I recently have been re-reading "Strong Enough" by Mark Riptoe, a collection of essays he wrote from thirty years of strength training dissecting things he's learned from helping people become stronger. If you ever decide to read it (which you should, it's a great read), you'll notice that he doesn't really like a few things. First, he's not a big fan of academia and the fitness industry for reasons that become obvious as you read. And second, he's a big believer in hard work (part of the reason he doesn't like academia and the fitness industry). The principle reason he takes issue with the first due to the second is that human beings cannot adapt to stressors when the stressors are small, at least not in any measurable way, and academia has been pumping out "peer reviewed papers" with massive flaws for decades that many in the fitness industry have just taken as gospel.
I can't suss it out all here in a blog post, but suffice to say the tough pill to swallow from Riptoe's thirty years of barbell training is that getting stronger isn't easy, and can't occur on the track or a bicycle or that stupid elliptical or be delivered via UPS. It takes mental fortitude, desire, sacrifice, and an acceptance that you'll be uncomfortable doing so. If you want to become strong, you have to do what strong people do, and generally that requires refraining from taking it easy. Which brings me to the tough pill to swallow for this post- that our current lives of ease aren't doing us any favors. And this coming from a guy who likes his life of ease.
Our nation is strong. It's been stressed over two hundred years and grown tougher as a result. Each generation has had it's stressors that has helped shape it for the better. The struggles that this nation has overcome, from fighting the Civil War to landing on the moon, have each done their part to make our nation what it is today. Many look back on our history with pride- even at the black eyes and bruises- because after each mistake or misstep we've realigned ourselves and come out better than before. We've learned major lessons, accomplished great feats, and overcome major obstacles that others believed could not be overcome. This is because we, as a nation, have done the hard things and as a result have reaped the bountiful rewards that come with doing those things.
Recently however we've been doing a lot of whining about our place in the world. Whether it's whining about going abroad and putting down tyrannical governments, or paying more than our fair share in disaster relief, or leading from the rear, or taking on more than we should with regards to humanitarian aid, we've been bitching a lot. On both sides. As a nation, we've grown sedentary. If you look at the masses, you can see it not only in their attitudes, but in their bodies as well. Hard physical play has been replaced with Mountain Dew Gamer Fuel and competitive thumb twiddling, and this lax attitude is manifesting itself in how we vote and act as a nation. We're beginning to expect the beach body of American resolve without putting in the time and effort to get the result we seek. We want to order up our place online, and have it delivered next day via the UPS truck.
Don't get me wrong- I appreciate the lives we get to lead in this nation, but I'm beginning to wonder where this lifestyle we're following will lead us. In fifty years we've gone from "we choose to do the other thing, not because it is easy, but because it is hard," to "get beach body ready in ten easy minutes a day." This isn't how any of this works. It never has, and it never will. Adaptation and change require sacrifice and strenuous work. There is associated soreness, and overcoming these temporary issues will build the resolve necessary to become the nation we desire, and create for our children the future they deserve.