Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ability and Appearance

There are two reasons that most people go to the gym. Some people go for appearance, and others go for ability. I know many are reading this and they are trying to think of the myriad of reasons you personally go to the gym, but I assure you that they are merely sub-categories of the other two. I have heard all the reasons from, “my doctor said I need to ..” all the way to, “because I want to look at the ladies ..” and even if they are different “personal” goals, “health reasons” goes under “ability” and “girl gazing” goes under “appearance” and common sense can sort out all the rest of the reasons.
Now of course, when you separate the reasons then you will have a much better gym experience, let me tell you first hand. I happen to be an appearance lifter, and that has just about always been my goal. I want to look hot when my company has the summer outings especially when compared to people half my age, and so far so good on that one. I know that oversimplifies it, but I think everyone understands that one. Yes I also used to go to the gym to stare at the ladies, and of course I like being bigger than a lot of people. Appearance has been my motivation, and most would think that that is what most people go to the gym for. That would actually be wrong. I have seen far more people over the years that are there for strength and health reasons. Neither of those issues means anything to me but have crossed my mind and interfered with my actual goals of “looking better.”
Neither reason actually has an advantage over the other one either. Despite the never-ending Planet Fitness ads trying to convince you that they don’t judge {while showing you a bevy of the people you should judge} the “us” vs “them” angle doesn’t exactly give a good point spread. As a typical “body builder” I get gratification when I look in the mirror and feel good about myself. I know beer bellied “power lifters” who feel just as good about themselves as I do, and to be honest with you they may feel even better. There are a lot of worries that they don’t have that a person “watching their weight” do. I actually bought a candy bar out of the vending machine the other day and ate it, with a vague feeling of regret in the background but with a certain feeling of satisfaction since it’s not going to affect me and tasted damn good. A power lifter doesn’t have these issues and they accomplish their goals.
When I confuse the goals I tend to hurt myself. I am 42 years old and I can use very low weights, strain my body and get wonderful results. As long as my ego doesn’t interfere I am doing just great. Someone asked me the other day how much I benched. The shock on his face when I told him about 120 said it all. I start my bench presses at about 60 lbs and I strain the muscles so that I can feel them tear and expand. There is no reason for me to start off in the hundreds and potentially harm my tendons. Other men my age at the gym that are working on their abilities, have their own ways of strengthening their tendons and could give a crap about how their pecs look. They are more concerned with either carrying more up a ladder or bragging to their friends. Overall, I have realized that when I show off at the gym, I spend a lot of time injured and wishing I hadn’t done that.
In reality I am happy to be at the age I am. It took me a while to get there, and I don’t mean the years to the age, but the mindset to the reality of my age. If you are in your early thirties then let me be the only one to tell you to enjoy it because the 40s DO feel older. I think people in their 40s that say their 40s are just like their 30s are lying to someone. It was like a magical switch that propelled Jeremy into being old, and I started breaking down fast. Most of this was the ignorance of a life change that would create less testosterone, but also the “rah rah” attitude of those that thought I hadn’t changed as well. I had changed, and I needed to respect that. Once I had started slowing down and taking what I was doing at the gym a lot more seriously, I not only had better overall health, but significant gains in my overall appearance. This is a part of the other dirty little secret that the 40 year olds keep from the 30 year olds. With heightened age comes loosened regeneration, so my body spends less time trying to keep itself where it was and spends more time accepting the path it is taking. In other words, with less effort I get better results, and why wouldn’t I spend more time enjoying that?