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Fitness-ism 101

A reductionistic perspective of human performance based on recently popularized and simplified standards at which human levels of fitness are defined. Fitness-ism can be compared to a religion in which the public seek priests in the form of authors, fitness professionals, trainers, and coaches for their expertise on a self created market designed to over complicate the question of human health and performance.

Fitness-ism ideology is structured around the belief that bodily health is maximized through increasing levels of fitness. A linear upward path of fitness is both simplified and alluring and thus easier to market. Giving rise to a fitness culture that believes more is better, in absolute terms. Therefore, fitness and maximal health, as defined by these rules, are best achieved through elitism and cult-like following.

The errors in this thinking derive from the false understanding via the redefinition of fitness. While good health includes a good, and often modest, level of fitness, elite levels of fitness does not necessarily equate to elite levels of health. Actual fitness is based on ones environmental adaptability, and the ability to procreate. Current trends in fitness-ism rate a persons fitness level based on a short collection of exercises often performed within the comforts of a steady and reliable environment to which the combinations of exercises, loads, and time are manipulated. The irony of this phenomenon is best described as a simulacra due to the fabrication of a changing environment via a handful of exercises, all performed within the safety of a steady and reliable environment; creating a false sense of actual fitness.

Fitness-ism in its purest form is a method that through the use of limited and often highly skilled and demanding exercises feeds into a narcissistic culture to which projecting ones identity and uniqueness is a high priority. Striving towards this false sense of fitness develops an unjustified sense of elitism which has been proven on numerous occasions of not being the best method toward achieving optimal health, sports performance, or even, fitness in its actual form.

Fitness in its purest form is raw and pristine. As the market for fitness changes the language for which we interpret it’s definition, a vile goop of nonsense from media outlets, experts, and authors is slathered onto fitness. This muddies the purity of fitness making it more marketable, complicated, and more distant from actual fitness. The more nonsensical goop that coats fitness, the more weight we give it to defining who we are as individuals. Giving rise to todays fitness-ism mentality of judging a person’s performance strictly upon the rules provided by the current culture. This perspective is both narrow and irrelevant. How many pullups a person can do means very little to how well they perform at a given sport, unless that sport ofcourse is greatly dependant upon pullups. But more often than not, sport performance is best enhanced through mastery of that given sport via playing on the field, exercises are only supplementary to practice, thus not as critical to sports performance. This distinction is even greater for the general population where a given exercise has even less applicability to a persons ability to do their job, survive, or procreate. How much a person can deadlift, or better put, if they even deadlift, has little bearing on who they are, or even how fit they are, regardless of definition. The deadlift, or any exercise only represents a small fraction of what human beings are capable of. Even the performance of an athlete only represents a fraction of who they are and their capabilities, despite the greater demands for athletic performance over just a single exercise or collection of exercises.

Because of the increased value we give to fitness in modern culture, a heuristic method of standardizing fitness levels, a linear path is created to form a pecking order. Choosing to ride the path of fitness-ism provides a simple way to compare how fit you are compared to others also on that path. Thus to achieve more you must do more. To those opting out of such ideologies are confronted with an us vs them mentality where the zealots of fitness-ism perceive all things ranked within the realm of that culture, and choosing anything other than fitness-ism is against the strict religious-like beliefs of fitness-ism. A false sense of elitism is born to further separate the believers from the non-believers. While elitism has a place in society, in terms of fitness, the elite should also be the fittest. Because of the limitations of fitness-ism, elitism, by these standards, is simply those who have attained the most fitness-ism. When redefined or better applied, the model of fitness-ism is shattered, as those who are fit in one realm may not be fit in another. How good you are at baseball, only tells you one thing, you are good at baseball. It does not prove how fit you are, unless you redefine fitness based on the standards of baseball. Much the same, fitness-ism has the same restrictions as any other sport, thus being at the highest level of fitness-ism is only that in of itself, unless of course you redefine fitness to better suit that of fitness-ism.

Fitness-ism is a manifestation of the current popular culture in which the projection of something means more than the actual attainment of that such object, goal, product, or in this case, fitness achievement. Thus the exploitation of ones self is encouraged for the identity and uniqueness of such an individual. Due to the continual feed of data in the information age, the projection of fitness-ism is continuously evolving to greater extremes as what was projected yesterday has less value due to a flooded market and heated competition amongst the fitness-ism community. In fact, the portrayal of an individuals fitness-ism is more important than bodily health as such extreme measures are counter-productive to personal health. Self sacrifice becomes the currency at which we attain, to both one up ourselves and our social environment. Individuality is claimed but only for a brief moment within the confines of a culture with such a limited attention span and vast endless amounts of others doing the same exact thing.

While the rise of fitness-ism was a manifestation of the modern culture, current ideology criticizes such behavior as limited due to the restraints of equipment via fitness machines. Deconstructed, fitness got a facelift to replicate more humanistic movement via free weights. Surely, a step in the right direction. But arrogance blinds the foolish as such post-modernistic views of fitness take steps towards getting back to the basics, inevitably more nonsensical goop was applied to fitness as more weight was given to how fitness-ism defines us, but also, fitness methodology was taken to more extreme measures. Now the heart of fitness may not be sitting on a machine as modern views would have it, the post modern revitalization of fitness depicts fitness as not limited via machines but limited via exercises, performed at such extremes as to be both illogical and dangerous. More goop; a greater difference between actual fitness and fitness-ism.

The take-away from all of this is such-

Fitness is based on adaptability, which puts less emphasis on such structured environments as gyms, weight machines, or a handful of challenging exercises. Fitness is currently defined by fitness professionals, therefore, fitness will always be limited to those specific set of rules. Of course the gym is where we build and find our fitness, that is easy to define, standardize, package and sell. This is not to say the gym, and exercises, or even weight machines are meaningless. Of course they have a purpose, and better health and fitness levels can be achieved via the gym, but not strictly by the gym. Unless of course, you define fitness through the limited perspective of fitness-ism. Go out and play, pick up recreational sports, try new things, explore, hike, sure, lift some weights too, just don’t let it grab a hold of everything that it is that defines you. Pay less attention of what everyone else is doing and enjoy this life. If you seek health, seek those who have achieved it, the millenniums, the cultures around the world that have figured it out. Guaranteed, the greatest levels of health around the world, are active but not breaking their backs attempting to achieve some fictitious level of fitness-ism and thus false hope for health. That is the paradox, that we seek the highest level of fitness only to be proven that we have been doing it wrong. That such structure and over complication, like in nutritionism, takes us further from the reality of it. Nutritionism reduces food to its components distancing us further from what important, the food. Just as fitness-ism reduces fitness and health to its components, again, just pushing us further from actual fitness, and actual health.