Unfortunately, our country seems to marginalize mentally handicapped people, even one as high functioning as my sister. The biggest issue is we tend to strip away their humanity and consider them lesser beings, and this empathy may have been a root reason for my decision to adopt a plant based diet considering I dislike it when people make rude assumptions about animal life. I remember how happy she was when she did the “Disabled Divas” fashion shows two years in a row, getting the chance to merely be considered normal. It’s funny, for so many people take normalcy for granted and consider it a great crime on their life, even though there are a great many people in this country that just crave that sentiment. I’m especially proud of my sister now that she has taken a much bigger step toward better health, eating food that is much healthier for her and resisting all of the greasy food she used to eat back in the day. She too is almost vegan, for she rarely if ever eats animals products. To see how a simple eating change can help out my sister’s health (who never really works out) is quite astounding. It got me thinking about how health and fitness can affect our lives in so many ways, and I thought about my sister after seeing a rather neat article about special needs kids in Dearborn, Michigan. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/27956896/dearborn-special-needs-students-learn-fitness-independence
The great thing about the article is how it brings to light a lifestyle problem with handicapped people. They live lives that are too sedentary, and since they cannot work a wide array of jobs, most of them become homebodies and thus become unhealthy. So getting them into a gym is a pretty good idea, but according to the article, it is not just about losing some weight or learning how to run faster. A lot of their training was about socialization and self confidence, and it made me think about my own journey into fitness. I was an emotional wreck, rife with anger, sadness, regret and self hate. Sure, I am barely getting rid of those problems, even though I have been in a “detox” program for nearly three years, but getting out into the world and trying to stay fit and healthy is surely changing me for the better. I kind of hate running by myself these days, even though it gives me the opportunity to bust out some good times (like this past Tuesday when I ran 6.76 miles at a 9.33-per mile clip). If anything, this change in my mind has made me wish for more people to be in it, especially since I now work in a cubicle and will be broke for a couple more months. It makes me realize how great living a fit and healthy life can be.
I take another cool example in my own life in regards to my friend’s brother named Rene. After years of not seeing him, the first time I saw him was after a major accident while in the Navy. He was skinny and could barely walk. I thought he was going to be dead in no time due to his rather sad condition. But he then got put into a unique rehab program where he learned to ride horses. Now you think riding horses is a pretty benign exercise, but you have to maintain so many small muscles and revert to so much muscle memory that just sitting on a horse actually requires a lot of working body parts. Thanks to this unique fitness regimen, Rene was able to regain a lot of strength and a lot of his independence, and you would never think he could barely get across a room without struggling if you saw him these days. Personally, this is one reason why I have fallen in love with the lifestyle, making it something of a big deal when I eventually get the chance to go into the dating world again (two more months, two more months….hehe). Pushing your body and pushing yourself to new limits brings about some interesting changes in your life, and I would like to think I am a decent example in that respect. Maybe it has something to do with my television being gone, I don’t know, but it certainly feels good to have only one decent option at my disposal. In general, fitness has a bit of a misconception in our culture. Due to the skewed visits of fitness we see in movies and common media, what we think is fitness really doesn’t apply to the real world. While one might say philosophy and meditation are just a bunch of mumbo jumbo, there is some sound perceptual methods in aiding our perception of fitness and health. http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sns-wp-washpost-bc-health-exercise21-20150121-story.html#page=1
According to a new book that is coming out titled “How To Think About Exercise,” one of the many problems with people sticking to fitness programs is the general competitive nature of Western society, where winning is heavily revered. Australian philosopher Damon Young explores some of the reasons why so many people give up on fitness. Two strain of thoughts fall into this mix, one where you utilize small victories in your every day life to make yourself feel better about fitness, or accepting the idea that fitness SHOULD be a part of your everyday life. Now of course, I am no different to a lot of people, and need some kind of fire to really keep myself interested in the quest to stay in shape. You see, the ambiguous nature of “losing weight” really doesn’t carry much pull in my life anymore. For all intents and purposes, I have lost plenty of weight and done enough to change my life around. So I have to make other tangible goals, things that will keep me true to my goal of attaining an aesthetic body and being the athlete I always wished I had become. During that pace killing run I churned out earlier in the week, I really had no intention of running that fast, much less setting a new precedent to be proud of. I wasn’t even thinking about my pace, but after a couple miles I noticed how fast I was going and just kept pushing it. Personally, I should have kept on going and went seven miles, but that will be something for next time. This mentality that I have adopted for the moment is something Young described as an “inner challenge,” something that only pertains to your needs and your fitness. Too often we forget about ourselves and merely concentrate on others. If anything, I think this mentality may have slowed me down quite a bit in my fitness last year. While I was certainly making gains and continuing to grow, I kind of lost focus and started focusing too much on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could do. It happened in another instance on Monday, when I had to do four sets of five repetitions of heavy dead lifts. I could have settled for something in the neighborhood of 245 or 255, but I aimed for 290. And while I was damn tired and felt like fainting, turning myself into a gym fail video, I still did it. And of course, I did a boatload of chest presses, cleans and reverse butterfly raises in the process.
There was one thing I kind of disagreed about with the good philosopher, merely from a standpoint of having a pretty good understanding of the meaning. At one point he discusses the human body, most likely wondering why we anthropomorphize ourselves to machines and other technical things. This is where Young’s spiritualist side really butts head with my technical side. While he believes the “art” of fitness is about finding confidence and balance, I still believe the body is a finely tuned machine that needs to be looked after and nourished physically. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t have a healthy diet. That’s the thing people tend to forget about fitness in general. It’s not about the reduction of food, it is about the increasing of good food. Your body i a powerful engine that needs the right kind of fuels you won’t find in processed junk and energy drinks. I think that is why I love potatoes so much, because not only do they satisfy a lot of my cravings for hearty food, it does have a touch of sweetness that you can barely taste on the tip of your tongue. Plus I have to continue with the machine metaphor to the extent of taking care of your body. I used to believe I would never need body work done on my back, but it has helped tremendously in the short amount of time I have been doing it. If anything, going to a regular chiropractor’s visit has greatly aided in my recovery and ability. And then we got the other side of the coin, where I must buy good shoes to keep the wear and tear off my joints so I can recover even better.
While I disagree with the whole machine metaphor, there is a pretty good point to the philosophy of fitness. You definitely need to find that reason to start doing it, and a lot of times that reason doesn’t have to revolve around the idea of losing weight. I think a lot about how we take for granted the idea of having a fully functioning body. My sister can’t be too physical anymore due to her spinal problems, but I’m sure she remembers the Special Olympics days with great fondness. I’m sure my friend Rene is enjoying life more now that he can fully participate in it rather than watch from afar. And in a lot of ways, I can enjoy the world a little more due to the fact that fitness has allowed me to break out the self imposed prison I had myself on lockdown for so long in. Suddenly I’m spewing things like “triathlon” and “another half marathon” and “multiple Ragnars!” Suddenly, that path I see listlessly going along the freeway near Valencia road here in Tucson doesn’t look like a waste of money but rather an opportunity to try something new.
I think one thing that Young and I can agree on is how fitness creates a bit of a center in your life, creating a level of confidence one needs to be a better, more well rounded person. I used to be quite the bitter, despondent individual that loved and craved negativity like Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman craves the camera (which is saying a lot). But I have changed, and it is not because I am a decent runner or a decent weight lifter or any of that. I’ve changed because I am becoming a decent person again, one that is capable of living in society again. Now I just need to keep stepping back into the world. Excuse me, I mean I need to keep running back into the world head long and full of gusto.
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