Do You Even Lift?

Comparatively, I have been around the fitness industry for only mere seconds. Fitness in the United States has a long and–it can be said without hesitation–sober history. The inclinations of men to improve their own health from the beginning of the 1900’s with men like Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas has always been limited by a lack of scientific data. Efforts–paired with genetics–were often the prerequisites that governed one’s ability to be among the top tier of early bodybuilders.

The development of the industry into a lucrative moneymaking machine is not a foreign concept. In fact, it is the epitome of the American blueprint. Professional sports athletes have long hinged their success on the backbone of their exact and prolific physical prowess, existing as the top 1% of the 1% who made the cut. The shredded athletes of the fitness industry possess one glaring and disgusting difference: they tell you that if you their products, you too can look like them. This is only one of the multitude of chapters in the book of fitness industry lies. And you have to quit believing them.

Dr. Layne Norton, a reputable pro-bodybuilder, business owner and author eludes to some of the problems in his article “The Fitness Industry is Failing,” a link at which has been attached to the bottom. He underlines some of the more glaring issues with the industry, the rot from the inside, if you prefer. Among these are the fabricated elitism of the self-proclaimed Olympic Instagram gods, the poor direction of the fitness industry and general lack of accountability by the average gym goer at large. These are all apt points, but my argument goes in a different direction, and for good reason.

There are certain perversions that have grown from the bullshit of the fitness industry. They are not easily explained nor warded away. They are prevalent, persistent and always present. Succinctly, they fall into a single category. Bro science.

Broscience 1

Urban dictionary defines bro science as the following: “Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research. ” This definition is functionally, but not all inclusive. Bro science can be interpreted as anecdotal perspectives not backed by reasonable scientific hypotheses or data. You need not be an NPC physique competitor or willfully injecting performance enhancing drugs to spew bro science.

You’ve weathered bro science before, as many of us have. The most common bro science starts thus: “Well what worked for me was. .followed almost assuredly by something bizarre or even the most basic chemistry student can prove wrong. Among these are some of the examples I have encountered:

“Girls will get too bulky with free weights, they should only use machines.”

I made some serious gains by bulking up with ice cream.”

Your body only has a 30 minute anabolic window.”

Bro science is held aloft by a single premise. The premise is the sinister perpetuation that someone’s credibility in the fitness industry is based on their physique. This is simply insanity. It’s the equivocation of taking your car to someone who owns a Ferrari versus the mechanic who owns the Honda. There are those of you are there that will argue the easily dismissed counterpoint: “Why would I entrust the word regarding health and nutritional science to someone who doesn’t take care of their own body?” This is a very subtle ad hominem, the equivalence of dismissing someone’s argument based on whether they smell bad or not.

Simply put, the adherence to the ideology that because someone looks better (and in most cases, especially with the male anatomy; bigger) than you, in no way qualifies them more as an expert than you are. For those of you unfamiliar, this is the current Olympia champion, Phil Heath.

PhilHeath-FLX-Aug13-PavelYthjall-179

In comparison, Layne Norton.

layne-norton-training

Well, that’s not fair, you might say! What an unflattering picture of Layne! This picture is more stylized, actually. Layne Norton’s more common appearance in the gym is this:

Layne Norton

Far less flattering than Heath. Let no blame be placed on Phil Heath, here. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing. Phil Heath, I might argue, has become just as much of the product as the salesman. That’s not the argument here. This is the question I pose: Assuming that Layne Norton and Phil Heath were both present and available, who might the regular gym goer look to for information on bodybuilding?

The more rational of you might give pause. The logical premise here is to discern qualification. Is the health of a doctor a relevant criteria in determining whether or not he would be suitable to rend care unto you? Would you refuse care from a doctor because his own blood pressure was high, or he had arthritis? Then why must we insist–in the world of fitness-that only those who look qualified, are in fact qualified.

The insistence upon this irrational ideology has long been a personal battle of mine, though this article attempts to reach beyond that. I would not stand alone in the following statement: Given advice on a particular subject of nutrition or exercise science from a professional athlete in the sport–such as Phil Heath–and a certified expert in the field–such as Layne Norton–I would almost assuredly trust the latter over the former. And yet I stand in a suspiciously significant minority.

