“I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.”
- Muhammad Ali
One of the oldest and most commonly used justifications for body modification is the ‘temple’ metaphor — “Your body is a temple. Have you ever seen an unadorned temple?”
If the body truly is a temple, then why are so many people abusing it and letting it fall apart? I am not referring to the act of piercing or tattooing or to any other skin-deep modification. I am talking about how most of us abuse our bodies through inactivity, improper nutrition, lack of rest, and elevated levels of stress. If it’s true that we’ve become the fattest generation of people the world has ever seen, then it also holds true that we in fact have very little control over our bodies, something that each and every one of us claims to have gained through our body modification endeavours. If we care so much about our personal temples, exactly how do we let ourselves become twenty pounds overweight? Fifty? One hundred?
David Patchell-Evans, champion rower and the successful entrepreneur of The Good Life Fitness Clubs, brings physical fitness into the ‘temple’ equation:
"Imagine yourself as a house. Your fit body is your foundation. An unfit body is an unstable foundation. If your intellect and emotions are the walls, and your foundation is fit, those walls stay up straight and help you hold your treasures inside. If the walls are vulnerable because your foundation is shaky, the house could fall apart. Think of your soul as the roof. To be truly self-actualized, everything below the roof needs to be in good working order. Everything works together to make the dwelling place that is you."
Over the past three years working in the body modification industry, I have noticed two things. The first is that as a portion of the general population, we’re some of the kindest, most generous people out there. We’ve all had to deal with the insults and snickers behind our backs, and for many of us these acts of prejudice have made us mentally tougher. My second observation is that many of us are out of shape, and even obese. While I’m sure that this reflects the physical status of the general population, it strikes me as peculiar that the very people who choose to adorn themselves with jewelry and markings on their skin manage to neglect the fitness of their body as a whole.
I say this not to be mean or cruel, but because I’m right there with you. After four years of intense schooling and working simultaneously in this industry, my fitness level has decreased significantly, while my waistline has grown to reflect this. (I’ve even heard reference to something called a “tattooist’s gut.”) While I’ve never been thin, and perhaps never will be, I was in great shape as a teenager. I played baseball internationally, was the captain of my high school football team, and played competitive hockey, to name a few activities that were an integral part of my adolescence. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I decided to prioritize school and money over my physical fitness, and now I find myself desperately trying to get back into shape and lose the weight I’ve put on over the past four years.
The concept of this series of articles is to chronicle my physical transformation from David into Goliath. Well, maybe a five foot six inch Goliath, but you get the point. Over the next several months I will be documenting my physical (fitness) transformation via photos, statistics and stories. I have joined a reputable fitness club and hired their best personal trainer to push me harder than I can on my own — with your body, there are no quick fixes or short cuts. I am motivated and ready to see the changes I will be making to my body in the weeks and months to come. While I have not yet set out goals on paper, my plan is to change not only my overall fitness level, but the entire shape of my body. I do not wish to become the next Arnold or Incredible Hulk, but any gain in lean muscle at this point is a step forward in matching my imagined self with my real self. Maybe once I am happy with the shape and fitness of my body, I can once again concentrate on adorning it through traditional body modification methods.
I realize that this is just the beginning; that I have very much to learn and even more to look forward to. And while I haven’t hashed out exactly the subjects of each column, there are several areas which I will bring to you in hopes that you too will be inspired by my transformation to become more physically active. As you’ll see, it is a long road ahead, but I am intent on reclaiming control over my body, just as many of you claim to do when getting pierced or tattooed. Perhaps when I have control again, I can use the ‘temple’ metaphor to refer to something more than just skin deep.
Next week’s column will offer a perspective on why having a healthy body is important to each and every one of us. I will also offer up my before personal statistics and photos, as well as my thoughts about having completed my first week of training after three years of inactivity!