Monday, April 10, 2006

I Pity Weight Trainers, Too.

For those of you who had a hard time swallowing my take on joggers, by reading this entry you will at least see consistency in my view of weight lifters.

*Side Note: I find it hard to think poorly of someone who's worldview is consistent, even if the worldview is utterly dumbfounding. If someone thinks that 2 + 2 = 5 but at the same time claims that 5 - 2 = 3, then you can argue with them all you want, but you will end up in a circular disagreement. However, if someone believes that 2 + 2 = 5 and also thinks that 5 - 2 = 2, then at least you can enter into a dialogue with them about the fundamentals of what they believe, and hope that their inaccuracies correct themselves.*

With that said,

I think weight training is for hosers.

I stumbled upon this facet of my worldview almost accidentally by means of the summer job I carried all through high school and college. I worked for a landscaper every summer and winter break from age 14 until I was a salaried employee of Whitestone Associates, Inc. For those of you not familiar with the in's and out's of the landscaping business, let me enlighten you.

Shrubs do not dig their own holes and plant themselves beneath sufficient cover. Brick paver patios do not lay themselves. Weed wackers do not operate by remote control. Barrels of leaves do not carry themselves across the front lawn of Cochran's Funeral Home and empty themselves into the woods.

Landscaping is a lot of manual labor. Manual labor is a lot of physically strenuous work.

What does this have to do with weight trainers?

To be fair, I should compile a list similar to the one above: Dumbells do not curl themselves in sets of ten reps each. Squats are not a spectator-friendly activity. Butterfly machines do operate on a gentle breeze. Iron does not pump itself.

Weight training is a lot of physically strenuous work.

In my opinion, however, a holistic (dare I say, more natural) approach to getting strong like landscaping or other manual labor is my first and practically only option when it comes to strength training. [This is where the tie-in with the jogger blog comes in.] Why isolate an otherwise excruciating and generally undesirable activity like lifting weights or running if you can accomplish the same purpose by means of physical labor or playing a sport? Why not get paid $12 an hour to abuse your body? Why not run until your lungs burn while playing soccer or basketball? I got tan and learned valuable skills working as a landscaper in addition to getting strong. I won't beat up on the true runners again, but I personally prefer to get my running in during a sport of some kind.

I pity the people who think that they are in shape because they jog. I pity the people who think they have a man's body because they lift weights. I pity their means by which they have chosen to attain their goals and I pity their thought process more than anything, because it's so inside the box.

Do you jog because you love to run? There are people who truly love to run. Are you really one of them or do you jog because you think that's the only cardiovascular exercise you can think of? Or do you choose it to be seen? There are people who probably love to lift heavy masses up and down repeatedly. They're called oafs.

But there are people who are in shape without running or lifting weights. I fit this bill, albeit vaguely these days. I understand it takes exercise to get and maintain a physique, but I don't like jogging or lifting weights. What am I to do? Sports and landscaping were the two horses I rode to HotBodville until I graduated college. Career and Marriage are less conducive to these methods.

So I improvise. I never take an elevator if I don't have to. I always skip every other step and try to isolate my quads. Over the three months I was inspecting piers at the Newark project, I carried every single one of the 450 concrete test cylinders (50 lb. each) from one end of the site to the other instead of loading them into my truck and driving them over. I take a walk around site every half hour even if I don't need to, instead of sitting in my truck. I make passionate love to my wife because I love her passionately. I eat well. I play basketball with the guys occasionally. I play by myself when I can't get the guys together. I lift from the legs with a straight back even if it's just the laundry basket.

I am not preaching the Gospel of Fitness According to Saint Scott here. I'm not proclaiming myself to be a guru, just trying to make the point that there may be an easier way. I somehow maintain a moderately fit physique without ever jogging or joining a gym. Go ahead and jog around town once a week. Pay $50 a month for your gym membership. Do whatever you want to do, cause that's what you're going to do anyway.

You have my pity.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I Hate Joggers

Voluntary Disclaimer: Mark Bahnuk and Jeanne Roszel are exempt from this broad-brushed, narrow-minded tongue lashing. I do not want to hear excuse from any other, but instead I expect you all to immediately start living your life in a way that is more pleasing to Scott Pearce.

It has been said that in the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Well said. Somehow, though, it seems that in the spring nearly everyone else's fancy also turns to thoughts of the winter past, pounds gained, and shapes lost. And, as predictably as the weather in Beaver Falls (it rained every Tuesday of my freshman year, as noted by Nanx Swift), the first warm Saturday in spring invariably brings them out every year--the joggers.

Before I let it fly, let me divulge my take on jogging. I think it's almost pointless. Sure, I subscribe to the basic tenet of Joggolicism which says that distance running is perhaps the purest test of physical endurance known to man. If I were a jogger, I would carry myself with an air of unspoken confidence, knowing that in almost any company I would be able to outrun anyone in the room if a distance race broke out. This is not dissimilar to a wussed-down version of the cockiness that Tyler Durden personified in Fight Club. The solitary, quasi-maverick elements of what makes a dedicated jogger are romantic in and of themselves.

