Fitness and the Life Categories

Tuesday, June 20th, 2022, at 9:53 PM Alaska Time

Contents

Author

Author: Mattanaw, Christopher Matthew Cavanaugh

Former Chief Architect, Adobe Systems

Current President/Advisor, Social Architects and Economists International.

Contact:

Introduction: Fitness conceived of as a moral category for ensuring completeness of well-being.

Fitness was included as one of the life categories I must attend to, in order to ensure that I have a complete, balanced and fulfilled life. The list of categories was made to achieve two main purposes. The first is to make sure that there is nothing serious omitted from my behavior over the long term that would lead me to have a less comfortable and satisfying life. The second was to make sure that those categories listed were those that really did connect with what I seemed to need or those things I would really benefit from, based on my history and my interests. Fitness was always present. If omitted I could not think I would have a life that would have the same level of quality.

I mentioned before that there is certainly more than one way to arrive at the life categories that allow for comprehensive attention to what is meaningful and important. Different languages have different categories and sometimes categories are combined which could be separated. Some might not find art to be as important as I do and might not want to include it at all. Some might include “activity” as a replacement for fitness if there is less interest in sports, gym lifestyle, or behaviors that map to competitive athletics.

I have a page that is intended to develop on my interest in fitness more specifically around sports development, and that is my Sports and Fitness channel. This page is more focused on fitness as it relates to attention and self-maintenance, and the keeping of habits, which might be considered “moral habits”. The idea with that is if one is really concerned about one’s life in a moral way, one will want to have a level of fitness that allows for a healthy mind, general health that allows for decreased expenditure on healthcare or medical treatment, freeing of resources and energy for use on other aspects of life and potentiallyf or caring for family or friends, if relationships are desirable instead of solitude (I also included Relationships as a key category, although today I’m more interested in solitude). Fitness also creates relief, decreases stress, increases one’s ability to carry out activities which might otherwise be harder, including those activities one might assume are easy. In older age, a solid foundation of health will allow for less suffering because greater preparation and capacity for doing everyday things which become difficult is better.

I think it is a mistake to simply think of fitness as something that is optionally desirable for superficial reasons, or for the purpose of merely becoming attractive. Being attractive is also something of a moral virtue, and I include that too, in this conception. We also tend to value men who seem to be fit and able to care for themselves and others more than those who seem like they are not fit, and I think most would prefer themselves to be fit and attractive than to be less fit and less attractive. Fitness and its results can easily be confused as being for something less than what it really is for. Fitness as I have included it in my personal form and in my life categories and priorities has this larger view of its significance and not only what we might consider it to be superficially based on our exposure to media and entertainment, and sports in our education.

My level of priority to fitness was greater before than it is now, and received a significant amount of attention, because of my need to reduce my bodyweight dramatically. When I started college I diverted my energy and attention to studies in a way that was excessively one-directional, and I gained quite a lot of weight. My weight at one point was 270 pounds, roughly 100 pounds heavier than I was only months before that weight gain. Suddenly being very heavy, and knowing I had 100 pounds to lose, I realized the amount of time to accomplish the goal would be very long, and I would not have satisfying results immediately. In order to ensure that I was successful, I prioritized it higher on my form so that I would give it more attention on a daily basis, and record more information about it than for other categories. Improving my fitness and my weight at that time to me had moral significance because I also wanted to ensure I performed better in my career and also wanted to be more satisfying to my now ex-wife.

My thoughts about fitness as being a highly important part of my overall moral training has changed because through such training I was able to make myself perpetually fit, and was able to create a habit of going to the gym, and doing fitness related activities naturally, without any need for reminders or any special behavioral tricks. It was something I did to pass the time and I did it regularly; if I did not go to the gym I would not feel the same. It would not be normal if I did not go to the gym.

The objective of having attention to fitness or any of the other categories is to gradually eliminate the need for such attention. An example might be those who join the military and really get used to ritual exercise such as running and weight training on a daily basis, done for a long enough period of time that it is part of normal behavior. A person who has undergone such training is a different person. Their habits are internalizations of principles of health, and they get routine positive feedback on the benefits of their own behavior. Others likely praise them for activities they later consider mundane and regular, and maybe not especially supererogatory.

Key Ingredients of Fitness

Recording personal information around fitness or any other topic requires more time investment than might be recognized. By the time fitness data is recorded and reminders are read, one might begin to feel that one would not want to do the same for other categories. A finding of mine in my work on this approach is that energy for change must be directed at only a few or even one aspect of life until habits are created that allow an attentional shift to other categories. While I did have success in more than one thing at this time in my life, I was not covering all of the categories and that is evident in a review of my log, which shows that many categories were left empty for long periods of time with no notes at all.

