I’m filing this column today from New York, a city I’ve always loved and that has always welcomed me as if it were my home. As I sit down to write this for my actual hometown of Dayton, I can’t stop thinking about what the two cities could learn from one another in the area of fitness.
It won’t surprise you to learn that New Yorkers in my training experience are ultra-competitive. Take a yoga class in New York and you’ll see people falling all over themselves to be the “best in the class.” Take a spinning class and you’ll see fights (literally sometimes) over bike assignments and noise. And there’s a nefarious drive for women to be able to wear high-fashion clothes—few of which are designed for people who squat regularly. A number of my female clients told me when I trained here that they wanted me to help them be skinny without any hint of muscle tone.
But the thing New York does have that I’d like to see more of in Dayton is a baseline assumption among working professionals that fitness is a fundamental aspect of life in which it is worth investing both precious time and money. As I suggested above, this isn’t necessarily altogether for positive reasons; people are competing for mates, attention, and status in a city of more than 8 million people. But whatever the reason, I spent less time as a trainer in New York convincing people of the utility of staying fit than I have to in Ohio.
At first glance, this seems strange because our state is a bit of a fitness capital in this country. Just an hour down the road, Columbus hosts the annual Arnold Sports Festival, a fitness-centered exhibition, competition, and learning conference. Columbus also is home to the legendary Louie Simmons Westside Barbell gym. And right here in the Dayton area we have a number of serious facilities like The Dirty Gym on East Second Street. Given our training roots, we seem primed in Dayton to infuse a culture of fitness into the fiber of Gem City culture. But we’re not there yet. Why?
I went to a benefit recently in which I was giving away a free personal training session for people who donated to a worthy cause. The conversations I had that night were fascinating, because most of them centered on the idea that strength training was some mythical thing that bodybuilders and professional athletes do, but not “merely” regular folk with jobs and kids and responsibilities. One person even referred to me as a bodybuilder, which I can only assure you is not a mistake that anyone who knows what a dedicated bodybuilder looks like would ever make.
The issue for Dayton when it comes to fitness, then, despite Ohio’s well-earned reputation for excellence in strength, is that too many of us see fitness as something that other people do. Only fitness “freaks” like bodybuilders would waste time in the gym and paying attention to what they eat. Only a self-centered narcissist would bother hiring a coach to help her achieve her fitness goals.
Fitness isn’t just for freaks and selfish people or fancy pants New Yorkers. It’s for all of us. Gay, straight, young, old, fat, thin. I promise you that your quality of life, the way you feel when you get out of bed every morning, the way you see yourself, the way your lover sees you, all of these things will improve if you get stronger, leaner, and more mobile.
How many hours a week are you currently dedicating to fitness? The data say too many of the people reading this column might be able to answer zero. If you’re one of those people, how would you improve your quality of life measurably if you—
- were stronger.
- were leaner.
- were more mobile.
- had better bone density.
- had better stamina (including in the bedroom)?
So the real question might just be this: why don’t you think you deserve to feel better than you do now?