Thursday, June 02, 2011

Why get fit?

I read an article in yesterday's Chicago Tribune about the unrealistic portrayal of manly fitness in summer blockbuster movies. It featured various actors, including Eric Bana and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, detailing some of the workout and diet regimens they went through to get ready for a particularly beefy role.

But what stood out from this article was a quote by author and Harvard University instructor Emily Fox-Kales, who wrote Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorders.

"As men have lost more economic power, more social power, they've wanted to look more pumped up," Fox-Kales said. "Muscles have become an accessory, like pickup trucks."

The article says that the latest trend in the summer Hollywood blockbuster season is beefy men, such as the movie depictions of comic book heroes like Thor and Captain America. This is a change from an interest in smaller heroes, such as those portrayed by slight actors like Tobey Maguire and Orlando Bloom.

As an unemployed ex-English teacher transitioning from an emasculated profession to the more manly job of truck driver, I didn't realize my recent weightlifting was part of a Hollywood trend, or that maybe my decision to beef up could be due to my economic condition. But when I think more deeply into the thought processes that went into my decision to lift weights again, a desire to go from helpless to empowered is a huge factor behind it.

I left teaching feeling like a pawn thrust about by a great machine, unappreciated, undesirable, and left to a cruel and indifferent marketplace. I also came to realize that, hey, I'm not getting any younger, and I've never seen myself really fit before. Sure, I've been thin and maintained a healthy body weight most of my adult life, but I'd never incorporated a regular exercise routine into my daily habits. I knew I needed to start now before I got any fatter than the alarming 240 pounds I reached, or I wouldn't be able to do the same activities, such as tennis, disc golf, and backpacking, that I've enjoyed throughout my 20s and 30s.

Plus, unlike the cruel machinations of the employment market, my body is something I have control over. Working out gives me discipline and a sense of accomplishment. Achieving fitness goals gives me the self confidence to ace that next interview and the energy to be a better partner, dad, and, yeah, employee.

I may never be as ripped as Sylvester Stallone or Ah-nold, but I feel good about exercising and gain confidence each time I step out of the weight room feeling twitchy and tired. And, hey, it's trendy. I'm growing my hair out too. Maybe I am destined to be the next Thor! By Mjölnir!

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