liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
[personal profile] liv
I am a fan of Naomi Alderman in general, and I was really impressed with her piece on being a fat person who made a fitness app (the app in question is Zombies, Run!, which I've been enjoying after several of you recommended it to me. So [personal profile] rmc28, you might be particularly interested in the linked article). I love the title There's no morality in exercise and the lede You’re not a better person for working out, or a worse person for not. And the whole piece really resonated with me. It was so important to me to find a way into exercise that isn't about weight loss or morality, and particularly not weight-loss conflated with morality, and I feel like Alderman really gets that. Plus what she says about competition is really wise; if only people who are already highly athletic are allowed to train and improve, that's a pretty unhelpful situation.

As well as agreeing with Alderman politically, I find that my experiences in many ways chime with hers, so I want to babble about that for a bit. This will involve talking about weight, body image, dieting and social attitudes to health / fitness / weight, all that scary complicated emotive stuff. I also mention childhood bullying, which is not a very surprising thing to come up in this sort of context.

I've been realizing recently that one of the reasons I don't feel comfortable socializing with under-eights is because I was bullied quite a lot between about 5 and about 8 or 9. The dominant discourse is so much that bullying happens in high school, and takes certain expected forms, that I'd almost forgotten that my experience is different. I should say it wasn't very horrendous, I know a lot of people have had far worse experiences than I did, the majority of it was emotional rather than physical and it wasn't by any means continual. I mean, obviously a handful of six-year-olds isn't scary at 35 like they were at 5, but I think I missed out on learning how to socialize with that age-group, because they mostly excluded me or teased me, or occasionally roughed me up in uneven fights.

There were lots of reasons for it; very occasionally it was to do with being the only Jewish kid at school, but most of it wasn't anti-semitism. Some of it was to do with being semi-accelerated, I was spending enough of my time around older kids for academic reasons that the gap in social development was pretty glaring. And some of it was probably for no reason at all; a lot of children's social hierarchies are basically arbitrary and I happened to be low on the totem pole for a few years, and there's no point searching for an explanation. But I do think some of the reason was because I was really unathletic, and a liability at both organized and informal physical games. The main reason for that was uncontrolled asthma. I mean, I'm relatively physically clumsy as well, and I wasn't that interested in sports compared to, say, reading. But I think all of those things would have been much less prominent if I'd been able to move rapidly without getting out of breath or often, triggering asthma attacks. They wouldn't give me the good drugs until I was 12, because steroids can stunt growth, and I do often think of an alternative version of myself where I ended up a few inches shorter, but was able to breathe reliably between the ages of 3 and 12.

That experience meant that by the time I did get to secondary school, I was completely convinced that I was rubbish at sport. Frankly, I didn't get much guidance about how to improve, I just kept on doing the compulsory minimum very badly (luckily my peers from the age of 10 or so didn't really care if I was bad at sport). There was no encouragement to improve for the sake of learning a skill, there was no real hint that anything other than being one of the best in a competition was worthwhile. Perhaps surprisingly given all this, I really wanted to play hockey. (For North Americans, unadorned "hockey" means field hockey, we don't really play ice hockey over here, certainly not at school.) I had no option to play hockey just to play, I spent the whole of secondary school desperately scrabbling to be among the top 20 players which was not remotely possible for me, because if you weren't competitively good you were nothing.

At one point I got a school report saying, [Liv] might be quite a useful little hockey player if she could lose a bit of weight. Which was a nonsense, in hindsight; my problem wasn't that I was fat, my problem was that I had no physical stamina and couldn't run fast or keep going for the length of a match. And the reason for that was partly asthma, though mainly indirectly because 10 years with uncontrolled asthma meant that I'd never formed the habit of being physically active enough to build up fitness. But anyway, I took the comment to heart and set about trying to lose weight; I'd read The Beauty Myth and was very much influenced by it, though I now realize there are some real issues with that book, so I wasn't going to lose weight to "look good". But this was functional, right, I was losing weight to get fitter so that I could be in the hockey team. And I went about it in a reasonably sensible way, I continued to eat a balanced diet, just smaller portions, and I cut out snacks and most sweet things. I tried to run a mile every day, just stumbling round and round my back garden in circles, not having any guidance about how to build up cardio-vascular fitness properly, everybody just assumed fitness would magically happen if I lost weight.

