General Philosophical Preparedness
Fitness is relative. It doesn’t stand on its own. If there is a default, base meaning for the term, it must be the fitness to survive and reproduce. Man’s supposed taming of the natural world has made this a non-issue, and many of us wake up with surviving the day taken for granted rather than a repeating theme burned into our every waking second. If our existence were a bit more precarious, the conversation would be over. There would be no time for the training to survive, only doing it. Shit still hits the fan sometimes, but for the most part, the demands placed on our existence are changing. Rather than the hazards of our environment, predators, or resource scarcity, most of us today are murdered by our own nature. The intuition and processes that evolved to help us survive the world of our ancestors are backfiring in the presence of unprecedented and ever-increasing abundance. We (most Americans) are born wholly unfit for the world that has emerged out of progress and convenience. The stakes are still high as ever, but the enemy has changed. So then we must adapt, but how? Evolution acts slowly, over generations. And even then, this law of the universe is only concerned with survival long enough to reproduce. Thriving isn’t part of the equation. This being the case, the always loud and conspicuous training goal of “being harder to kill” might be a misplacement of our energy and resources. Surely, the ability to move large loads efficiently, cover ground, and maintain our physical health are still valuable, even mandatory. But, what else are we missing that can helps us navigate the environment we find ourselves in?
Patience. Grit. Empathy. Character. Honesty. More than anything, we must place our focus on the skill of ceaselessly paying attention to our behavior and the behavior of others. Endeavour to improve must employ, build, and challenge our capacity for these qualities. Capability and Opportunity are tied so tightly as to be inseparable. When we are stronger, lighter, faster, and more enduring, our map of the world widens, and along with it our perspective. Thought and action within the gym and without must be bonded just as strongly for the training to be meaningful. How should we best design our work so that it combines exertion and introspection? We’re not quite sure, but now that we’ve started pounding this drum there’s no going back.
If you’re joining the community at Dayton Strength, that entails responsibility. Equality here means that everyone is held to the same standard; of movement, conduct, effort, and attention. Your job is to learn that standard, and help hold yourself and others to it. Sharing in effort can strike a spark in our brains of what else we might share, and the result of that exploration is profound. We all have demands of daily life, relationships, and other commitments that we try to meet. We owe it to ourselves to train in a way that prepares us to be reliable for those who depend on us, and this begins with asking more of each other. Not less.
Our thesis is that the health of our bodies, our relationships, and our communities are welded together, and that all three follow from capability. Improvement in all three relies on decision, action, and solidarity. From there, the method isn’t as important as the execution. The commitment to the process you’ve started. Our method- our toolbox- is the gym.
In his book How To Think, Alan Jacobs argues that simply being a part of something is not enough for the belonging we seek. He cites a lecture given by author C.S. Lewis on the phenomenon of “membership”:
“How true membership in a body differs from inclusion in a collective may be seen in the structure of a family. The Grandfather, the parents, the grown up son, the child. The dog and the cat are true members (in the organic sense) precisely because they are not members or units of a homogeneous class. They are not interchangeable. Each person is almost a species in himself...If you subtract any one member, you have not simply reduced the family in number; you have inflicted an injury on its structure."
Being part of a collective can include being in the audience at a concert or sporting event, or even serving as an elected official in a specific and unchanging role, regardless of the scope or power of the role. These groups don’t depend so much on having you as much as having someone. The result is at best stagnant thinking and slower progress towards our aims, at worst leading to deception and manipulation of each other. Jacobs argues that “the only real remedy for the dangers of false belonging is the true belonging to, true membership in, a fellowship of people who are not so much like-minded as like-hearted”. Our aim in our gym is to know and support each other. To build the trust that is a prerequisite for the vulnerability necessary to change. We train so that we can be attentive outside the gym, so that if we one day get a piece of advice we desperately need, we'll be present enough to listen and follow it. Moving our bodies with intent is a way get that conversation started.