Warning: this post may be offensive. Predominantly to anyone who trains for aesthetics or to look good naked…
At what point does physical activity become athletic training? I would postulate that the moment you start training towards a numerical goal, an achievement that requires training towards a competitive endpoint that relies upon the capabilities of your body, you become an athlete.
When It’s Not Athletic Training
If that goal, however, is a particular bodyweight or an intangible sense of satisfaction about your appearance, you’re not an athlete. You’re on a treadmill; you can’t move forward, but you can certainly fall off, providing delightful fodder for gym fails pages. There’s undoubtedly a tremendous sense of accomplishment getting to a very low level of body fat, and looking like a hollow-eyed Greek god, skin as chocolatey as the delicious confectionary that haunts your waking dreams. But you’re not an athlete, any more than a model who relies on will power, coffee and cocaine to ensure their financial and social dominance.
Ok, Then What Is Athletic Training?
So how do we elevate ourselves beyond this empty, soul-destroying pursuit of gossamer-thin dreams? We have two choices, turn exercise into a repetitive habit, just there to keep the wheels spinning, stave off the hungering clutches of obesity and heart disease and maintain a level of general good health. No one has ever turned to one of these people and said, “dude, you’re looking swole!” Or, “I saw your deadlift last week, I’d break my back trying that!”.
So, what do we do to elevate ourselves, to take the path less travelled, where the elusive figure at the end of our journey beckons us on, shoulders wide with strength and chafed of thigh? We turn to that stalwart bastion of betterment, powerlifting. Or also weightlifting, that’s cool too I guess. Strongman’s not totally bad either, really. Even Crossfit, despite the many, many memes and almost universal scoffing and shaking of heads (from non Crossfitters. *cough*‘Hey let’s all go paleo!’*cough* ) has legitimately moved the goalposts in terms of the perception of what general population athletes are capable of. Not just in terms of physicality, but community, business and passion. Must be all those endorphins in the air.
‘That’s a broad spectrum of only loosely connected sports!’, I hear you cry. Nay, say I, they’re all facets of the same concept: training for a measurable, consistent end goal based purely on performance (except Crossfit and Strongman, there’s negligible consistency, they just make up stuff as they go, but you still have to be the fittest or strongest to win, so I suppose they can stay.)
It’s similar to joining a sports team that you can train with your whole life, without the risk of breaking your ankle, snapping an ACL or getting a concussion. Like in soccer. Yuck. Soccer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always a chance of injury no matter what you do. Strength sports are about testing yourself, and sometimes you find your limits, which is when you rely on Instagram quotes about how your comeback was greater than the setback, or learning about yourself, or how there’s a silver lining in writing disgustingly nauseating, self-absorbed cliches to justify missing a lift, rather than just hitting up the old ‘it is what it is’. Which is the same thing, except nobody feels the urge to regurgitate into their lap.
So What Now?
If I were capable of bringing this meandering cud-chewing around to something resembling a point, it would be this: find something that challenges you, get better at it, and make sure you can measure your improvement. To dilute the vitriol somewhat, obviously aesthetic lifters are working extremely hard, they’re setting ridiculously difficult challenges for themselves, and I’m 99% facetious when I make mockery of them…at least some of them. It’s only an opinion, but aim for capability rather than appearance as a rule, and you’ll sleep better at night and eat better during the day.
Assuming we haven’t offended you with this blog post and have, in fact, achieved our goal of convincing you athletic training is a far more noble, if frustrating, pursuit than ‘looking good’, there’s a good chance you’d fit in at Below Parallel.
Verboseness aside, we’re a gym of few egos, with members who are passionate and supportive. Our goal is to find that numerical goal, find your limits, consistently push them and ideally come out of each program a little stronger than before.
We certainly aren’t promising Adonis-like abs – we enjoy KFC far too much for that – but we are promising we’ll use all the tools at our disposal to bring you out the other side a little stronger than before with a much more tangible sense of accomplishment.
If you’re not currently training with BP, hit us up below for a free intro week.