Hey guys, so I found it hard to think of an article this week and I think it comes down to the fact that the last blog has got such good reception! I can only thank you guys for that, so keep sharing (Twitter’s your best bet if you’re embarrassed about the cool kids realising you read an Engineering blog…)
Anyway, today’s topic was chosen because I’ve just created my ‘Life Excel’ spreadsheet to track my finances, diet, fitness, astrological alignment for next year and if I stick with it, the rest of my life! With any luck, my complex algorithms (did you know you can do Graphs?!) will be able to predict how to create the Philosopher’s Stone. But the thought of being in a gym after work every day, without threat of deadlines after 6pm sounds amazing, but gave me a thought.
So yeah, the allure of the Gym to adolescent guys. Is it healthy? Why do they (we) do it? And is it detrimental to the mental state of young males?
Okay, so when I was 16, I went to a gym for the first time with my mate Joe, who as some of you may know, is a fairly built guy (don’t tell him though). Those 2 hours were like a baptism of pain for me, we did every muscle group (not that I knew what a muscle group was: top/bottom?). But I was hooked, next day I signed up at my local leisure centre, used the fitness suite for a couple of months and thought I made decent ‘noob progress’. Leisure centre got renovated, I got a bit bigger and more serious, lifting the bigger weights on the rack. Final year of school and I was the ‘best of the rest’, I looked better than I ever had, and like the kid I was, thought fresher girls would go crazy over me.
Then I came to Uni. The fresher girls never went crazy over me, and mid-week I joined the gym at uni. The small pond had become the Atlantic, and I was a sardine. But something changed, I never did it to look good anymore. I did it to lift heavy weights. Luckily my mates in halls were keen, and with the company of Elite athletes, my gym life changed, leg day was a thing that I persuaded others to do. I had exams, I lost gains, but met some more mates. These guys were the big deal, with the emphasis on big. I hated every minute I spent in the gym in their shadow, I felt pissed off with myself, I couldn’t keep up with them. But then I realised that’s what I enjoyed. Stopping being skinny was easy, but getting big was hard. And I’d never be big enough, it comes with the territory. The 90kg, 6ft 3 brick shithouse thinks he’s small. But he loves every minute he spends lifting those weights. We were hooked.
This is where I get a bit more scientific, and discuss the issue of Muscle Dysmorphia. For those that can’t be bothered clicking the link, it’s related to the mental disorder whereby the sufferer never thinks they are ‘big enough’. It’s informally called Bigorexia. It’s being brushed aside by many people as a ‘stupid excuse’, but I genuinely think it’s an issue. I don’t think I or my friends actually suffer from it medically, but it’s an interesting concept to explore, and I think many people shouldn’t write it off as hokum, just like anorexia was 10/20 years ago.
Another issue I’d like to relate to is that of perceived gender roles. Sexism/mysogynism/feminism/equality are all very ‘dangerous’ words to brandish about, but with all the discussion in the papers relating to women being objectified in the media, I’d like to offer a counter argument that men are also being objectified and classed into certain ‘types’. Whilst I’m not claiming its okay in either way, nor am I saying one is more serious than the other, I do think that the issue of sexism towards men is one that is overlooked considerably. My point is that boys are taught to be able to do things with their hands, be ‘successful’ and above all, be masculine. I bet if you think of the word masculine, you think of a lumberjack or some such, and think that’s not PC and try and think of a man crying and opening up as being manly? Now you think you’re a real 21st century, gender-equality warrior? I don’t really know where this is going, but I think that these preconceptions are some of the reason that guys go to the gym.
Look at what I used to be, a kid who wanted to get muscly to get girls. Look at what I am now, more of a man, who’s about to go into the big bad world, and he’s looking forward to getting back in the gym fulltime. It’s strange that the world which can be such a painful experience, that we escape it by putting ourselves through pain. It’s a pain we choose to subject ourselves in order to believe that we are in control of our own lives for a few hours a day. The #gainz we make in the gym can be seen by the world as trying to prove that we are men. But I don’t see a built guy as a man cause he’s big, but he’s a man because he can dedicate years of his life to something that is built around pain, and come through on the other side victorious.
Or you know, maybe I just want to look good for that girl at the bar… (Don’t worry Hannah, I don’t)
Pragmatic Engineer/Resident Narcissist