Damn I love J. R. R. Tolkien! I mean how could you not when he gave us the amazingly engaging stories that are the Lord of the Rings saga while at the same time passing along sage wisdom such as this:
"And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
Lord of the Rings is by far one of my favorite set of books and movies. Peter Jackson did a fantastic job brining the story to life in the film adaptations. I was so sad when the final episode in the trilogy was produced and released because it meant an end to the story telling.
But my sadness was replaced by excitement when the decision was made to make The Hobbit into a three part movie series the last of which came out on this past Wednesday and which Kelsey and I were able to watch last night. It was awesome. Well, and in my opinion rather accurately, done.
The point though to this post is not to subject those of you who aren't LOTR fans (is there such a person?) to a rambling about the finer points of the movie, but rather I wanted to share some thoughts I had about something that came up in the The Hobbit and who it relates to us fitness minded folks.
If you aren't familiar with the plot of the hobbit let me just give you the spark notes version so that you have some background.
A dragon has displaced a group of dwarves from their home underneath a mountain. They have been displaced for several generations, but now the grandson, Thorin, of the last dwarf to be king under the mountain is determined to journey back to the mountain, slay the dragon, and reclaim his home.
It sounds simple when I put it like that, but there is a lot more involved and I'd highly recommend picking up the book to read if you are currently between books. For our purposes though this plot description shall suffice.
I don't want to spoil the book to much for those of you who have already added it to your Amazon Wishlist, but eventually Thorin does succeed in reclaiming his place under the mountain and with it his people's vast treasure. He took this great risk, made an incredible journey, built new friendships, and learned to trust people outside of his own kind and at the end of it all finally achieves what he always dreamed of (ah shit I ended the sentence with a preposition).
However in Thorin's case the old adage of "be careful what you ask for" is incredibly appropriate.
After reclaiming his people's treasure he begins to change. Thorn catches what the rest of his company calls "Dragon Sickness." This is a term that refers to a Dragon's intense love for gold and when I say love for gold I don't mean that the Dragon loves gold because it has value, but literally for gold itself. On a side note this love for gold is why the Dragon takes over the mountain and displaces the dwarves in the first place in case you were wondering why a Dragon would want to live under a mountain.
This sickness warps Thorin morally and corrupts his character driving him almost to the point of madness.
It paralyzes him. It prevents him from interacting with his family and new found friends. He begins pushing other people away and isolating himself so that he can protect and hold on to his gold. He even goes back on promises he made to people who helped him when he was in need of help most creating enemies out of friends.
This "Dragon Sickness" takes such hold of Thorin that he places his gold above other's lives.
It is rather sad watching Thorin struggle with this sickness and how it impacts his friends and family. It is even sadder when you begin to contemplate the how vast the dwarves' treasure is. I mean Thorin could have literally given away or lost 90% of the treasure and still the dwarven race would have never wanted for anything for many generations.
And though I realize that one can directly translate the middle-earth term of "Dragon Sickness" into the english word Greed understanding the poisonous nature that wealth can have on someone I could not help but think about how I see so much the story of Thorin and his "Dragon Sickness" in the fitness world.
Confused? Yeah that is understandable. I mean how in the hell is a dwarf named Thorin who is suffering from dragon sickness in anyway relevant to those of us who covet fitness? Trust me thought it is.
Let me tell you a story about John.
John grew up in the average American home. He had two siblings, a mom, and a dad. His parents worked hard so they could give John lots of opportunities to exceed. John was active throughout his youth and all the way through college. He was always athletic and in reasonably good shape. However when he finished college, took up a career, and married the girl of his dreams his days became busier and his responsibilities multiplied. The time for athletic pursuits dwindled and so did his good health. Days turned into months and months into years. The pounds added up in a short time John didn't recognize the body he saw in the mirror.
John then decided that it was time to make his health a priority for both himself and his family. He decided that it was necessary to reclaim the active and athletic life he had once taken for granted. John joins a gym, learns to cook, and before he knows it he has built a lifestyle that fits both him and his family. A lifestyle that has allowed John to get in the best shape of his last ten years of life. Through this process he has learned much about himself, grown as a person, husband, and father, and developed relationships he wouldn't have otherwise.
John has finally won back his health.
But soon things begin to change. John starts spending less time in the evenings after work at home and more time at the gym. John doesn't go out with friends or partake in social events because he can't break from his diet or he can't miss a workout. John worries constantly about when he will fit in his workouts, when he will eat his next meal, and whether or not he will be able to get eight hours of sleep at night. John's gainz become his number one concern because now that he has reclaimed his health he cannot let it go and has an irrational fear that deviating from the path he took to get there will cause him to revert to an unhealthier self.
Does this story sound familiar? Perhaps it jogs your mind about a dwarf without a home, his quest to return to his home, and the unfortunate illness that befalls him once he succeeds?
You see this story about John is one I have heard and seen time and time again. It may not even be a guy simply just replace John with Jane and the story is still just as accurate.
So many of us begin pursuing better health and a better body because we want to live a better and more fulfilled life however somewhere along the journey we loose site of the fact that getting healthier and looking better is just a means to an end and instead it becomes an end in and of itself. Just like how Thorin desired to reclaim the mountain and the treasure so that he could restore his people and give them a home again, but instead he became fixated on holding on to his treasure.
People do the same thing once they have achieved their better body and health. Instead of using this improved physique and well being to do more with their life and enjoy life more than become solely concerned with what they must do to hold on to the physique and health.
It is the manifestation of "Dragon Sickness" in the fitness world.
It is loving good health for good health's sake not for the value it brings to your life.
I don't mean to say that we shouldn't continue to make health a priority and take measures to be proactive about our health, but what I am saying is that we should reorganize our entire life around maintaining a certain body fat percentage or deadlift PR at the cost of missing out on hanging out with friends, making memories with significant others, and having once in a lifetime experiences.
I guess I want you to try and take a minute to evaluate if you are trying to improve your health and appearance in order to live a better life and if so are you actually in fact living a better life or have you begun to let a better appearance and health become your life.
Have you come down with a case of the "Dragon Sickness?"
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training