At my lightest I was somewhere over 10 stone, what's that in real money, a bit over 65kg I think, and still quite a bit over the supposed "ideal" weight for my height according to the nonsense BMI standard. Getting to that weight attracted a lot of positive comments, especially from teachers, some of them really quite inappropriate in retrospect. Like the time I came back to school noticeably thinner after a holiday, and one of the teachers looked at me and did the sexy hourglass gesture, ooh, look at you! The truth was that weight was never the issue, I was really unfit when I was a skinny asthmatic kid, and I was still really unfit when I went through puberty and reached my adult weight which has altered really very little in the last 20 years. It's of course possible that if my condition and my social circumstances had allowed me to be more active as a kid I might have ended up with a different body type, but who knows.

So anyway, I doggedly went to all these hockey practices, and I continued to be pretty good at stick skills and pretty good at the tactics of the game and reading the pitch, but I continued to be "bad at" hockey because I couldn't run fast or keep going through the game. And when we started moving from grass to Astroturf and they changed the rules to get rid of the concept of offside so that the game became faster and more fluid, I really really couldn't keep up. I was in theory B team reserve, but the B team very rarely got any games at all and the reserves were rarely swapped in (unless one of the good players was injured). I can remember the exact moment when I gave up the whole weight loss thing for good: I was standing on the sidelines, freezing cold (I think nowadays they don't make kids play outdoor sport in just a t-shirt and skirt and not allow you to put on any extra layers while you're waiting around) in the sleety rain with the temperature falling as the sun set, and I was so damn hungry I was practically hallucinating about a box of chocolates. And I just thought, it's not worth all this effort, all this depriving myself of good food, putting all this free time into hockey practice and abortive attempts to get fitter, for the sake of a few minutes of playing hockey per term.

So after that, I deliberately avoided doing any physical exercise between the ages of 18 and 32. Which I'm sure has been bad for my long-term health, and also stopped me from participating in stuff that I might have found fun if I'd been a bit fitter. I did some dancing and some hillwalking during that time, but it was always a mixture of fun and misery because I was so out of breath trying to do anything at all athletically challenging.

Coming to an understanding, as Alderman has, that I can do exercise just for me, so that I feel better in my body, has been a revelation to me. I started exercising regularly in late 2010, thanks to encouragement from my lovely DW readers and especially from [personal profile] mathcathy, who helped me establish the habit of going to the gym. And after a couple of years of using gym machines, I took up running via the Couch to 5K programme, which worked really well for me. I've been running regularly for about 2½ years now. I am not doing this to compete, even after all that time I'm still just about the slowest runner in existence among all the people who actually run. I am not doing it to lose weight; in fact I weigh almost exactly the same as I did at the beginning. My appearance has changed somewhat, though; I'm still visibly fat, but I'm also muscular, a body type I barely even knew existed until it happened to me, and I will admit that from a vanity perspective, I like the shape I now have. I'm not doing it to prove a moral point about how "healthy" and "virtuous" I am, I'm doing it purely and simply because running regularly means I can actually enjoy going for long walks in the hills, and evenings of folk dancing. My asthma has got way better now that I'm fit; it's primarily exercise triggered, but now the amount of exercise needed to raise my heartrate enough to set it off is a frank sprint, not any time I try to climb stairs or an uphill slope, or even walk briskly in cold air.

