Updated: Feb 21, 2019
We live in a society dominated by hyper consumption.
I went to the cinema recently and one poster made a strong impression on me. It was for the movie Rampage and the strap line was ‘Big meets bigger’.
Something to look forward to there, I guess.
Which just goes to underline a simple principle, which is that our occidental society is powered by the power of sophisticated visual imagery, where big and powerful are iconic triggers in themselves.
Against this backdrop the question for me, however, is when did ‘big’ become trendy and so aspirational as a state of being?
One of the current popular search terms on YouTube, for example, is ‘masculinity’ and it is also the case that where mainstream cinema is concerned there has been a boom in the production of fantasy superhero movies over recent years (implicitly because both kids and adults have demonstrated themselves to be so keen to buy the tickets to watch these kinds of movies).
Another analogous sign of what has happened to popular culture in recent years (and particularly for young men) is in the rise of MMA (mixed martial arts) culture and an underlining of competitiveness in commercial sports.
Which raises another question in my mind, which is that in this culture, where even the Olympic Games are conceptualised as being ultimately a medal race (with an emphasis on gold medals, obviously) is it not fun enough just to participate in sport anymore?
Or, to put it another way, do we have to win all the time when we take part in sport and so compete?
And do we have to win at any price?
There has also been a lot of negative talk recently about the dangers of overpowering masculinity, yet what do such critics propose to do about this apparent state of affairs?
In the course of my work as a Personal Trainer I tend to find that a lot of people judge others by the way they look. I am also conscious that people will judge and choose to work with me (or not, as the case may be) based upon my appearance.
Which on one level makes perfect sense as, after all, I am in the business of the physical and the planned exercise of the body. So, in this light that is a fair enough approach for people to take when making such judgements.
One of my objectives though, when I do my job, is to consider each client as a unique individual with their own life story and experiences where exercise is concerned, with different backgrounds in sport, and with differing feelings about their appearance.
It is also the case that when it comes to exercise, as individuals we never start on the same level. After all, how could someone who has never trained seriously in his or her life, or who has never undertaken sporting activity, be confident when they then do start training their own body physical?
I believe that training for such people (indeed for everyone!) does not have to be super hard, but it does need to be challenging.
Or, to put it another way, my responsibility as a Personal Trainer, most of the time, is to enable someone to train for about 45 minutes to an hour and to show them that you don't have to write everything down in a book, or to spend 20 minutes working on the same exercise routine to make progress on the gym floor.
Progress can actually come in increments and can be paced so as to realistic and measurable to each person concerned.
There are many things that can be characterised as being disorders in the fitness-orientated world that we live in. One of these, in my opinion, is to believe that it is not possible to mix up a training regime, and that it is only possible to make progress by repeating in a very mechanic way the same type of workout over and over again.
And then again and again.
Which is just wrong.
Gym goals come in many forms for all kinds of people. Getting big or bigger may be one of them, but it is not the only one. As individuals our bodies are our own domain, as are our minds and lives.
Finding out, through the course of our time on the planet and through our thoughts and actions about what is right and best for us as individuals is the challenge we face in in the gym and in our lives more generally. The role of a helpful Personal Trainer is to be a guide and an informed encouragement on that journey of the individual.
And to help each individual to reach the end of the journey that is right for them.