As much as it pains my considerable vanity to admit it, I am overweight. Not "oh, golly, I sure could stand to lost ten pounds" overweight, either. No, I'm a good 50 lbs more than the healthy weight for my frame. And I hate it. I hate that I can't do a pull-up and that I get winded walking uphill. I hate the way my clothes hang on me -- they really don't "hang" at all anymore -- and the way I look in photographs.
In classical Greece a high premium was placed on physical fitness. This didn't mean starving oneself to achieve the rail-thin body type women in today's society are expected to maintain. It meant that men and women were expected to be strong, healthy, physically fit individuals. Men attended the gymnasia where they were put through rigorous training to keep them fit. They had to remain fit well into what we would consider older age in order to properly defend their city-state.
In Sparta men and women were taught to wrestle from a young age. For all that the film 300 got wrong about Spartan culture, the spirit of how they portrayed youth was fairly accurate. Greeks fought in the Pankration style, which is remarkably similar to our modern Mixed Martial Arts fighting. Imagine for a moment a society in which citizens are encouraged to actively participate in philosophy, local government, and the UFC. The Greeks, very simply, were badasses.
All of this makes my own weakness and general poor health seem more than laziness. I feel like I'm failing at my religious obligations. So I'm doing something about it. I've started weightlifting according to the StrongLifts 5x5 program, which uses barbell training and lots of squats. Tomorrow will be my third day on the program, or one week. I'm already feeling stronger in my core, and more than a little sore in my thighs (the squats are working!). I am not modifying my diet except to add more protein after workouts. I'm hoping to build muscle and strength and to burn body fat more effectively. In my experience cardio training just doesn't work as well as weight training for overall physical fitness. I'll be recording my fitness milestones in this blog. StrongLifts 5x5 promises to get me to a place where I'll be able to bench my ideal body weight (130lbs) and deadlift 1.5 x my ideal body weight (about 200 lbs). Right now those numbers seem impossibly high, but the program is designed to add weight in five pound increments each workout in order to train your muscles to lift heavier weight.
I'm a little concerned about becoming a gym rat, one of those people who talks all the time about how much they can bench, how much time they spent at the gym, or what they weigh. I can't stand those types of people, and I promise that my blog will not become a place for that kind of self-involved rhetoric. Also, I don't judge anyone who doesn't choose to exercise. How could I? I've been a lazy lump for years, and I'm only changing my lifestyle now because I'm sick of myself. I read recently about how no one ever makes a conscious change in their life until they are "at a 10". You can be fed up for years at a 9.5 and still not be ready to change. Then one day you wake up and with a sense of peace and grace and you are ready to change. You are at a 10. My "10" moment came when I went to put on my favorite butch hipster shirt -- an awesome vintage fitted western button-down piece that my dad gave me -- and found that it was too tight to squeeze my pudgy belly into. The beautiful mother-of-pearl buttons gaped open around my distended middle.
I'll never be a Pankration fighter. I'll never be a Spartan warrior, and I'll never look like Gorgo from 300 unless I starve myself. But I can be better. I can be stronger. I can be healthier. I can change for myself and for my Gods.