So I really appreciate the ethos behind the Zombies, Run! app (which I am using to make winter treadmill running less boring, and I'm about halfway through Season 2 now and enjoying the story). I appreciate that it gamifies exercise without making it about a competition against standards I could never reach. I love the ways that the characters in the game consistently praise your character for completing a workout, with absolutely no reference to how fast you are. You're reliable, you're dependable, you're consistent, you're helping save humanity and your community from the zombies. They never say "you're fast", and you can't fail missions by being too slow, and they never comment on how your body looks.

I personally like statistics, so I'm proud of myself that I can now run a 12-minute mile, which most competitively-oriented resources consider to be an absolute minimum pace to even count as running, I'm barely at novice level and it's taken me 2½ years to get here. I really like that I get to set that as a goal, running 5K in under 40 minutes, not running marathons or trying to be faster than people who are actually athletic. Or I could just set myself a goal of running regularly and not care about the pace at all, and it would still be good. And generally I like my body cos it can do things I want to do, even if they are not really impressive things compared to some people. Before I exercised regularly, it wasn't that I didn't like my body, I was just indifferent to it, it was this meat-suit I had to carry around that I didn't really identify with. So that, as well as the fitness, feels like an improvement.

And it's not a moral imperative, not at all, I get certain benefits from exercise but I could well imagine another person deciding it's not worth the effort. I am putting a lot of time in, and I have had to give up some stuff I wanted to do to be able to do this regular running. But at least I want to offer the possibility that you can exercise because you want to, you don't have to try for weight loss, you don't have to do it because it's healthy and you are obliged to strive for health. And you can still exercise even if, like me, you're fairly bad at it. Competition can be fun, but it's not the only option.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 01:18 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
A+ many empathy. I also over-invested in "obviously I'm not good at sport", especially since school sports were so team-based and I'm a disappointment in a team. Nevermind that some things I did enjoy - I rode my bike once around the whole town every afternoon! And so avoided taking up activities as a teen/adult that might have been good fun.

And if you want solidarity on the 'bullied most in primary school' front, that happened to me too. I have only limited memory of it, actually - i've blocked most of the year 1995 out due to trauma. Weirdly, my discomfort is still with 14/15 year old girls, not 6-9 year olds, but as an adult the only 6-9 year olds I meet are the nerdy children of my nerdy friends. Whereas I've had a lot to do with teenage girls: i recall one church camp, when I was about 18, being very uncomfortable with how I kept running into these well-made-up, giggly teenage girls everywhere. Eventually one of my friends pointed out that *they thought I was cool* and were following me around. When I was 14/15 at the same camp, girls of that ilk never even noticed my existence!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 02:09 pm (UTC)
spaceoperadiva: little jellical cat in a sink (Default)
From: [personal profile] spaceoperadiva
I also suffered bullying in primary school, mostly physical. I was the tiny, runty, ugly girl from a mixed race family. And then after a catastrophic illness in 5th grade, I lost a bunch of weight I couldn't afford to lose. My mom panicked and fed me up into rotund. So then I was the short, pudgy, ugly girl from a mixed race family. I coped by learning how to beat people up despite my size and inability to breathe well. I've pretty much spent most of my life since 5th grade feeling "fat" no matter what my size or physical condition, and feeling "safe" when I'm physically strong. Recently I found a blog, Dances with Fat, that covers some of the same territory as Naomi Alderman.

I shall check out the Zombie app, since I'm on a quest to improve my fitness level. Thanks again for your thoughtful and lovely posts!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 02:38 pm (UTC)
shoaling_souls: Fish swimming independently but still together in a group (Default)
From: [personal profile] shoaling_souls
I don't like zombies, but I did like Couch to 5k's non zombie app when I was using it. I had to stop, because even the lightest jogging I can manage makes me dizzy and hurts my head and my joints, but I did enjoy it and maybe someday I can do it again. It was peaceful and the world was quiet and I could listen to music while I was doing it, the same music everytime, and I liked that I could see noticeable improvements right away after just a few times of doing it, comparing myself only to myself and to previous times: that I was less winded this time than last time, that the walking break between the running didn't seem like not enough time to catch my breath anymore.

