Most of the people who read this blog are my clients and potential clients. They tell me they want to get back into shape, maybe lose a few pounds, and just get a little hotter. As you might have noticed from my weekly Q&A posts, I get asked a lot of questions from those readers. But after doing this for a while, I have stopped hearing questions the way the most people hear them. I no longer hear:
“What muscle does that work?”
“Should I do a juice fast?”
“What should I do for cardio?”
These questions are perfectly valid, and I can answer each one with a single word. But after hearing the same questions for 2 years, I have learned that those words wouldn’t help the person asking the question. That’s because the real questions everyone seems to be asking me is:
“Is X the move that will finally give me control over my body?”
“Will doing X finally give me control over my body?”
“Can you tell me what will finally give me control over my body?”
It sounds odd to say that I feel I have a moral duty as a coach. On paper, I just make people stronger and less fat. But once you realize that people are coming to you for help and you hear the struggle in people’s hearts about their failure to gain control over their body, you start to understand that there is a moral duty to being a coach. Because a person’s body is all they are and all they are ever going to be.
Most people were not lucky enough to have a comprehensive, scientific physical education starting in elementary school. Instead we are taught that the mind and the body are separate. That the soul is pure, simple and good and the body is dirty, complicated and evil. In fact, “corporeal” which literally means “pertaining to the body” (from the latin corporeus means “body”) also figuratively means “real” or “tangible.” Philosophers since Plato have associated the body with a dichotomy between the real and tangible (and mortal) and the ideal and abstract (and eternal). But the body and mind are not separate. We are our bodies. Even your thoughts, the only thing Descartes thought was real enough to serve as an a priori assumption, are an emergent property of 120 billion neurons sitting next to each other in 3lbs of cholesterol and salt, floating in cerebrospinal fluid that is constantly bombarding it with hormones. If you change any of the conditions of that structure then your mind will change. You will change. In fact, damn near every human quality is mutable and trainable. We can get leaner, stronger, faster, more flexible, more confident, more focused and even more disciplined by fueling the consistent, progressive overload of stress and recovery. There’s no magic movement, diet, or guru. There’s just the laws of consistency, progression, and recovery and they apply to us all.
As a coach, I feel I have a moral duty to help people learn this connection and to give people hope that they can affect the changes they want in their lives. But I’m not the guy telling you that your body is a temple. I’m the guy telling you your body is a tool. You use it to do the things you want to do. Most people associate this with selfish things like sports, daily activities, and maybe some fun in the bedroom. But think about taking it one step further. One of the first modern “corporeal philosophers” was George Hébert. A french physical educator in the early 1900’s who influenced military training in every Western country with his writings, Hébert’s most famous quote is “Être fort pour être utile” or “being strong to be useful.” Who do you need to be strong for? Who are you sharpening this tool for?
Being fit does more than make you look good naked. I have a middle-aged female client who credits deadlifting for her ability to lift her injured mother-in-law off the floor. I have another client who told me that his Dad started eating better and walking more when he saw how much his own son’s attitude and mood had improved. My own marriage was saved not by me losing a bunch of weight, but because as I became fit, I became a better person. I was training not only my strength and endurance, but my patience, discipline, and resiliency. I was a more useful person and husband because I was stronger in every sense of the word.
These are just some examples of why I feel I have a moral duty as a coach and an obligation to heed Dan’s advice and “remember how lucky you are to know these things; pay it forward.” People come to me with potential to be amazing tools. Becoming stronger makes the amazing people I work with more useful to the people they love and the world we live it. I can’t do the work for them, but I can help them sharpen the dull edges and as Hemingway wrote “work the fat off [their] souls.”
You are your body. Everything you will ever do or be, you will do with your body. Sharpen the tool and be stronger for the people you love.