Making Fit Choices

"This isn't meant as an insult, but you are physiologically lazy. So am I. So are we all". 

Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times writer and best-selling author wrote, “This isn’t meant as an insult, but you are physiologically lazy. So am I. So are we all.” It makes you stop and think about it. Reynolds is not insulting us, but bases her opinion on research that suggests that like other animals, humans naturally aim to use as little energy as possible during most movement.

Yet, as a Personal Trainer, I work with some people for whom it seems that sitting down or doing nothing, even if for only a few minutes is akin to torture. For them, fitness is a bi-product of a very defiant choice: “Father Time and the so-called inevitability of aging doesn’t have any control over me.” Either out of fear of aging, utter ignorance, vanity, bravery, or outright petulance, they refuse to accept that they must, one day, fold up their tent and head into the cave. Withering. Dying.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” is the opening stanza of the well-known Dylan Thomas poem. Perhaps it is because of such verses that some of these people have the audacity to push back against laziness, refusing to “not go gentle into that good night.”

But what about young people, for whom inactivity is not an option?  Their young age and inexperience could allow them to not have the same drive or sense of purpose when it comes to training. When I asked a 24-year-old woman that I work with why she wakes up to join me at 7:00am for training, her response was 70 percent health, 30 percent vanity, and 5 percent … I reminded her she had already arrived at 100 percent and she told me she was driven by over-delivering on everything.

And here’s a contradiction: I work with some people who train with great frequency. Yet, it does take some time during a workout to wake up their sluggish bodies. Their enthusiasm for getting to the gym is often betrayed by a body that doesn’t seem to want to move. That’s just the way it is, sometimes.

Laziness. Perhaps that is the simplified reason why most gym members enjoy “the routine” so much. They can simultaneously say that they went to the gym today, while also not being all that productive.

Ms. Reynolds quotes Professor Max Donelan of Simon Fraser University who suggests that, “We learn and remember what cadence allows us to use the least energy at that speed, and when we reach that speed, we immediately default to our body’s most efficient pace.” It makes sense that we attempt to conserve energy with all activities, not just when we walk or run. It becomes so easy for us to fall into a default “step cadence for any given speed and condition.”

That we are lazy isn’t our fault. Though, fitness or health, for whatever our motivations, is a decision.

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