Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From the NY Times: Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?

Not for me boutique, fitness, torture regimes such as CrossFit conducted in strip mall parking lots and windowless rooms as described in this NY Times Magazine article 
"It makes sense that for those segments of humanity who aren’t fighting for survival every day of their lives, the new definition of fulfillment is feeling as if you’re about to die. Maybe that’s the point. If we aren’t lugging five gallons of water back from a well 10 miles away or slamming a hammer into a mountainside, something feels as if it’s missing. Who wants to sit alone at a desk all day, then work out alone on a machine? Why can’t we suffer and sweat together, as a group, in a way that feels meaningful? Why can’t someone yell at us while we do it? For the privileged, maybe the most grueling path seems the most likely to lead to divinity. When I run on Sunday mornings, I pass seven packed, bustling fitness boutiques, and five nearly empty churches."
I'll stick to my 40 miles per week of running some road racing and a few marathons a year. Extreme enough for me and I get out in nature and fresh air.  
Many unfortunately live in places generally inhospitable to outdoor exercise with busy boring roads, in the city, in a foul climate or feel a need to be pushed by paid instructors and others in the class to get "it" done. Note winter weather is not foul, just tough and yes I occasionally duck into Planet Fitness for the dreadmill when the snow is deep and the roads a mess.  
While far "better" than this indoor regimented stuff, ultra-running races are also extreme in the sense that they too fulfil the same kind of need to suffer mightily together. Thinking of ultra runners often running together for many miles,the pacers, aid stations, etc...Mere marathons are tough but ultras can be brutal in their prolonged extreme suffering. When I was younger I often did ultra length runs in the mountains alone and occasionally with friends, rarely with any support, so I know what they feel like.
This weekend daughter Hannah and I am running Mount Desert Island Marathon, a spectacularly scenic and hilly marathon. Extremely beautiful and tough course. Extreme enough for me. 

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