Wednesday, June 20

On the morality of elliptical machines

So, having more time doesn't necessarily translate to increased posting. Huh. Have been writing though. Pounded out a solid framework for a short story that's been going through my mind since classes ended. Hopefully, I'll have revised it to the point I'm happy with it by this weekend and will be putting up an open request for criticism at that point. Something to look forward to if this blog matters that much to you.

On with the post that actually pertains to the title.

I'm not quite sure how this one transpired. A month or two back a friend started going to the gym, and in accordance with my own practices, I suggested running as a superior alternative to weights and machines. She rejected the idea. This is where it gets fuzzy. Since then, I have been called out three or four times for calling elliptical machines 'immoral.' I don't remember and really hope I didn't say that because it's stupid, though it wouldn't surprise me if I said as much hyperbolically. Still, I ought to clarify my position. Even if I didn't call elliptical machines immoral, the conversation did lead my friend to identify my thoughts as such, and my thoughts on the subject need to be better explained. Besides, this discussion provides a good segue into a greater life philosophy of mine. So...

To begin, I don't like elliptical machines. I prefer to run outdoors. The weather has to be pretty extreme to send me to the gym. Why is this? On the material level, it's because I'm used to running and don't like being inside during exercise (it's just an unpleasant environment I'd rather avoid). On a more philosophical level, I see elliptical machines as pure means to the end of health, better body, etc. Yeah, running often does have these same ends, and I certainly have no complaint about them. Running, however, I also do because I like to do it. It's not a chore. I don't have to force myself to do it because it's pleasurable.

I don't see that with elliptical machines so much. Even people who say that they enjoy them, I'm wary of because of the way I've seen people use them. When I have gone to the gym to stretch after finishing my route, those people who aren't listening to their iPods or other MP3 players are watching TV, and I must ask, "How much can you enjoy something when you seek distraction from it?" This may be unavoidable as the machines do face a series of TVs and one can't really ask them to run with their eyes closed but still. I'm not so hot on treadmills for the same reason. At our gym, they are actually in front of the ellipticals and have a better view.

In an attempt to anticipate responses, I'd expect one to ask, "What about multi-tasking? We're busy people and need to do as much as possible at all times." At a point not so distant in the past, I would have been very sympathetic to this, but that's been changing since I began college. I think the concept is 'intentionality,' possibly with Eastern origins and undoubtedly mutated by my own readings and understandings. When we do something, we mean it. We don't waste ourselves on petty things of no consequence or meaning that are neither right nor joyful to us. Neither do we distract ourselves during our pursuit of it. To use a common formulation in a modified sense, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. If we're going to exercise, which does have valuable ends, we're going to do so because we enjoy it. If we're going to do anything, we're going to focus all of our attention on it, turn off the background music and eliminate all distractions. Besides, life's too short to pursue good ends with bad means.

If one truly does enjoy the elliptical machine, I have no quarrels with that. But, like I wrote, I don't see that so much.

Please, if you want to argue about this or whatever, get in touch with me. The example is kind of unspectacular, crass even, but the greater philosophy it leads to is important to me.

1 comment:

Emmett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.