Thoughts from the Bodies Exhibit; the animal version (you are what you are)

Posted on July 17, 2013

(Last Updated On: April 6, 2016)

A while back I wrote about my experience at the Bodies Exhibit in VegasI was recently traveling through Chicago and had no idea there is a Bodies Exhibit in their Museum of Science and Industry. Except it’s all animals.

Elephant bodies exhibit

A common theme in these exhibits is displaying the qualities each animal possesses. I, and many others I’ve talked to, come away from the human version thinking, “Shit, I can’t believe how amazing the human body is.” I’m not sure about other people, but I came away from the animal version thinking, “Shit, I can’t believe some of the things certain animals can do.”

  • Sharks have a 6th sense -detecting electricity- increasing their ability to hunt and mate.
  • A reindeer’s hooves will soften in the summer time and sharpen in the winter time.  The sharpening allows them greater traction in the snow.
  • Horses have sharpened front teeth but broad back teeth. The sharp ones help pull roots out of the ground; the broad help grind it up.

Horse teeth

  • The extremely long nasal cavity of a horse allows for more olfactory receptors, increasing their sense of smell.
  • Birds have hollow bones lessening their bodyweight for flying.
  • Cows are capable of performing 30,000 chewing movements each day to help keep their size.

I came away from this thinking

You are what you are

Physically, there’s only so much you can manipulate about your own body. Perhaps one day it’ll be more, but currently, you can’t change too much about yourself.

  • There’s only so much you can lift
  • There’s only so fast you can run
  • There’s only so long you can live
  • There’s only so “ripped,” “cut,” “shredded” you can be
  • There’s only so jacked you can get. (Can you chew 30,000 times a day?)
  • There’s only so much the body can handle

There’s variation in being human

A common issue in the training / fitness world is emulation. We constantly want to do what X pro athlete or Y celebrity does. Failing to realize,

  • You’re too short
  • You’re too tall
  • You have a regular, full time job competing for your time
  • You’re 20 years older than they are
  • You have a huge injury history
  • You have an unusual hip structure

Eating is the same way:

  • You have a regular, full time job competing for your time
  • You, nor can most, afford a personal chef
  • Are you a hunter gatherer? Stop trying to eat like one when you live in New York City then.

I remember years ago a rant by a bodybuilding coach. He was trying to get through to his forum the importance of genetics. He wasn’t trying to tell people they shouldn’t try to push their limits; he was trying to tell them they can’t expect to do exactly what someone else does and get the same results. There wasn’t some secret the top guys had, that, once these guys on the forum knew of, they’d suddenly be professional bodybuilders.

He used an example of a pro bodybuilder who had a lifting partner of 10 years. Side by side, for 10 years, they did the same program. The partner knew every single thing the professional knew. However, no matter what the partner did, he was never going to reach the same level as the professional. (Someone in the top .01%) He simply didn’t have the innate structure to do so. You can’t smell as well as a horse if your nose is 5 inches shorter. No matter how much you practice.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

But what if talent does work hard? Talent wins. See: Lebron James. Plus, the more talent “talent” has, the less work they need to put in to compete with “hard work.”

Many would be much better off accepting they’re different (in whatever ways), ignoring what some professional does, and focus instead on themselves. With realistic notions in mind.

Meaning, if this is you,

  • “My right shoulder hurts.”
  • “I’ve had knee surgery.”
  • “My lower back has given me issues for years.”
  • “I’d like to lose 35 pounds.”

You should probably not be thinking, “I’d like to lose weight, see my abs, bench press 300 pounds, and run a marathon this year, without any pain. I’m going to lift 4 times a week, run 5 times a week, stretch everyday, eat 1200 calories a day with 3 protein shakes.” Especially considering you have a significant other, 2 kids, a mortgage, and work at a desk 50 hours a week.

What exactly am I training for then?

For the overwhelming majority working out, training, how you eat, health, fitness, whatever you want to call it, is to help your life. Your life is not meant to improve those things. Those things improve your life. You don’t perform squats so you can one day out lift someone. You perform squats so you can go up a flight of stairs without knee pain and falling down.

The people out there who refuse to stop bench pressing or deadlifting or running for a couple months while they get healthy, because they don’t want to lose 10 pounds or 20 seconds on an activity they don’t make a living from, one which causes them pain, and at the end of the day is arbitrary, are missing the boat. They need to accept in the long run why they are exercising, eating better, and taking care of themselves.

Life, motherfucker

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