What Fitness is For.
When presented with images of fitness in the media, we generally see images of almost impossibly beautiful people (often actually impossibly beautiful, due to digital effects), who are probably also suffering from severe, chronic caloric deficits. Often, they are also probably using steroids or other hormones to build muscles that ordinary humans who care about their long-term health cannot. They do this to have people want to pay them to take pictures of them, or play lucrative sporting events.
I’ve been working very hard at fitness for a few years now, and I don’t look like those people, and I never will. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to look like Luke Guldan. But that ship sailed a long time ago for me, and it is never returning to port. My fitness goals can be summed up in very basic terms, but I think that they encompass a larger philosophy, to use too grand a word.
My most basic fitness goal is simple: don’t get diabetes. I’ve written it before and I’m sure I will again. I watched diabetes, unchecked, strip my father of his vitality in terrible ways. I do not want to go that route. And I find it very difficult to control my sugar intake. So I work out and I run, seven to ten hours a week, in order to maintain the physical fitness necessary to help me stave off this killer disease. Which I am genetically prone to, and have personal predisposition towards. And so far, according to my blood work, it’s working.
Next up, of course, is that I would like to to feel healthy and fit in the physical space I occupy, and to be attractive to my partner. I want to feel comfortable on the beach. Having been fifty pounds heavier than I am, and working very hard for several years to lose that weight, I know how it feels to be obese, and how much work it can take to change it. I know that not everyone has that opportunity or physiology, and that weightloss is complex and personal. But I have found what works for me, which is to control my overall diet, and do moderate to high intensity exercise several hours a week.
But yesterday, I was reminded of a practical benefit of fitness that I had forgotten about. As I took the DC metro to the train station, my car stopped a station stop early, and I was late for my train. I needed to find a cab, fast. I sprinted the length of the subway platform, up two long escalators, and found a taxi. The taxi drove me to the Union Station circle, and I leapt from the cab, and sprinted from there to through the terminal and down the length of the track until I found my train, just moments before it pulled away.
In total, I probably ran about a third of a mile, is all. But in docksider shoes and carrying a piece of luggage. Wearing jeans and a winter overcoat. When I finally reached my destination, I sat down, and huffed for about three minutes, and then all was as before. I literally never even broke a sweat. Only a couple of years ago that would have been an extremely difficult thing to do. Six years ago, I’d never have made it. Yesterday, it was a non-event. It’s just something I can do now. Because I’ve trained for it.
That’s what fitness is for me. And I’m sure that such commonplace things are barely worth noticing for normal people who’ve been fit their whole lives. But as a former obese, alcoholic smoker, I find it constantly astonishing to be able to use my body in that way. A way that only a few years ago seemed lost to me forever. And that fills me with gratitude.