I miss rollerblading too, it's a much gentler form of exercise for me, just smooth rolling and swaying, not jiggling or jarring (until you fall, of course, and the pavement is rough enough that falling will happen, and I'm not sure I can see fast enough to navigate crossing streets on wheels anymore).

I think it is good to do exercise with the goal of being able to do things with your body that you want to do. It is so much healthier to exercise that way than the ways that society teaches us with mixing morality and emaciation.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 03:20 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
I had a very weird PE experience at school; I think I have always been a mediocre endurance athlete (that is - I was never going to be *winning* anything, but I could *do* it which is more than many people can) but absolutely abysmal at anything involving exactly repeating a physical action (throwing things, archery, jumping) or observing small fast-moving objects (I have awful depth perception, especially without glasses). All the same I enjoyed it, I guess because it was something other than "sit at desk" and our PE teachers were quite encouraging about "tried hard" even if one never actually won anything. I think school PE ought to be a lot more targeted at getting as many people as possible to the point of being able to do *some* exercise safely and effectively when not in PE class if they want to do it; and a lot less targeted at finding the handful of people who might one day win an Olympic medal.

I never really "gave up" exercise because I came to Cambridge and cycling was for many nears very nearly my only way of getting anywhere. But I only took up running after I had joined a gym (because it had a pool to swim in) and thought it might be a nice way to move around - turns out I find it fun, so I kept at it. I couldn't stand Zombies Run! Unfortunately because it sounds super great, I just couldn't get into it.

I hate the sell of "this is good for you SO YOU MUST DO IT, OR YOU ARE A BAD PERSON". Well, maybe it is good for you (or maybe not), but you get to choose whether to do things and you might have competing interests and only you can choose what to prioritise in your life.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 04:53 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
I've been realizing recently that one of the reasons I don't feel comfortable socializing with under-eights is because I was bullied quite a lot between about 5 and about 8 or 9.

Can definitely sympathize with this, most of my bullying was later, but it's left me very uncomfortable around kids in general. The obvious career-choice post-Evil Aerospace would hsve been teaching, but ugh, no, the horror...

if she could lose a bit of weight

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* Have these people no clue?

Congratulations on enjoying the running, it's one of the few things I miss with my current mobility levels, it was a wonderful way to blow the stress away.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] khronos_keeper
I... gosh, this really made me think.

It's funny, the overall gradual public health move away from physical fitness being correlated with moral integrity (i.e. self discipline, self respect, conformity, all that nonsense), and into a more inclusive idea that bodies are bodies and all of them should be respected.

I spent a good deal of my (nascent) adulthood relying quite heavily on my physical capacity as a metric of my worth in adult society, in spite of the fact that I was never into sports at school, and never considered myself particularly agile or competent. Nevertheless, I was still driven to careers like federal law enforcement and the military, which both have very strong physical components.

And I was crushed that I was passed over for military officership consideration because I couldn't meet their fluctuating criteria, when I would have otherwise been considered scarily physically competent for someone who wasn't a "professional athlete". It impacted my sense of worthiness and self very greatly-- if I couldn't run 3 miles in 21-24 minutes, what kind of a person was I, what kind of use was I to the field I wanted to be in?

My sense of physicality and worth still remains greatly skewed from the norm, mostly because my own experiences have been so drastically apart from most other peoples'. I can probably still run a mile in 8:00 minutes, even while I'm objectively not very well at the moment, and this would still be personally considered one of my worse times to make a mile.

But as we're mentioning Z!R, I admit to loving the app, myself. It's too damn cold to go running outside, and I'm too poor to have a treadmill, but Z!R pegs my sense of self and physicality, and wraps it in this warm blanket of inclusiveness that I've honestly missed since my military days. It's a marvelous program because it lets the listener fill in all the gaps about yourself, and never presumes to say anything about who you are and what you can do. But whoever you are, you're valued and welcomed, and that's just about the best feeling while soaking in the endorphin after a workout.

