One time, when I was a student at The Harbor School in 6th grade, the Beachcomber did a fun little piece where they asked my friend and I what we thought the hardest job in the world was. Being in 6th grade we thought hard considering we were unfairly put on the spot. My friend came up with “Aeronautical Engineer”. I said “Garbage Man”.
Clearly one of us was thinking abstractly, and one of us (me) was thinking contextually. Neither of us were wrong, but it’s interesting the dichotomy of perspectives represented. He saw the complexity of the math and science, while I saw the mental challenge of adverse work conditions.
At the gym there’s a dichotomy. The abstract concept represented is the task of moving the needle towards better health which is multivariate. Really achieving fitness means changing your life. Lifestyle change means challenging deeply held assumptions, or bringing unexamined beliefs into question. It requires confronting fears around aging, and/or reassessing relationships with food. It means facing societal ideas about physicality and body image. “Getting fit” has never been about the weight being lifted. “Getting fit” is about all the other things that have to happen in conjunction outside of the gym.
There’s also the contextual aspect of getting fit. When conditions are restrictive or demotivating it’s uniquely tough. When the smoke and air quality reports kept everyone inside for a week last year we were all on the brink of losing it. When the pandemic restrictions were in full effect they had everyone questioning their sanity. When other life stressors add up, schedules change, work-loads increase, or out-of-town guests visit, it clearly changes the energy with which people show up at the gym.
The reality is that while we laugh and joke about how the latest workout had a masochistic number of burpees in it, burpees are EASY compared to the abstract and contextual difficulties. In the abstract, we benefit from coaching, leadership, and networking for information. In the contextual, we persevere through community, inspiration, and support.
In either case, we’re grateful for burpees!