Monday, December 27, 2010

Working Out vs. Working

In preparation for my trip to SWA, I spent a couple of weeks learning (or attempting to learn) a skill set wholly unrelated to the work I have heretofore performed in my professional life.  My professional life has been characterized by sedentary cubicle work, whereas my training has involved running around in body armor while carrying an M16 when it’s 19 degrees and windy.  It’s possible to make too much of the physical demands this kind of thing imposes; our class contains many not-especially-athletic individuals, including a couple of women old enough to be grandmothers, and they are completing the course with varying levels of enthusiasm and success.  My point here is that spending every day on your feet lifting heavy things under (simulated) stressful conditions is very different than, say, writing a blog post.

One of the physical effects is how it affected my motivation to exercise.  After a day of cognitive work, hitting the gym is cathartic.  I go in with muscles tense, slowly warm up, eventually achieve a “runner’s high”, and leave feeling relaxed and energized.  But after a day of training, when my muscles have been active throughout the day, a workout becomes an extension of the rest of the day.  On the one hand, there isn’t much need for a warm-up; on the other hand, there is no runner’s high to reward me for my effort.  Exercise is perhaps easier, but less satisfying.

However, my personal theory is that while working hard throughout the day may require fitness to do successfully, it doesn’t really make me fit.  My evening workouts may not be as important perhaps, but they are still necessary for all sorts of fitness goals like weight control and balanced physiology.

I wonder vaguely if this dynamic might partially explain the unkempt appearance associated with “proleness”.  When a middle or upper-middle class office worker exercises, he enjoys rewarding mental and physical sensations that a person who works with his hands and back does not enjoy.  The prole thus finds working out more difficult to sustain and therefore does it less often if at all.  But manual labor does not help avoid getting overweight on a heavy diet.

There are of course many confounding variables associated with future time orientation, but I think this might be part of the explanation.

1 comment:

samsonsjawbone said...

I... think you're really reaching with some of this, my Greek-cipheric friend. :)

But after a day of training, when my muscles have been active throughout the day, a workout becomes an extension of the rest of the day... Exercise is perhaps easier, but less satisfying.

I suppose it depends what sort of "satisfaction" you mean. On the one hand, I have never, *ever* experienced that "runner's high", and ain't for lack of runnin'. On the other hand, when I was in the military, working my butt off day after grueling day, there was nothing I loved better than that satisfaction of coming home, dog-tired, eating a hearty meal and going for a snooze.

However, my personal theory is that while working hard throughout the day may require fitness to do successfully, it doesn’t really make me fit.

Again, I dunno, man; maybe it depends on what aspect of "fitness" you're talking about. Cardiovascular fitness, maybe you're right. But I'll tell you, as a skinny guy, I was the only person who used to *gain* weight during weeks of intensive training. Field exercises always bred into me a sort of all-round physical stamina and "toughness" that it's hard to acquire any other way than through hard livin'.