let’s take vampires and bears.
The bear is a real beast, with several varieties indigenous to North America. They tend to be large, formidable, and at least somewhat familiar to most of the population in the free world thanks to the efforts of The Discovery Channel or perhaps the occasional visit to the zoo. But what do we actually know about them? Are they purely carnivorous, or are they also the foraging kind? Do they live in groups, or wander alone? What would it take to bring one down if it comes to that? If the list of fatal bear attacks a quick Google pull showed are any indication, a whole lot of folks found out way too late how little they really knew (just as an FYI, DO NOT engage in sexual activities when camping in bear country, for the same reason it’s ill-advised to fill your Sailor Moon Underoos with honey dipped salmon in the same neighborhood–the juices we make during those intimate moments smell positively delicious to those of the ursine persuasion). This tends to be a universal issue for us. What is it we “know” about bears, or any number or wild animals that we could conceivably encounter in our own backyard? Is any of it true? I frankly have no idea. It’s genuinely unsettling how precious little we know, let alone know with any confidence, about these creatures that truly exist, and are without question dangerous.
Now then, let’s consider the vampire. While I’m not sure when exactly the myth of the undead bloodsucker started, it seems that many cultures had their own versions of this legend, and over the miles, time, and by word of mouth, the “reality” of them ultimately morphed into the modern conceptualization we have. While it may seem trifling (and not without good reason), this process has been so successful that pretty much everyone who has ever watched a TV with any frequency knows that vamps can only come out at night, disintegrate in sunlight, bite necks to drink blood, shy away from garlic/holy water/the sign of the cross, an oak stake into the heart would really ruin their weekend, ad absurdum. Yes, we all know these “facts” about vampires, but there is only one fact that really matters–the vampire as we imagine it is just that–imaginary.
The bloodsucking undead, at least as we think of them, are not real, yet we know so much about them (my apologies to Twilight fans, please forward your hate mail directly to the round bin). Bears are legit threats, and yet with the exception of a handful of genuine experts, we know comparatively nada.
To paraphrase John DuCane of Dragon Door publishing (so succinct, I doubt I could’ve put it better if I tried, so I won’t), most Americans that exercise do so more out of a sense of pride or vanity (i.e., the desire to “look good nekkid”) rather than from an absolute need to survive in a hostile world. The man is definitely onto something. Going back to my earlier ramblings about bears and bloodsuckers, this observation of his may shed light on some of the reasons behind the three decade deluge of wacky late night infomercial “fitness” equipment; “guaranteed” to fry our fat, blast our buns, and balance the deficit or-your-$$$-back(TM), and the mind boggling assortment of machines and devices found in the standard commercial gym. Once again, it seems we seek entertainment over all else, even when it comes to corporeal upkeep, by engaging in multitudes of bizarre exercises of dubious value–the “Shakeweight,” anyone?–and all the while drifting from one method to another with all the focus and attention span of a ferret hopped up on a double espresso. At least until boredom inevitably sets in.
In short, we have a tendency to be preoccupied with the fluff, and it comes at the expense of downplaying or utterly neglecting what is genuinely productive for what we seek. While deep down most of us probably do realize this fact, let’s spell it out right now: the best training methodologies for whatever your stated fitness goals may be have already been invented, and chances are have been in use for quite a long time. It’s simply a matter of acknowledging this, and grabbing ourselves by the bootstraps. Contrary to what the multibillion dollar fitness industry wants us to come to terms with, achieving these goals doesn’t really require much in the way of equipment nor monetary investment. Not an expensive gym full of shiny toys, nor the latest greatest 500-calorie recovery shake, and certainly not any of the magical pills they’ve been peddling. What it does require are a handful of attributes that any number of well-meaning folks have tried to pass along to us in the past–hard work, dedication, and being able to discern/distill what is useful, and discard what is not. Believe you me, it makes my eyes roll wetly in their sockets just like yours when I hear that one hauled out for the umpteenth time, but some things you just can’t get around.
Despite the unabashed bemusement that I have been expressing, I genuinely do sympathize with those who feel lost on this path, and how daunting it can be when everyone and everything is trying to shove a different map in your face. And the irony is not lost on me that by virtue of contributing to this blog, I may well end up being nothing more than just another pontificating jackass on the internet muddying the waters. Best I can do is declare upfront that my word isn’t even on the same planet as gospel, and that there never has been, nor likely ever will be a one-size-fits-all approach to these matters (and let the record show that I am never too proud to admit when I just don’t know). If you enjoy the chop suey I’ll be shucking here and you’re able to incorporate even a bit into your day to day, I’ll do what I can to keep the good stuff coming–the hard lessons “learned in the trenches” of what does and doesn’t work that I’ve gathered over the last two decades of training myself and coaching others.
(Thanks for the soapbox and the kind words, dood.)
Let’s be careful out there.