by Robert Maxwell
I’m sometimes accused of placing too much emphasis on physical strength and training, and not enough on other pursuits. It’s worth noting that the majority of these accusations come from non-lifters who are arguing hypothetically, having never experienced physical strength themselves. Still, they bring up a valid question. Should all other feats in life pale in comparison to feats of strength? Of course not. While there are gym goers who believe literature, music and art are worthless compared to hoisting a heavy barbell, this has never been my view. These gentlemen usually have a well established relationship with performance enhancing substances, and before discovering the gym, were never very good at music, literature or art anyway. It’s easy to dismiss something you suck at. There’s a reason gym rats have a reputation for being big, strong, and stupid. Some cases confirm the stereotype. If you love working out, but never pick up a book or formulate an original thought, you are unbalanced. It’s time to start exercising your brain. Conversely, if you excel in non-active pursuits but never darken the door of a gym, you also are unbalanced and in need of correction. If you’re an intellectual who knows you should be doing some physical training, but have yet to muster the motivation, here are four points that might help you along.
Being Non-Active is an Unreliable, Modern Luxury
It’s a true testament both to the ingenuity and inherent laziness of the human race that in modern, affluent parts of the world, it’s quite possible to live a fairly sedentary yet profitable lifestyle. Rarely in nature will you see any animal that remains constantly sedentary survive. From ants to elephants, being strong, cunning, and capable is crucial to the members of the animal kingdom. The ant who refuses to drag the heavy carcass of a caterpillar into his communal home is the ant who starves to death. The elephant who does not join his herd in traveling hundreds of kilometers to the nearest source of water will die of thirst. Salmon who refuse to battle their way upstream to lay eggs harm their entire race. Up until very recently, humans fell into the same category. Idle men doomed themselves and their families to increased hardship, starvation, and often death. That’s why you don’t hear of too many idle men in the 1800s. Whenever I read historical accounts of the men who first cleared and farmed Manitoulin Island where I live, I’m astounded at what they were able to accomplish with only horses and primitive hand tools. In my part of the country during this era, there existed a government policy which allowed any man who could clear an acre of land, plough and seed it, and build himself a cabin in a year or less to keep the land for free. Men everywhere jumped at the opportunity. Today, most men would probably consider this more a punishment than a generous offer. We may have invented ourselves out of a great deal of physical hardship, but that doesn’t mean we should become weak, flaccid excuses for men. Life may not always be as easy and affluent as it is now.
Eventually Being Non-Active Will Catch Up With You
Choosing a non-active lifestyle is all well and good when you’re 25. Perhaps you consider yourself an intellectual type with no inclination toward strenuous physical activity, whether work or play. Trouble is, what was a matter of personal preference in your teens and 20s will become the permanent state of an unruly body in your 40s, 50s and beyond. In the same way prudent young working people begin putting money aside for retirement, it’s vital to put aside strength and fitness for your later years. If you don’t, you’ll most likely find yourself physically destitute far sooner than is ideal are necessary. Don’t believe me? Here’s a simple test to prove it. When was the last time you encountered someone 60 or older who is still active, capable, substantially strong, and has never made any sort of physical training part of their life? I have yet to meet such a person. The trouble with choosing a sedentary lifestyle, no matter how many remarkable intellectual or artistic achievements you manage, is that it’s simply not how human beings are designed to live. We’ve got limbs and trunks full of muscles that cry out to be used and worked until they burn. As men, ignoring their cry leads to weak skinniness in your teens, twenties and thirties, and a host of increasingly dire consequences after that. If you’re fine with this, by all means, don’t work out. Just be aware of what’s coming.
Lifting Weights Doesn’t Mean you have to Become a Meathead
Plato said “In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” Hardcore gym goers tend to have a reputation among non-physical types for not upholding the “education” side of the delicate balance Plato describes. Unfortunately it’s often justified. I still haven’t worked out exactly why this is, but I have a theory. In my experience, many young men turn to lifting weights as a coping mechanism. Often, they’ve been frustratingly unsuccessful in other areas of life, and the gym offers them an easy way to vent anger. Having been told they’re not intellectually gifted, or even downright stupid, they cling to the gym as their outlet, while believing there’s no point in exercising their minds, which they’ve come to see as sub-par. Is this why all buff guys first got into lifting? Obviously not, but I believe a significant number of lifters fit this description, feeding the unfortunate stereotype strong guys have for stupidity. It needn’t be so. There’s nothing about pursuing physical fortitude that undermines mental. Bottom line is that unless you’re cultivating mental strength as well as physical, you’re not going to be the ideal version of yourself. True male excellence is achieved only when one becomes both smart and strong.
Being Strong is Never Bad
You don’t want to become big and bulky, and aren’t interested in lifting weights. You’d rather focus on strength of character and intellectual achievement. I get it. Besides pumping iron regularly, I do a lot of writing, (case-in-point, this website), and run a digital media production company. If I allowed my brain to rot away while pumping iron in the gym, becoming a stereotypical, intellectually dim muscle-head, neither would be possible. Thing is, strong is a good thing to be. Sure, you’ve got to put in some work to get there, and this can be challenging when you don’t have much natural interest in pumping iron. But the fact remains that in this life, physical strength will only ever be an advantage. Never will you regret being strong, even if you haven’t been bitten by the iron bug and enjoyed the resulting motivation surge. That’s because physical strength is useful. No matter what your situation in life, this fact applies. Even self-proclaimed non-physical types benefit from being strong. Who wouldn’t want to make every task in life easier?