In the past few years, I've managed to extricate some of my own problematic feelings about physicality and competence. Some, mind. I still get caught up being angry that I can't go into X thing because my body can't do Y or has Z condition. But I think as I've gotten older and become more persistent, I've been understanding how short sighted that was, and how mentally damaging, even if I was at a very good level of fitness.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is quite apropos for me as I went to the gym today for the first time in about 7 years (and even back then it was extremely sporadic and only a handful of times ever).

Today was weight training rather than cardio machines. I've only ever tried the latter before and find them tedious and not actually that beneficial for my fitness, and I've heard a lot of positive things about weights recently that suggested I might enjoy that approach more and it might be more helpful towards my goal of becoming fit and able to do stuff.

It was pretty strenuous, and used up a lot of the day: 1 1/2 hour training session (not solidly exercising for that time, some discussion and rest time), followed by a couple of hours of feeling too depleted to do anything. That accounts for most of my weekly free time (4 hours on a Friday while Zoe goes to the childminder), so I hope as I get stronger the post-exercise exhaustion will reduce.

I think the trainer guy, although he was nice and polite about it, was a bit shocked by how weak and unfit I was. They probably don't see many weak and unfit people - because of the cultural dynamics you discuss, where it's only seen as worth trying if you're good - which is a shame, because weak and unfit people are more in need of exercise.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 09:27 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Tatsu)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
Years ago I had a membership at a gym run by my local council, and they a) had a lot of unfit people (and people doing rehab) and b) were absolutely fabulous and completely non-judgemental.

And personally I'd recommend exercising less hard, so you walk away feeling that you have achieved something but that you could have done more, and looking forward to exercising again.

But I'm curious: what was the effect of cardio machines that you don't find them helpful? I know very little about weights (and have found weights unhelpful myself), so I've been recommending cardio machines when people ask.

Lately, I've found the perfect cure for the 'tedious' part: we now have an exercise bike that syncs with an iPad and which lets you pick a route on Google Street View so you can cycle along and see what the landscape is like. That's gamification enough to work and keeps me interested; it's great fun to pick a random place on a map and see what it looks like.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-15 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sorry for delay; I've been thinking about your question. This is a bit speculative and I'm still very much a beginner, but I think it's something to do with me being so weak that if I do a load of cardio (at my level) it's boring and unpleasant but doesn't actually work my muscles much and doesn't make me stronger. Whereas I've only been doing weights for two weeks now and I think I'm noticeably stronger already; I'm noticing that everyday tasks like cycling are easier because my legs are stronger and so I'm cycling more efficiently. That's what I wanted exercise for: to make me fitter and more able to meet the demands of ordinary life.
I think some measure of muscle strength must be a prerequisite for doing effective cardio. Without it, either you pootle about on the lowest resistance settings and achieve nothing, or you try the higher settings and it's too difficult.
(Again, this is my speculative, amateur opinion)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-06 09:58 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
Hee, I've read that Naomi Alderman article several times, and I've got it open in a tab while I try to work out a post in response to it :-)

[I was thinking of talking about how running grounds me in my body and forces me to be aware of my physical self, and how it has been a welcome and surprising gift. I expected it to be a tedious grind and the least-worst option to regain the fitness I wanted after my last pregnancy; instead it is something I actively enjoy and look forward to.]

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-07 03:33 am (UTC)
slashmarks: (Leo)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
I never found phys ed particular enjoyable in school, although I usually wasn't bullied for bad athletic performance specifically. There was a lot of competition, and I was too competitive to just not try in that kind of environment. (I also had locker room issues related to hiding self harm scars.)