I can remember four times that I have engaged in any distance running for the sake of distance running. Three were voluntary. The first time I ever carried myself any distance without the aid of a bike was my freshman year of high school; it was soccer season. There was a rainy day and we would have otherwise cancelled practice, but Mr. Noble sent the team out on a two mile run. (And by "sent out" I mean "joined us" because Mr. Noble is one of three greatest men God ever created.) As a team, we did a two mile run in the rain, and at its completion, I felt the most alive I had ever felt to that point in my fourteen years on earth.

The other three times were in college. Once, Andy Golden and I ran around Beaver Falls in a snowstorm after work. By the end, we had snowflakes stuck to our hats and our legs were four shades of blue and pink; but after completing the run, it was the most alive I had ever felt to that point in my nineteen years on earth. The other two times were when Nick Ritenour and I went down to the track after work and ran a couple miles each. I had felt more alive, but still walked back up to the apartments with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

There is absolutely an appeal in running for the sake of running. The principles of Delayed Gratification, Persistence Through Pain, and Satisfaction at Seeing Hard Work Pay Off can all be learned by disciplining oneself to run a long distance. I have experienced all these from my limited experience. I have tasted from the well, but I decline to drink fully.

I just can't buy into the whole jogging cult. Let me share why.

Jogging is not inherently practical. There are many positive side effects to conditioning oneself to be able to run long distances, but in the end, jogging only makes you a better jogger. Unless your boss decrees that the winner of a company-wide 10-miler will be the only employee to receive a Christmas bonus, jogging doesn't ever produce anything tangible. Learning Russian only comes in handy if you need to speak to a Russian. Sure, jogging two miles will help your endurance in a game of soccer, but learning a language without immediate application borders on futility in my mind.

There is no outside impetus in jogging. Running for the sake of running holds very little appeal for me. Nike commercials make running on the beach at the crack of dawn look so romantic. Maybe it is. I'm perhaps one of the biggest fans of solitude and making every effort to spend occasional time alone with one's thoughts, but give me a ball to chase, a frisbee to catch, or a basket at which to shoot over an empty track or busy street any day of the week. People belittle golfers for chasing a little white ball around grassy fields until it drops in a hole eighteen times. I'd rather be doing something with my hands, honing motor skills, or exercising my will to win at the same time that I may be wrestling with Delayed Gratification and Persistence Through Pain.

The risk/reward balance does not favor reward. You can doll it up all you want, but long distance running as a sport is merely traveling from Point A to Point B in the shortest amount of time. Wow, Jim, you mean you shaved a whole two seconds off your time in the two mile? Bravo. What's your next goal? Shave another three? No thanks. I crave competition in my sporting activities, and a glorified average velocity contest does not fit the bill.

If I strike out in baseball, the outcome was most likely determined by reasons other than the baseball was moving faster than my bat. No, the pitcher probably threw a curve when I was expecting a slider, or a knuckleball when I was expecting the heat. He may have scouted me and pitched me up and in because he knew my weakness. However, during the next at bat I can make adjustments and do a better job anticipating, hoping for a different outcome. If I lose a race, more than likely the reasons are none other than that the guy I was racing was faster than me. Case closed. There is not enough incentive for me to train and beat my body to be able to shave a second here or there in hopes that my seconds add up to fewer than his seconds.

Joggers are not better people because they jog. I can't stand seeing joggers in public, probably because I presume that every jogger I see is jogging to be seen. Why else would someone not named Mrs. Faschan jog along a major state arterial highway? Why else would Miss College Frat Girl don a hoodie and sweats and allow herself to be seen flush-faced and glistening with sweat when at any other time of any other day, she cannot be seen without makeup and hoop earrings the size of dinner plates? It could be because she loves the solitude and Satisfaction of Hard Work Paying Off, or it could be because she wants to be perceived as a fit and active when College Boy drives by. I find it hard to believe that so many people would claim to love jogging if jogging on public streets were banned. Would a jogger alone in the woods feel refreshed and satisfied with himself if no one knew about it?

I have no problem with true runners.

Running paid for a lot of Mark Bahnuk's college education and I have only ever seen him jogging around town after dark under the cloak of night. Mark Bahnuk beat Roger Bannister in a race when he was six years old, but you'll never hear Mark Bahnuk brag about how he got up at 5am for six weeks to train. No, Mark Bahnuk loves to run, so he runs.

My cousin Jeanne used to run four miles each way to work in high school. She could have gotten a ride in a car, and she could have ridden her bike. But she ran four miles each way to work because she loves to run. She ran on back country roads because that's the only kind of paved road they have in Montrose, PA. All the others are dirt.

I have tried jogging and it's not my thing. I prefer sports with more involved goals than Distance / Time = Winner, but I do not have less respect for someone who aspires to such attainments.

I do, however, have a problem with hearing how wonderful Bill thinks he is because he proclaims to the world how high he gets by putting one foot in front of the other until he's delirious. I do have a problem with Jill putting on a sports bra and shorts and jogging down to Sheetz and back. I do have a problem with Will letting on like he's a Greek god because he has been blessed with high capacity lungs and a flair for masochism.

And I definitely have a problem with seeing Dr. Shaw in running shorts.