Monday, October 23, 2017

Why Do People Work Out?

Full disclosure: I’m writing this as someone who doesn’t really “work out” in the usual sense of the term. I do push-ups and squats on a fairly casual basis. But that’s about it. I’m just exploring a thought I had the other night: Working out for a muscular body is somewhat analogous to wearing glasses that you don’t actually need.

In case you weren’t aware, some people wear glasses despite having no medical need for them at all. It’s simply to make them appear more intelligent. And what I’m suggesting is that most people work out for a similar reason. They want to appear a certain way.

To be clear, I’m not talking about people who work out for health reasons, because they’re overweight or something. That’s different. And I’m not talking about guys who work out because they actually need muscles for some tangible purpose: like a soldier or an athlete. But the average guy doesn’t really need to be very muscular. Speaking for myself, I’m a relatively skinny guy, but I can still lift just about anything that ordinarily needs to be lifted.

So why would I work out? Well, for pretty much the same reason people wear glasses they don’t need. It’s for looks. I like to look muscular. Although perhaps it would be more to the point to say that girls like guys who look muscular.

But if a guy exhibits a muscular physique, it feels to me like that should communicate something meaningful about him. For example, it should communicate that he actually does hard labor. But nowadays, all it means is that he’s spent a lot of time in a comfortable, air-conditioned gym repeatedly lifting weights. Don’t get me wrong: working out is strenuous to be sure. But it isn’t really work in my mind. It’s pretend work. It doesn’t actually produce anything. Just muscles.

Some people speak of working out as a therapeutic thing. They say that it’s rejuvenating, both physically and mentally. I can believe that’s true for some people, although it’s not my own experience at all. I despise working out. All it does is make me tired. It doesn’t rejuvenate me; it drains me. Even the casual amount of push-ups and squats that I’ve been doing lately, I do them out of a sense of duty. There’s nothing in them that’s intrinsically pleasing at all to me.