BECOMING DAD (Written April 2016):
It’s pretty clear to me that the gym and I are not working out! No pun intended.
There’s something about the gym that feels … I don’t know, unnatural? Forced somehow.
I’m looking over my previous journal entries and I re-read one of my reflections about ‘rows of machines’ and ‘linear repetitive movements’.
I’m onto something with this thought.
My body feels like it’s in a loop.
Treadmill Run. Elliptical. Rower, rope skipping or maybe the bike for a bit. Over to the weights and machines. Bench Press. Lat Pull Down. Squat Press. Dips. Lunges. Chin Ups. Battle Rope. Plank. V-snaps.
It’s not that I’m getting no benefit from exercising. I am. And I do feel stronger. But something is missing.
While warming-up today I found myself thinking through my malaise. I thought about why I was at the gym in the first place. Why am I exercising at all. What’s the purpose. What’s the reason?
“To get fit.” Was my immediate answer.
But what does that mean? “To get fit.”
So like everyone else in the gym I get out my IPhone. Okay Google, give me a definition of ‘fitness’.
LIFE TIP: Whenever you’re lost, always return to definitions and first principles. I’ve always found this to be a good place to start (or restart) from.
The Natural Method: A Personal Journey
In 2015, Damien learned that he was going to be a father for the first time! At that time, one thing that was obvious to him was that he needed to get back into shape. In doing this Damien rejected the orthodoxy that fitness = exercise, and that exercise had to be predictable, routine and BORING.
Damien’s journey not only transformed his fitness, but reconnected him to his ‘wild’ side and what the human body has been capable of for many millennia.
These entries are transcribed from Damien’s journal and track his experience as he rediscovered his own body, developed his Rewilding training method and ultimately founded The Wilding Project
Def. fitness – noun: the condition of being physically fit and healthy. The quality of being suitable to fulfil a particular role or task.
The last part of this definition seemed instructive. ‘Suitable to fulfil a particular role or task.’ So what’s my role or task in being fit?
My reason for being in the gym is to be a heathy, functioning, helpful, present, active, awake, energetic, useful husband and dad!
So if that’s my role, what would ‘suitable’ mean in this context?
Maybe ‘suitable’ means strong enough to carry an infant for ages. Plus carry the shopping and be able to open the front door with a phone under one ear and car keys in the other.
Or mobile enough to crawl under the sink and fix the faucet, haul a bag of garden fertiliser or climb a ladder to tend a tree.
Maybe it’s having enough energy to survive a sleep deprived night, wake early and then work an entire day caring for others and myself.
And of course I can imagine a need to be able to crawl around on the floor with my child. Run around a park climbing play-sets, swimming or riding bikes.
‘Suitable’ could mean all of this and much more.
This internal monologue about ‘fitness’ and ‘purpose’ continued throughout the whole of my training session. Including into the stinky sauna.
And just as I was between a set of Lat Pull Downs and Step Lunges I asked myself, “So where does ‘Lat Pull Downs’ fit into this ‘quality of being suitable’”?
“I don’t think it does!”
I stopped what I was doing and had a good look around the gym.
There was a guy doing Dips. A huge weight was tied to his feet. Wow! Someone else was on a Chest Press machine. Another eying himself off in front of the mirror grunting out bicep curls.
I watched and wondered about the relevance of these activities within the context of the ‘role’ I wanted to get ‘fit’ for.
What came to my mind was that every activity in the gym seemed to be a dissected version of some actually, real life activity.
Like someone took the activity of lifting a heavy bag of fertiliser over a shoulder and walking it to a destination and broke that activity down into:
- Dead Lift;
- Bicep Curl;
- Wood Chopper;
- Fireman’s carry.
And once the activity had been dissected. Once the ‘real life’ activity had been broken down into it’s discrete parts and the relevant muscles isolated.
And once the relevant exercises and specific muscle groups had been worked using uniform weights, a clean ‘parallel’ form and standing on even ground. What then?
Would that person actually be any closer to, or better at performing, the skill of carrying a dirty, heavy, odd-shaped bag over their should across uneven ground?
And surely this activity, despite it’s mundane-ness, is a skill!
I think it’s safe to say that today I had a moment.
A moment where I discovered that ‘fitness’ is not what I assumed it to be. That real world fitness happens in a gym like mine, populated by machines and sets, reps and stinky saunas.
I’ve never turned my mind to the ‘why’ of exercise. The question of why I would choose one form of exercise over another. I’ve never seriously considered this at all. I’ve just assumed that all exercise is ‘good’. More is better. But that’s not the case at all.
QUESTION: If I do a bunch of random exercises and activities with no purpose …
… Do I get a purposeless random body?
What seems glaringly obvious to me at this moment is that the exercises I’ve been doing and the ‘fitness’ I’ve been pursuing is purposeless.
The activities I’m doing do little to prepare me for the life of useful activity and action that I’m about to engage in. They do nothing to prepare me for the ‘role’ or ‘task’ that I understand as being my reason for being in this gym in the first place; a Dad!
Sure, I can sit on a stationary bike and pump my legs up and down in a linear fashion for hours and hours. Or I can stand in front of a mirror performing bicep curls until my biceps are so tight I can’t scratch my own ear!
Both activities might be in some way ‘good’ but surely life demands more of the human form than legs that go around and around and arms that bend!
Like when next need to exit a building in an emergency. Or lift a friend, or my child, out of a bind or crawl from a wreck. The fact that I can ride like the wind or lift 30kilos with my biceps will be of very little assistance.
Okay, so the regular gym is not for me.
I need to become a Dad! A ‘fit’ dad.
I’ve double checked the gym’s class roster and there are no BodyDAD classes.
So what do I do now?
It’s clear to me now that I need to do some fitness DIY. But I’m not at all clear about what I should do next!
Heck! I’m an academic. Surely I can figure this puzzle out.