In order to ensure that recording takes less time, and focus is optimal, and behaviors achieve as much as possible, it is really necessary to reduce the concerns to a few pieces of information. Anyone who has kept a log of weight lifting for a course of strength training soon realizes that it is not easy to endure for a long period of time. I think most give up on their logs on weight lifting because recording each and every piece of information becomes too tedious, and soon, the activity itself is preferred over the recording of specific exercise results, probably with some loss with growth, but some increase of habit for maintenance. This focus on the activity of weight training and of exercise over the specific number of reps and weight used for each piece of equipment or each activity to me is an example of simplification. Any data and attention given to simply spending time in a gym, or spending time doing the activity, is much more valuable than any effort spent on accumulating pieces of information that might be used for growth, but might not. In my history I’ve experienced growth when I was not recording anything of my gym activities and instead relied on memory, even if I knew I could not remember all that I did or all that I wanted to achieve next.

Fitness has a potential datum that is quite large. A while after creating my personal form, when I was wanting to have a better way to capture information than on paper, like with manual input into a phone-based spreadsheet, or automatically using some tool I could imagine, but not make myself, I realized that it is actually infeasible even for a technical solution to gather all the information that one might really want to collect. Apple watches, Fitbits and other devices were created to alleviate some of the effort and I think their contribution can be indispensible for certain things like checking heart rate, or getting average heart rate over the course of a difficult activity, and other interesting measures too; however, it simply does not have the sensors necessary for tracking the way that one can track on paper, and there currently are not sensors that will tell you what exercises you did, the quality of those exercises, how many repetitions you did, what weights, how many sets, what your form was, and what they goals related to those exercises should be for you specifically. I am a former software architect, and based on my long history in software, I am now convinced we are very far from having something that can do all of the work for us. And even if we did have a tool that tracked it the way we might do it for ourselves, if we are doing well, we would not want it to force our attention to review our results, or learn from the process. A simple result of this is really that a paper based method of focusing on specific ingredients of fitness that are most valuable, and learning on our own, and recording our thoughts and learnings is better than a technology solution that records results we cannot even remain interested in. In some ways one might say this is akin to writing in a book, in order to remember and recall what was read, and to have a better more interesting experience with the author’s mind. Writing things down this way encourages growth in a way that using an Apple Watch simply cannot. Moreover, writing on paper allows for the collection on of a log of behavior and life which is really a kind of accomplishment like writing an autobiography or a journal. One retains one’s accomplishment and work, and there is great satisfaction in this. I know this firsthand because I kept a log of my efforts for years, and bound most of my recordings in a binder, that I scanned and included on this website. The progression from small 1/4 page leaves of pages to full pages of notes at a greater complexity with all categories of the personal form is on my website here Personal Form.

I can see what my body weight was at different times and match it to my appearance in photographs. I can see my mental progression. What I thought was important that wasn’t, and what was that didn’t seem like it at the time. I can see what I cared about and didn’t in my life and I get a nice feeling looking back at how disciplined I was, even at times when my bodyweight might indicate I was struggling in ways with my appearance. Without it I would not really know precisely what I was doing at the time, in the same way that I do now. One forgets and it is interesting to read back and get confirmation.

This page is about fitness but that same form provides details about each of the other categories that were of special importance to me. What occurs with such an approach is one then gets an undrstanding of what is being done in total over a persons life more holistically. Of course not in total in the sense that all my life entered into the form; but that my journal in this approach created a somewhat fuller picture about all that I was wanting to do, much of what I was doing across categories, and what I was interested in at the time. These recordings in my personal form are incomplete and there are other writings and photographs collected, but these recordings do support significantly an attempt at writing an autobiography about myself by providing real evidence, that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

As I was using the form over years, I did lose weight gradually. This can be seen in the form itself as the numbers in my weight field decreased and gradually got down to around 200 pounds, or 70 pounds less than I was earlier. I eventually accomplished a full 100 pound weight loss and never gained it back, because the training really led to habits that did not support too much weight gain. I did experience gain and loss repeatedly, but never went again over 210 pounds, and for about a decade I’ve been under 200 pounds. Today I’m much less interested in maintaining my weight, because I’ve found some basic factors of interest that reduce the energy and attention needed, and this allowed me to mostly forget the need to be concerned with my weight, and allowed me to focus on things like developing my career and social life.

One example basic focus that I will include on my newer version of the form is whether I have eaten one meal or more than one meal in the course of a day. Knowing my needs for energy and for comfort I am certain, after a long time eating only one meal, that I feel most satisfied if 1) I have a large meal in the evening which creates comfort and has plenty of calories and 2) I don’t really get hungry very often and if I do eat, experience a sluggishness that many are familiar with if they’ve overeaten for lunch but still have work to do afterwards. This would not apply to everyone but for my life, a very simple focus on eating just one meal a day really does quite a lot in maintainning my energy, appearance, and body weight. I would have a hard time eating more than 3,000 calories a day, and really the amount I eat in a large meal is about equal to my daily calorie requirements, which I also learned from experience tracking over a decade ago is not very great. Even as a larger male I simply do not burn as many calories as I would like to imagine I do, and I cannot justify eating multiple large meals throughout the day.

[More to come]