The Head and the Heart (Physiologically Speaking)

Sometime when I was an undergraduate, I thought that I had made a major intellectual breakthrough. I managed to justify, on intellectual-philosophical terms, that I should not exercise. Ever. It was because I came to believe that the body was a mere husk, a vessel for consciousness. Why take care of the body when I would be leaving it to occupy a new hybrid body with the coming of The Singularity? And so I decided that I would only exercise one muscle, the one muscle that mattered and made us human and set us apart from all the rest of creation. Why waste time developing muscles when I could use that time to read and develop my mind?

I would not follow this strictly. I would enjoy team sports once in a while. I would even go for runs and do other sporty things when the impulse struck me. I was sort of physically fit before, after all. While my coordination and athletic skills have always been kind of bad, in high school and in the early years of college I managed to play basketball almost every day and handle physical fitness tests pretty well. But with the years and with the abuse I had done to my body via alcohol and other things, and the kind of eating that I had been doing, physical exercise got harder. And the harder it got to do stuff, the less I wanted to do it.

Months ago, back from a trip to the States that doubled as an eating binge, I hit 195 pounds and was warned by a doctor that I ran the risk of many medical problems. I had to whittle myself back down to the 130 pounds that I weighed when I was a college freshman.

I began with a diet which brought the weight down a few pounds, and this morning I enrolled in and had my first session at the gym. The gym I’ve started going to isn’t Fitness First, but it seems pretty snazzy nonetheless. And it isn’t too expensive, but it does cost a pretty penny.

One of the things I disliked about gyms was how dudes would get competitive. It can get crazy. As an undergrad I was enrolled in a gym in UP. Whenever I would go, some other dude would come up next to me, and he would look at the weights I was pumping and snort derisively. Then he would pick up a heavier set and show off what he could lift. It might not have been too weird if this were just one guy. But this kept happening consistently.

So it was rather refreshing that earlier, I was mostly left alone. The trainer gave me some exercises and while there were a number of people around, they mostly did their own thing. There was a group of gym dudes who looked like regulars, but they didn’t make any efforts towards the bullying which I had previously been subjected to.

Contrary to the expected bullying, I got a kind of welcome. I got asked if it was my first day and was encouraged to keep up the program and get healthy, which was pretty nice.

The welcome happened in a rather awkward situation though. I was done and I was trying to get to my locker and most of the dudes were there already getting dressed since they finished their workouts before I did. So these people were in towels or putting on their street clothes, and I was peeling off my dri-fit shirt which had, through the binding agent of sweat, come to adhere to my body. Sooooo yeah. I’m still not comfortable chilling in the locker room. I ran from the gym and back to the apartment for my shower rather than using the facilities there.

Despite that bit of awkwardness and my former aversion to it, it does look like I will be putting in a lot of time at the gym. I know what I used to be physically capable of, and I know that I want to get back there. The major problem now is that the body is at present unable to do what the mind and spirit believe it is capable of.

Earlier I was doing some circuit training drills and having a real tough go at it. I have problems with coordination, and when my legs are doing something totally different from my arms, I have a tough time managing. This explains my lackluster dancing skillls, among other things. So I had to hop, alternating feet and kicking off of a step, while my arms pumped barbells up and down. I kept losing count because I was having trouble executing the move. And thus I tired myself out. The trainer asked, “Sir, kaya pa?” And I thought, “Of course I can do this! I can totally handle this!” That’s how I roll, all heart and giving it 110% and all that. But after a number of reps I had to just stop. It showed my machismo and self-expectations squaring against the truth of the matter, which is that I am terribly physically unfit. And the truth won.

Then later I sat on an inclined thing for sit-ups (I am as yet unfamiliar with the terminology of the gym, I will learn what that thing is called soon enough) and I tried to string together twenty. I had hit ten when a pretty girl came up and started running on the treadmill beside that bench thing I was doing sit-ups. And I wanted to keep going, keep doing sit-ups, the way I once did setting a record during a physical fitness test, 77 sit-ups in two minutes. Again the machismo battled with the truth. And the truth won.

So I have to reorient my views on the mind and its supremacy. I still believe that it is of the utmost importance that I sharpen the mind and develop diverse fields of interest. But obviously, if the physical body is not working, then the mind cannot. It is funny that it took me a decade to reach this simple, obvious realization.

The heart, the body, needs to get back to its old form, and perhaps to something better. I fear this might smack of vanity, and that I might sound like those gym doofuses who obsessively watch their muscles flex as they work out. Gah I hate those guys. But I do think that now I am trying to find a kind of balance. My own worry is how I balance this new initiative with all the others, the teaching, the cooking, the video games, and most importantly the writing.

So the adventure begins.



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