“so, what makes your gym different?”
its a common enough question, a question that always seems to have a slightly different answer, depending on who asks. but after a good friend asked this very question, and patiently waited the 4 hours it took me to answer to my satisfaction, i figure its about time to nail it down.
the first, simplest, and most overlooked difference is the fact that we define fitness as the ability to perform a task. this has some rather significant ramifications – we set goals. individual goals. personal goals. this means we must understand both where we are, and where we wish to go. the requirements of our desired task, and where we stand in relation to those.
its better to think of our gym as a process rather than a place.
it is important to understand that physical fitness is rarely the limiting factor. ones constitution. ones emotions. ones habits. ones technical proficiency…. these are all important, often more important than simple strength or endurance.
“why then, even bother with a gym?”
we use work, physical goals, to reprogram habits. we believe one can condition integrity. make a habit of doing everything right. make a habit of working hard. of learning how to force yourself to do something that will hurt, that will not be enjoyable, but will – eventually – make you better. we learn how to cope, how we, as individuals, cope. we learn how to push ourselves, how to exceed our self imposed limitations. we learn to be responsible, to own our successes and our failures. to keep what is useful and trim away what is not. we try to understand our conditioning, to take control of it, and to use it to our advantage.
this is done in a variety of ways. pressure. physical, emotional, social. we cultivate this pressure. we use it. we will match up individuals that bring the best out of each other. we will set up arbitrary tests, challenges, even internal competition if it helps. we court failure. we use it. learn from it. it is all information. we use the tools at our disposal to solve the problems we face. blame. bully. bribe. whatever it takes. when the goal is vital enough, we will do what is necessary to achieve it.
this leads us to study relationships. diet. sleep. stress. attention. we have finite time and energy, and everything costs something. in trying to achieve something at the edges of our ability we must accept the cost. we must realize all the little things in our lives that take more than they give, that are not worth their price. these things may still be undertaken, but no sympathy will be given if they sabotage your goals. you made your bed, now lie in it.
training is the artful application of stress to achieve a specific goal. all stress takes its toll, leaves its mark, and shapes us. high level functioning requires a refined tool, free of the imperfections caused by inattention and self sabotage. we do not demand perfection, only responsibility. own your decisions, pay your bill, and work hard. you will only be as good as you make yourself. others can help in the process, but we, ultimately, bear the responsibility for our own growth.
ultimately, we are different because we accept this premise. because we focus on this. because we will use every tool at our disposal to become better, to improve in a real and meaningful way. because we are focused on what is useful. above all else, on utility. if fitness is the ability to perform a task, then it is only right that a fitness program would be geared towards shaping every edge of the self to achieve that goal. to pursue it wholly, ferociously, and honestly.