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  • Peta Glaister

Fitness and Privilege

Two young children, grinning at the camera. One has a plaster cast on her right hand.

Somewhere between 70-95 per cent of people reading this will be right-handed. And a good chunk of them will never have thought of that as a privilege. If you’re born right-handed a lot of things are just made to be easier for you, literally designed to make your life easier. Writing. Scissors. Credit card machines. The fly on your jeans. That’s just how things are.

That’s a privilege. The left-handed people reading this will know how frustrating it can be. Thankfully we’ve moved past forcing left-handedness out of children in their school years, but to deny that you get an advantage being right-handed, even if it seems small, would be a lie.

Anyway, it’s 2019 fast approaching 2020 so Imma go ahead and assume you’ve heard of privilege, as we generation y/z/millenial-ish types mean it. (If not, the dictionary definition of privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”) I see it as a benefit someone enjoys simply because of their situation, or without personally having done anything specifically to deserve it.

I’d like to talk about how that concept relates to the fitness industry, an area that is absolutely dripping in un-called-out privilege. Basically I’ve had a gutful of this “work harder” “no excuses” “no pain, no gain” and “if you dream of it you can achieve it” #motivational #hashtag #fucking #BULLSHIT. So I’d like to unpack them a bit.

“If you dream it, you can achieve it.”

Nope. Not a thing. This is the absolute biggest pile of shit we’ve come up with so far. I actually cannot believe people allow themselves to say this to each other. What. The. Actual. Fuck.

I could dream all day of squatting 300kg or running a nine-second 100m or singing I Have Nothing. That doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do it. Even if I try really hard and do everything right. It’s just not ever going to be possible for me, so it follows that dreaming of it would only lead to disappointment.

Yes, I get that we are supposed to assume that it only applies to not-impossible goals. It’s just that we are sold impossible goals as normal ones every day. Things that are just as out of reach as 300kg is for me, but insidiously work their way into our consciousness as something we could or should strive for.

Like having a year-round six pack and not being insufferable, looking like so-and-so with their eating plan, “getting back your pre-baby body”, losing a dress size in a week, etc. etc.

Any good trainer or coach knows that nothing is more individual than a person’s goals. Goal-setting is a skill in itself, and the quality of the goal set at the start of a program is crucial in ensuring not only the success of that program, but also future endeavours. Not everyone is experienced in training, or educated in how to properly research training science, or able to access the services of someone who can guide us. Actively encouraging inappropriate goals is grossly irresponsible behaviour on the part of those enjoying this privilege.

So, I fixed it : “If you can dream it, and if it’s a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goal for you, then with some work you may be able to achieve it. But if not, that’s OK because your mates like you for your fart jokes not your quad separation and the important part is being happy and giving it a red hot go.”

“You can have the body you want if you work hard enough”

No. No, you can’t. You can have a body that’s something like the bodies in your father’s family, something like the bodies in your mother’s family, just somewhat fitter/stronger/leaner.

This is like that cartoon of the rhinoceros on a treadmill looking at a picture of a unicorn – which is actually bleak as fuck in my opinion. I don’t see why anyone with a soul would print that on a workout top.