Then I transferred my last year of high school to a magnet problem -- they're basically alternate schools run by the city -- which was focused on creative arts (you spent the morning on academics and the afternoon on whatever program you'd been accepted into). Among other things, the school had no sports teams. They also would kick you out for falling below a certain academic standard because they always had more applicants, which was not imo necessarily the best way to encourage academic success. But one thing I did notice was that there was, at least in my grade, little to no bullying among the students. (Teachers bullying students was another matter.) Everyone was concerned about keeping grades up and art; they wanted to be there, which created a significantly more adult attitude where people would actually focus on the work.

Anyway, the phys ed class there was great, because all of the competitive athlete students were at other high schools where they could play sports. No one was any good, so everyone was more concerned about learning to play the games and trying than doing a fantastic job. It was a pretty stark change, going to a school where the slowest kids got yelled encouraging things instead of insults.

As for now, I don't know what I should be doing, because I've got joint and fatigue problems that weren't obvious in high school. I was saying to a friend, everything I've ever been good at exercise-wise was heavily dependent on my legs, and now my legs, um, don't work. (Not completely nonfunctional, but I can't stand for very long, and walking for a long period even with my cane results in swelling and heat and my knees letting me know that was a terrible idea).

I'm not all that sure where to start again, especially since I'm not sure if doing something that involves more arm strength is going to help, or result in my arms becoming just as bad as my legs -- it's not an isolated issue with a couple of joints, they're all fucked up. Or if the exercise will go fine, but I'll end up in bed the rest of the day.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-07 06:37 am (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
Hrm. I have Zombies, Run! from a Humble Bundle, so now I'm more interested in it.

I very much like the idea of exercising without competition. My playground and sport experience were mostly as an average person, with no great skill nor disability. I do remember being remarkably chuffed when playing gym basketball that "You got rejected [blocked] by Silveradept" was clearly meant as an insult to the other person. I would rather do more without anyone judging the performance (unless it's like a robot or virtual guide to help with the forms).

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-07 08:18 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Although the experiences leading up to it are different, your experience of running as an adult sounds very similar to mine of swimming.
When people praise me for swimming a lot, I make very clear that it's for fun, for mental health and for managing my disability, rather than for weight loss or competition.

Thanks for writing this.


Date: 2015-03-07 10:33 am (UTC)
electricant: (Default)
From: [personal profile] electricant
I am torn, because on the one hand I fully agree with the statement from the article that "You’re not a better person for working out, or a worse person for not, no matter what magazines or gyms tell you." No one is morally better than anyone else because of the amount of exercise they do.

However, I, personally, am a better person for working out. I'm not better than anyone else, but I'm better as me-working-out than I am as me-not-working out. And that better does include a moral dimension.

I'm better when I work out, because it makes me feel better. My mental health is a thousand times better when I work out than when I don't. Me working out is someone who has the emotional and physical capacity to do things like volunteer with children in foster care, take care of my friends when they need me, and participate more fully in my faith community.

I am more virtuous when I work out, in the true sense of the word. The ancient Greek "arete", the concept behind virtue ethics, means "excellence" and referred to physical, intellectual, and moral traits. Each type of excellence contributed to and supported the development of the others. Virtues are habits that allow a person to develop these traits in themselves. I feel like working out is a habit that allows me to develop many positive traits in myself - some physical, some intellectual, and some moral.

Thinking this way helps to motivate me to keep exercising. It helps to consider myself holistically, as an entire person whose body and mind and moral values are all intimately interconnected. It helps to feel like in exercising regularly I am living in accordance with my personal values on multiple levels. And that is way more motivating than wanting to lose weight or conform to societal expectations about how one should live.

None of this makes exercise a moral imperative for anyone else, of course. But I feel like it is a moral imperative for me personally, according to my own value system, and that believing this to be the case keeps me doing it, where other reasons wouldn't.

Re: Virtue

Date: 2015-03-11 01:39 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
None of this makes exercise a moral imperative for anyone else, of course

As a virtue ethicist myself, I don't quite know where this comes from. Is it that you think there are other ways in which to develop physical excellence, and that exercise is the path for you to develop physical excellence but other ways might be better for other people? In which case what might these other ways be?

