THE RHETORIC OF EXERCISE
The most frequently heard phrase in the various gyms I’ve attempted to participate in is “stand up nice and tall”, a phrase I have directed at me twenty times a visit, at least.
The questing mind–and I still have one–is stumped by this much cherished phrase, cherished by the exercise techs, but not by me. I am not very tall (six foot on a good day), and my niceness is a matter of opinion.
But what I realize after hearing the phrase repeated is that in the world of exercise, posture is–in their world–a virtue.
In my world, posture is just posture.
In one of my gyms, there is a superman–we’ll call him Bob. And he is an exemplar of what a well-exercised person should be. Regularly, while I’m lifting five pounds, Bob is lifting five hundred.
Sometimes Bob jumps or attempts really weird postures that are no doubt strengthening important muscles that I cannot begin to name, though a chart of human musculature is easily viewed next to the entrance.
But I’m not interested in muscles, and Bob’s superman efforts and exercises fill me with a “why bother” attitude. He can do four hundred ninety-five pounds more than I can do, so why bother, indeed?
The deeper question, though, is in the common “stand up nice and tall”, which makes me want to grind my teeth, metaphorically hunker down and commit some small meanness: perhaps throw a rock at a nearby pedestrian, or trip someone close by. Would I really be a better person if I stand up nice and tall? Wouldn’t I be just as good a person if I were obliged to crouch? I don’t believe earnest exercise techs have ever asked themselves that question.
Perhaps they should.