To dispel the idea above would be to go against a very real trend in the United States. Every year, the percentage of people overweight increases and yet the United States stand as the most fitness obsessed nation in the world. Something isn’t working. This brings me to my second point. The Bullshit of Supplements

The Bullshit of Supplements

There are two statistics of which are distinctly correlated. The prevalence of obesity in the United States and the growth of the supplement market. People are buying more fat burners than ever, and yet the human condition is deteriorating at an even faster rate. While most well mannered people realize that you cannot “buy the fat away,” supplement companies aren’t targeting those people. The ShredZ ads aren’t for people who understand that a single fat burner with a proprietary blend won’t burn the donuts, the beers and the twinkies away.

Obesity

Instead, the supplement companies have paired with the third, and most ludicrous aspect of the fitness industry. What Layne Norton refers to the fitness industry elitists. As a four year employee at a franchise owned GNC, I witnessed first hand the diabolical sales practices utilized to ensure that people believed they were exchanging their dollars for results.

Supplement Sales

The exaggeration of these products here cannot be understated. These products are only marginally effective in the realm of “bodybuilding gains” and “fatburning.” Vitamins and minerals have characteristics that have very real and lasting effect. The preworkout you’re taking, does not.

Mental Masturbators

Followed by thousands on Instagram, the mental masturbators are the fitness elite. They’re “sponsored” (whatever the hell that means), “professional trainers” (but no certifications, man?!) and always, always, always with their booking information. They are a well entangled web of ego boosters, who flaunt what they have and what you don’t. Their like and favorite-induced narcissism is not necessarily a self-inflicted poison. Rock hard abs and well developed glutes help sales, after all.

Label

While understanding it’s whats in the white label that should matter, most people love the promise of results. “I got shredded in six weeks with this!” It is a self-inducing cycle, maintained purely by the ignorance of their potential customers.

These “sponsored” athletes are part of a club, and you’re in it. There is a very real divide between superstar and customer. The idea here is that they have been placed on a pedestal, and it is in their best interest never to come down. In fact, it is in their best interest for you not to get results. If you took their products and they genuinely worked, you wouldn’t be a customer. It is a self-serving cycle that can end in only one way. Self-education. The availability of information is covered in Layne Norton’s post, linked below, that I need not repeat here.

These elements of the fitness industry are not new, nor are they near the end of their life cycle. This article was written as an impromptu thank you to those who have helped educate me on the facet that self-awareness is the path best taken to a strong body. This article is a testament to the idea I hold close that many putting in hours in the gym, lifting with improper form because Bodybuilder Joe told them or buying the latest fat burner are doing so with genuine and good intentions. I wrote this article as a reminder that I once believed Kre-Alkaline was the “more effective” Creative, overlooking it’s 150% price point, or that the fat burner I was burning could give me the abs of the Instagram model trying to sell them. It’s not that.

It’s hard fucking work, and it’s knowledge. Everyone has a little bit of the first one. The second one is a bit more rare.

Layne Norton’s “The Fitness Industry is Failing” https://www.biolayne.com/articles/training/biolayne-guest-blog-by-jonathon-goodman-the-fitness-industry-is-failing/

Why I’ll Never Date a Religious Girl (Again)

Religion. Fewer things conspire people to throwing verbal darts and attacking your character faster than religion. As a collegiate student, I was that guy. While I am vehemently capable of defending my own beliefs (or lack thereof), it was during any concourse of religion that I would often make others defend their beliefs. It’s something that most religious people care not to think of. Oklahoma (of where I went to college and have lived a large portion of my life) is the most Christian state in the U.S., and because of that, Christians are safe in that most conversations and forums they partake in, they remain the majority. An interesting observation I have made is that most Christians take personal offense when you question their beliefs. This is significantly different than when you disagree with their politics, or that they party on the weekend. When you question Jesus of Nazareth, you may as well have cast the first stone, as it were.

Allow me to say this, I do not intend to invoke the same tyranny of anti-theism here I was guilty of as a college student. Instead, I wish to portray the perspective and experiences of a non-religious person who has in the past dated Christian girls of varying faith and why I would never do that again. I want nothing more than to lay my experiences bare.

While I was a student in college, I was as liberal as one might be when it came to dating. Political views, race and religion were all up for grabs. If you could hold a good conversation and enjoyed ice cream, I was probably going to try and date you. (So many great candidates unfortunately fell short at the first hurdle). I’ve dated white, black, and Hispanic girls. I’ve dated American, French and Irish girls. I’ve dated atheist, Jewish and Christian girls. It’s the last one specifically that has given me fits of conscious I may yet never recover from.