Or is it that you think that developing physical excellence is not a moral imperative for other people as it is for you? In which case I would question whether you really are a virtue ethicist. For as I understand it, if a virtue is a virtue it is so objectively; something cannot be a virtue for some people to develop but not for others. Everyone has a moral imperative to develop all the virtues as much as they can.

(Depending on your position on the unity of the virtues, that might be tautologous. I'm not sure where I stand on the unity of the virtues. Aristotle was big on it and when in doubt I often tend to defer to him, just as he was generally right about so much, but still I'm not entirely sure. Anyway.)

One thing I do think is that there are some virtues which are, as it were, cardinal virtues: the ones on which the others depend. Lewis identified courage as one when he wrote it was 'not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point'.

But if courage is the form of every virtue at the testing-point, then before the testing-point (and in building readiness for it) the form of virtue is discipline: forcing oneself to do what one knows one ought to, though one doesn't want to, though it is hard, though one would rather not, though it gives one no pleasure now nor later.

One's attitude to exercise, I often think, is a barometer of one's discipline: if one commits to exercise and does so through thick and thin, regardless of how one may be feeling at the time, that is symptomatic of a generally good discipline, of keeping oneself under control and not allowing one's ephemeral feelings of pain or pleasure, readiness or tiredness, tranquillity or frustration, to rule one's life, but instead of simply doing one's duty to improve oneself in every dimension, whether one enjoys it or not.

And if one has committed to, and maintained, discipline in things such as exercise (and its equivalents in the spheres of the intellectual, social, spiritual, and so on virtues) then one will be better-placed to display courage when one finds oneself in the crucible and the heat is coming up from below, and one finds out once and for all whether one is silver or slag.

Re: Virtue

Date: 2015-03-11 08:06 am (UTC)
electricant: (Default)
From: [personal profile] electricant
I guess first off, I'm using virtue ethics as a practical conceptual framework that I can apply in my own life in a way that helps me be generally happier and healthier. I don't know if it's a robust ontological theory of ethics that is universally applicable, and I'm not seeking to use it that way.

Is it that you think there are other ways in which to develop physical excellence, and that exercise is the path for you to develop physical excellence but other ways might be better for other people? In which case what might these other ways be?

Yes, I think there are probably lots of ways of embodying physical excellence and lots of paths to it. I want there to be space for each individual to determine for themselves what excellence means for their own body. Maybe it means being strong enough to lift both of your children at once. Maybe it means getting through the day with minimal pain, with enough energy to get a few basic tasks done. Maybe it means have the lung capacity and vocal control to sing beautifully. Not all of these ways of being physically excellent require structured exercise. Paths to other types of physical excellence might involve the process of going through pregnancy and birth and the day to day physical life of parenting, getting enough rest and sleep and taking medications regularly, or practicing vocal exercises and singing regularly.

Or is it that you think that developing physical excellence is not a moral imperative for other people as it is for you?

Also yes. I don't know if the things that I consider virtues for me are objective, and I don't think others are morally obligated to pursue things that I consider virtues. So I'm probably not a virtue ethicist by philosophical standards. I care more about having practical models for thinking about how to live my actual life than determining what is ultimately and objectively good. Other people are free to use different models and frameworks if they disagree with mine. Even if they agree that the things I value are good things, the frameworks they use might not obligate them to pursue those things.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-08 01:59 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] shreena
PE at our school was just horrendous. Like you, it put me off exercise for years. My worst memory was stopping swimming at the edge of the pool for a couple of mins and having Miss Chambers actually deliberately step on my fingers to tell me off. I had to pause because I am asthmatic and needed to recover a little. Trying to explain asthma to the teachers was awful - they basically felt that either you were fit enough to do games or you weren't, they didn't understand at all that I could basically do games but needed to pause or slow down occasionally particularly in cold air.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-16 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] blue_mai
I feel bad about how awful it was for other people, even though it wasn't for me at all. I've never been much of a swimmer and I barely remember doing much of it. I was terrible at tennis, but there didn't seem to be much supervision so as long as it looked like, from a distance, you were doing the right sort of thing I don't remember really getting coached or told off.

