For us here at Kenzai, the point of being a fit and healthy person has always been to be maximally Alive.
This is what we call capital "A" Alive. We all know people who are alive but not truly Alive. Lowercase alive is easy. Uppercase Alive takes more work, and fitness is a big part of it.
What do I mean by Alive? Being Alive is that feeling that you're truly squeezing all the juice of out life. You're not missing the good parts of being a sentient organism.
This feeling blooms within me through these four pathways:
I don't mean sexy times here, I mean sensual in the old fashioned meaning of the word, as the fulfillment of the senses. This is the sound of the bubbles popping on the beach after a wave has slid back into the ocean. The smell of my daughter's hair after she's been playing. The cold but not unpleasant burn in my chest while jogging on a winter day. The taste and texture of that last fiber of pineapple between your teeth. These things ooze life, and to truly enjoy them you need to be healthy and active. Laying in a hospital bed is the opposite of sensual. It's cold, white, beeping, and bleak.
Learning new things makes me feel Alive. From the atoms in my kitchen table to the stars overhead to the etymology of the word "atom" or "star", to the technology that allows me to see these words on my computer and blast them out to your own screen, it's all so mind-bogglingly interesting to me that I can hardly contain myself. But, I've learned over the years that this keen, knife-edged intellectual curiosity only stays sharp when I'm healthy and fit. As my body grows torpid and fat I feel like my brain goes soft with it, I catch on to things slower and I'm both less interesting and less interested in the world around me. I don't like that dim-witted feeling.
I know endocrinology well enough to understand that the love I feel for my family and friends is a function of various hormones responding to neural stimuli in established patterns, but this of course makes it no less real or meaningful. When I'm in good physical condition, positive emotions rise more consistently, are felt more deeply and can be appreciated with more precision. Emotions are a physical process. It follows that taking care of your physical condition results in better emotional function.
As I edge into worse shape I can feel my emotions becoming blunter and more negative. It becomes more tempting to smother them under a blanket of unhealthy food, drinks, and distractions. I've always had this mental image of body fat as that neon pink, fluffy fiberglass insulating material. Except instead of heat it keeps negative emotions trapped inside and rebuffs the positive emotions that the world is sending to me.
When I say socially, I don't mean hanging out with friends, (although that's important) I mean being a useful contributor to human society as we stumble, eyes blinking, into the bright light of the future. This is one hell of a time to exist, I consider it like winning the lottery to be part of the birthing pains of a technologically sophisticated civilization.
Every single year we do things that humanity has never done before. There are a lot of naysayers who have an inherent mistrust of technology and a dim view of the future, but I'm confident it's going to be amazing, and doing my small part to inch humanity forward gives me meaning and purpose that nothing else can match. But, as with all the points above, I can't do much towards the greater good when I'm lethargic or sick. And I've noticed that, for better or for worse, my own physical condition correlates strongly with how much attention people will give my views. If I want to be an effective agent of change, I need to not be a physical mess!
So, that's a rough sketch of the things that make me Alive with a capital A.
And holding it all together is the need for my body to be in a stable, healthy place. Take that keystone away and the whole arch crumbles.
Perhaps one day we'll upload ourselves to advanced quantum computers and will bring a whole new definition of being alive, but for now our brains are deeply entwined with the meat sacks they sit on top of, and those meat sacks drag the whole system down when they're not fed and exercised properly. This is not a terribly efficient system, but it's the one we're stuck with, and it does have its perks. You get to hold people's hands. You get to see the flash of understanding in a student's eyes. You get the smell of fresh rain and the wind on your face. You also die, which is annoying, but all the more motivation to make the years you have healthy, active, and meaningful.
That's why I keep at it this fitness stuff year after year. I do it to stay Alive.
How about you?