Monday, June 29, 2015

The Hegemony Of Improvement Culture, Or, Why Can't I Just Enjoy BodyAttack?

BodyAttack: doesn't it look like fun?
There this group exercise class I love called BodyAttack. If you told me when I was a kid that some day I would grow up to enjoy a sports-inspired work-out class with athletic moves like sit-ups and squats I would definitely have said you were nuts. You think I'm going to go to gym class by choice? No.

But for me, BodyAttack is way fun. It's the way things are fun when you're a seven-year-old: you're running and jumping around to music, all with other people who are also having fun. It's a super-intense work out, and even though the official description uses phrases like "intervals" and "plyometrics," there's actually a lot of just goofy exuberance.

There are silly moves, like where you're doing jumping jacks and every fourth one you jump as high as you can. There's the anthemic track 8, which is basically a high-intensity chorus line to an emotional pop song. There's an outstanding mix of songs like the hip-hop track "Dibby Dibby Sound" and the impossible-to-classify "Hardcore Salsa 2K14 (Hardstyle Edit)."

I went to BodyAttack in Paris, and you know what they do there? They do the class in the dark with blue disco lights. Clearly, I am not the only one who thinks BodyAttack is fun.

Now. You would think that any sensible person, having found a healthy-well-rounded form of exercise that they really enjoy, would be in seventh heaven. You want to exercise and have fun? Just go to the class.

And yet such is the perverseness of some aspect of my psychology that I find this outlook almost impossible to hold on to. I find it extremely difficult to think of BodyAttack as an end in itself. Instead, I'm constantly thinking I need to use the fitness I've gained through BodyAttack to do Something Else.

Like -- maybe I should try to go beyond being pretty fit to become "super-fit." I could start going to the BodyPump weightlifting class, cut the empty wine calories, become one of those people who eats boiled chicken breast and lettuce for every meal.

Or maybe I should take up some intense and time-consuming new athletic activity, like snowboarding or surfing.

Or maybe I should train for some "goal-oriented" end point like a triathlon, or a race, or something.

But the truth is, I don't want to do any of these things. I like BodyAttack. The one activity I could see adding is dance class of some kind -- I used to dance as a young person, and it is fun. But even there -- am I really going to add that class time to the already large amounts of time I'm spending just exercising? Every time I try to put that idea into action, there are just too many other things to do in the day.

Typically, having cycled through and rejected all of these ideas, I come back to the obvious idea that there's already something I'm doing that I like doing, so what the hell is the problem with just doing that?

Well, this is territory we've touched on before. I'm a bar-raiser from way back: no matter what good thing we are talking about, I usually adjust immediately to think of that as the baseline. Then I'm like -- OK life, but what have you done for me lately?

I'm also a first-derivative sort of girl. It's not enough to have happiness and pleasure, you have to feel that the pleasure and happiness are on the upswing. You can't just do a fun thing. The fun thing has to get bigger, stronger, better, FUNNER.

I also have a problem with a pleasant day. What, I'm just going to go do a fun thing because .. it was fun? What's the point of that?

But it takes two to tango, and it's not just me making this problem. Remember, we're in the great fun crisis of the 21st century. No one does things because they're fun anymore. You can't even walk into a gym these days without someone assaulting you about what your goals are and how if you don't have goals you'll never move forward to achievement.

The whole tracking/life hacking mood of modern life is like "Oh, you're doing that thing? Don't you want to do that thing better? Or do a different better thing? Are you sure you're doing the thing better than other people and the best you can possible do yourself?"

What the hell happened to doing things just because ... they're things you want to do? Does that concept not even make sense for us anymore?

What really gets me though, at the end of the day, is that having thought about these things, and seen through the difficulties, and actually written it all out -- you'd think I could put it all behind me, just go to the stupid class, and have a good time, and listen to DJ Fresh and think about the blue disco lights.

But I can't. Such is the relative impotence of rational thought.

1 comment:

Janet Vickers said...

How about saving the world for fun and profit? People who are satisfied with pleasure don't strive to become CEO's of arms industries. To be the sort of person who is willing to risk trips to Syria to sell guns and bombs you need to have a goal and then many sub-goals in order to avoid being tortured to death - which would not be fun.

It's a radical idea - peace through encouraging fun. Challenging the propaganda that tells us we are never good enough.