For years I wanted to write this piece. I wanted to let those who aren’t religious know the mind numbing cancer of religion that can often poison a perfectly good relationship, but for years I couldn’t quite find the most appropriate manner in which to describe what it feels like as a non-believer to date someone who has so aptly given their life to a man two thousand years died (and apparently risen again). I have since discovered this analogy and it’s here I’ll share it with you.

Dating a Christian (girl), is to me, the equivalent of dating a mother, except the child is one whom you will never experience life with, never interact with, and never see grow up. It is being the third wheel in an already fundamentally grounded relationship. It is a problem to which there is no viable solution.

Interestingly enough, two of the three Christian girls I dated–who are are all phenomenal human beings–were the daughters of Evangelical preachers. Perhaps it is no one’s fault than my own to attack the tree at the root. Both circumstances have similar beginnings worth telling: both girls attempted to subvert my “lack of relationship with Christ” by repeatedly dragging me to church with them. It was undoubtedly my hesitant agreement to attend that fueled our relationships. I always attempted to make religion a non-issue in the sphere of these budding relationships. I would avoid the conversation of the afterlife, or the purpose of life at my own chagrin because I understood that–like most Christians settled deep in the Bible Belt–these girls did not like their beliefs challenged.

I hid away my Richard Dawkins’ and Christopher Hitchen’s books so that while browsing my meager library of books my girlfriend wouldn’t discover such titles as “The God Delusion” and “God is Not Great” among my recently read list. I did this because the relationship between two people (in this case, the girl of my affections and myself) was more important than God–some fantastical idea that she revered and I despised.

I intentionally hid my grimace when her father would tell me that I could lead the prayer before dinner, because my girlfriends happiness was more important than my own. You need make no comments about the magnitude of these mistakes, but this additional point must be known: I dispatched of this attitude halfway through these relationships–only to recoil back into after the failure of the first relationship, and my apathy of religion in the second–which caused their end.

These girls, both collegiate athletes and excellent students,  hid behind God in defense of bigoted beliefs that often manifested in snide remarks about homosexuals and condemning others to hell. These were girls for whom I was dedicated 100% to, insomuch as that when I was with them–I was with them, but that I felt it was terrifyingly difficult to have a conversation with them without the word God being brought up to explain the severity of one of her teammates daily transgressions.

Being in a relationship with someone who loves Jesus more than they love you is much like it sounds. Replace Jesus with literally any man who is taller and funnier than you and the sickening reality is this: at least that person is real. Jesus died 2,000 years ago. Everyone can relate to the stomach churning anomaly of realizing the idol of your affections has their eyes set on another. Imagine instead that your crush held their affections in reserve for someone who was 2,000 years deceased.

I don’t intentionally intend the awful humor of Judeo-Christian beliefs, but I can not state it simpler. In a moment of genuine regret during my sophomore year of college, I was at a restaurant with one of these two girls, unaware our relationship was only minutes awful from a tumultuous collapse. While discussing choosing a topic for an essay in a political science class, she made the offhand comment that “all the topics we can choose wouldn’t even be a big deal if more people gave their life to Christ.” Among the topics on the list were abortion, the death penalty and gun ownership, per usual.

Neurons fired in my brain and I was unable to hold back the disgusting comment I made only a moment later. “If you love Jesus Christ so much, why don’t you let him fuck you and pay for dinner?”

I never saw her again.

It is no different than dating a parent who comes with a child. Except that when you date a parent who does have a child, any investment they (and you) make, is tangible. It’s real. The person in this circumstance–the child–is full of life and loud and beautiful and disgusting all within a few breaths of each other. The two hours for the Wednesday service, the hour and a half for the early (and sometimes late) service. That wasn’t real, and I’m glad I have the courage not to deal with it now.

Christians I’ve spoken to on this have given me some ironic feedback. “Well, that’s okay,” they’ll tell me. “I would never date an atheist.” I bet you wouldn’t. But why is that? You can’t get over them when they keep telling you NOT to discriminate against same sex marriage? Or when they tell you maybe to quit brandishing your faith as a weapon?

Bonne Journeés, mes amis.