“Duty is the essence of manhood.” – George S. Patton
“What destroys a man more quickly than to work, think, and feel … as a mere automaton of duty?” — Friedrich Nietzsche
I struggle with duty.
I‘m not alone.
It’s said that men are born with an innate sense of duty. Or at least a need to “serve” other than their own self interests. They’re just waiting for something to awaken it, like faith or fatherhood or a “meaningful war.”
Others, like that eternal buzz-kill Nietzsche, argue that duty is a scam designed to keep you a productive worker bee.
For guys, stuff like improving your body is the antithesis of duty. Unless it’s to “perform better” or be “more functional.” Certainly not to look better. That’s for kids.
You’re a man now — you should (love that word) exercise for “health” or “longevity” or “function.” Trying to look better is selfish, immature, and if you’re slumming it in really low-brow circles, “girly.”
For that reason I admire women. They’re starting to reject this shit.
They’re fed up with corporations telling them what they should be doing or thinking or feeling.
They’re especially done with having their insecurities exploited under the guise of “inspiration.”
A size-zero “fitness model” with after-market double-D’s plastered above a caption that reads “This could be you in 3 months” won’t fly anymore.
Yet for whatever reason, guys – especially older guys – are accepting of similar horseshit.
Every advertisement directed at “men over 40” is some harmless-looking dude smiling away on a treadmill, presumably while his 2 ½ kids play Grand Theft Auto in the background.
Or worse, it’s the opposite. It’s a dubious douchebag in tattoos telling them that pushing a Bronco or carrying sandbags will make them “hyper-functional” and ready to join SEAL Team Six.
Let me burst the bubble:
Virtually every male fitness figure with a decent physique – whether a model or coach or celebrity trainer – built their bodies with some bodybuilding training.
Even the saltiest, functional tough guy – if he’s got an enviable physique, he built it bodybuilding. Or, he “supplements” his circus training with bodybuilding work on the down low.
In fact, I know some older “hardcore” guys who don’t even do the workouts they’re selling.
Cause they’re too messed up, too beat down. The only training they can do well is the very stuff they ridicule.
The bigger question is, what’s so unmanly about exercising to look better?
I would get it if following a bodybuilding lifestyle was unhealthy. And taken to the extreme, no, it’s not the primrose path to wellness.
Yet that’s true for every sport. No one straps on a helmet and steps on the football field to improve their brain health. Even golfers get injuries.
But the foundation of bodybuilding — the attention to nutrition, recovery, and intelligent, focused training — makes it about the most healthy, most “holistic” sport you can follow.
You can neglect your nutrition and recovery and still get pretty far as an athlete. Ask any Triple-A hockey player who ever rode the bus to Moose Jaw fueled on ephedrine and Taco Bell. You can’t do that if you’re bodybuilding, especially not into your 40’s.
Even older “hardcore” bodybuilders like Lee Labrada and Shawn Ray still look amazing. Hell, Bill Pearl looks great and he’s 84.
Granted, external health is deceiving and individual results may vary. But clearly a bodybuilding lifestyle isn’t a guaranteed ticket to the “funeral at 50” club.
Let’s not forget the most important thing – being muscular is fun. And having fun is the cornerstone of a life worth living.
One of my first bodybuilding mentors lived by this.
Twenty years ago, he told me that his Big 3 priorities in life were his family, his medical practice, and having fun.
But even above his Big 3 was his bodybuilding lifestyle. Because it allowed him to get the most out of everything.
Today he’s well into his sixties. And while his practice has gone up and down and his kids drive him nuts, he still has fun. While sporting a physique that would be the envy of most 25 year-olds running a Tough Mudder.
Look, I get it. As you get older priorities change.
Demands upon your time increase. Real problems emerge. You start worrying about your cholesterol and your prostate and your lackluster retirement plan.
But that doesn’t mean you should turn your back on what brings you joy.
Do what adds life to your years, as well as years to your life.
Above all, have fun. If you have one duty in this world please make it that.