I did do hockey, I enjoyed it as the nearest substitute for football - and I was a regular team player because I could play football and was therefore a default choice for goalie. I also did okay because I could basically stand my ground against being charged at by forwards. But, like Liv, once it shifted to astroturf it was completely out of my league - I didn't have the reflexes or skills.

I also did a fair amount of extra-curricular stuff in middle school, mainly cross-country running and there were a few years where someone's parents ran an athletics club. I was never *good* at anything, but I made an effort and had no other difficulties like asthma. And for some reason Miss C had a soft spot for me, I think it may have been that I lived near her. The other two ignored me (which was fine).

I've never been one for solo exercise. Walking and cycling to get around. I'm actually struggling a little at the moment, I feel pretty unfit and getting to be slightly miserable about it, but have no real inclination to do anything about it... I went for a run two weeks ago (for the first time in years) and suffered for days after. I guess I just overdid it. It might be that it's just a rather marked contrast from last summer - I was cycling quite a lot and doing yoga and feeling pretty good. After a winter of no cycling at all and eating chips, I don't feel so good.

Liv - I've said this before but I am so full of admiration for your achievements, I think it's totally awesome :)
Also, was I on the sidelines with you, telling you to eat the chocolates? I'm not sure, or if I've just made that up. But I remember some sort of conversation along those lines.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-09 04:10 pm (UTC)
nameandnature: Giles from Buffy (Default)
From: [personal profile] nameandnature
This reminded me a bit of Alex Gabriel's article on the subject (written after he got into a Twitter spat with John Prescott, no less). Pete Stevens, who among his other interests, is concerned about youth fitness (and a funny man), commented that school teaches you nothing about getting fit.

My teenage health troubles and typically horrible PE lessons certainly left me feeling that I was weak and incapable. I never had a weight problem in the direction the article talks about it, but Crohn's gave me the opposite problem. As soon as compulsory PE stopped, I stopped exercising, with some relief. The only thing that got me back into it again was dancing.

Old thoughts die hard: aged nearly 40, about 4 stone heavier, and with 20 years of remission behind me, it's still surprising to me that I can do stuff like hiking and skiing (where Milton Keynes snowdome had me in the bottom subset of a teaching group of 10 and triggered memories of the bad old days to the extent that I was telling J that I didn't want to go on the holiday we'd booked a week later. I did go, and private tuition on real slopes sorted me out, thankfully).

Like electricant, I'm a bit wary of the "exercise doesn't make you a better person" rhetoric, and for the same reasons. What happened back then left me with a weird relationship to my own body which wasn't good for my mental or physical health. It was a kindness to myself to fix that to some extent, and to listen to J's gentle reminders that I can manage that stuff. Sure, that's not the "morally better" she means, except that it's morally right to be kind to and look after yourself.

I don't know what school PE is like these days. Possibly it's improved, if the right wing rants about trendy thinking are to be believed. It may be that the goal of winnowing out the next national level athletes is incompatible with the goal of getting the rest of us happy exercising: if so, schools should be concentrating on the latter.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-12 05:47 pm (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
Like the time I came back to school noticeably thinner after a holiday, and one of the teachers looked at me and did the sexy hourglass gesture, ooh, look at you!


I don't get on with running but the way you describe Zombies, Run! sounds ideal. I like lifting weights but I got discouraged by thinking about it as trying to 'move up' to the next number. I started again in February and it's made me feel much better (both physically and 'well done me!') to go "I'm doing Something every other day because I like it" and not "I can lift heavy things".

I still feel sort of, er, resentful that moving around/exercising actually does make me feel happier and better, because I also spent a while telling myself everything about exercise was a patriarchal capitalist myth.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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