Being a Man: Part 1

Photo by James Killeen from My Protein ‘Forever Fit’ campaign.

Sexist, I know. In big old 2020 expressing your thoughts on what ‘stereotypically’ men should be doing, coupled with the then premature misconception that, that then means women can’t do those things either, is a fast track to receiving a lot of negative back-lash across multiple social media platforms.

However, biologically backed-up fact alert… men and women are different! Physically, emotionally and spiritually we have different genetics, reactions and thoughts, which is absolutely OK!

Disclaimer: The following views are my opinions and my opinions only, based on a lot of reading, research and most importantly, real-life experience. You don’t hear that one much anymore do you when the ‘woke’ are telling the ‘un-woke’ to “DO YOUR RESEARCH BRO!” whilst posting out of date YouTube videos or fake articles they’ve read the title of and clicked share before actually clicking the link and reading it. I am writing about being a man, because I am a man. It would be very inappropriate and narcissistic of me to believe I was in a position to write about how you should be a woman.

OK, first things first, this will mainly be about training, physical health and mental well-being. Why? Because I believe all are extremely important for men. Women too, but I’m here to discuss why I think they are for men. My girlfriend, sister or one of the countless amazing female bloggers can take the lead on discussing why those things are good for women and do a far better job of it than if I attempted.

Let’s start with training. I believe every man should train. I don’t mean every man should look like a 20 year old Arnie or, getting a bit more relevant, Mat Fraser, who regardless of what you think about CrossFit (I’m not a huge fan for a number of reasons), is undoubtedly an exceptional athlete and inspiring role model who, if most of us worked half as hard as he does, we’d be in pretty good shape. But everyman should have some level of physical fitness, where they can lift weights (again we’re not talking setting national powerlifting records), run a few miles without feeling like their lungs are going to explode (run, not do the dad dance during a jog), hang with their arms overhead without feeling like their shoulders are going tear from their body and be stuck there for life, swim, defend themselves and be able to touch their toes without bending their knees. These things will allow you to be able to run around with your kids, playing whatever sport your child wishes to play that day, without having to say, “Sorry son/daughter, Dad’s gotta sit down a sec…” then persist to light up a cig and pollute the air your child breathes instead of promoting being active and how that can be hours of endless fun in an age where children are less active than ever!

I don’t have kids, but I plan to be able to do all the above when I do and continue to do all of those things until my kids have kids, God willing.

So yeah… training… I believe all men should lift weights. Correct and intense weight training makes you physically and mentally stronger, builds your confidence and improves your appearance. Although I believe in being able to do, rather than just look like you can do, a great bonus is that physically you end up looking pretty good. I’m not a scientist or a personal trainer so I’m not going to give you a lecture of all the amazing biological benefits that weight training gives you, you’ve got to do a bit of ‘research’ yourself here… I sound ‘woke’ now don’t I? But seriously, if you want more information and really want plain simple facts about how good weight training is for you, go onto T Nation and read any of the countless fantastic articles on there, written by guys at the top of their field in training and nutrition. Or better still read a book! Read one written by one of those guys who has not only accomplished incredible personal achievements in the World of training/sports/strength/athletics but has also coached World class performers in their chosen disciplines too. Marty Gallagher, Dan John, Jim Wendler. Google their name and “books by” buy one off amazon from the used section and read! Learn how to squat, hip-hinge, pull and press, preferably in that order, while building the weight you can move up and your body, significant other and mental health will thank you whilst your friends and co-workers will ask you what you have been taking.

Now let’s move onto running. All men should have some ability to run a few miles without feeling like they are going to die. I’m not talking 5 minute miles for a 10K, but I am talking 8:00/8:30 minute miles averaged over 3 or 4, which for someone who runs every week isn’t that fast at all. Running isn’t for everyone. Some people have messed up joints and their knees can’t take the poundage, especially in road running, so they cycle or swim. Great! When I’m saying running here I mean cardio training, but I’m being biased towards my own training because I know how good running makes me feel. Also running will save your life if you have to get away quickly from a mad man swinging an axe around. Unless you’re near water or have a bike at hand, cycling and swimming won’t.

Men should be able to aerobically exercise for a prolonged period of time, while sweating and breathing heavily. Why? Because it just might help you to live longer than 60. In fact, for those that do zero cardio at all, make that 40. Cardio builds your heart; yes the heart is a muscle too. A healthier, stronger heart can pump more blood around the body and therefore keep your organs working the way they should do. Just as important as well are your lungs and their capacity to help you breathe. Give yourself a fighting chance of living a long, healthy life, where you can still do things you may not of been able to afford to do when you were younger like travel the World and climb mountain ranges or even play recreational sports with friends and family for no reason other than pleasure, fun… remember what that feels like? Do your cardio, get out and run, a few miles a couple of times a week. Your 70 year old self will thank you and look forward to the next 20 years.

We’ll come back to hanging in a minute. Right now let’s briefly discuss swimming. Why should a man be able to swim? It is very simple. To save his or someone else’s life. As far as swimmers go I would say I’m not that good. By that I mean I’m not setting any World, even local records anytime soon, or ever. However I can swim. If I was on a walk in the countryside like I do a lot, and I was crossing a bridge and it broke and I fell into a river, I could save my own life and swim to safety. More importantly if I was in a scenario where someone was drowning in the sea or a lake, I could save their life also. Imagine that person is your child. You’d want to be able to save them! Most people probably can swim, but some can’t. If you’re one of them and a man, learn. Learn to save your own life or someone else’s!

That brings us nicely to being able to defend yourself. I imagine 20/30 years ago everybody had been a boxer in their day and sparred Nigel Benn or Ricky Hatton as an amateur. Likewise everybody today is an MMA fighter. It’s not quite as bad as 10 years ago when severely out-of-condition guys wore tap out t-shirts and ¾ length pants everywhere but more often than not people will say they do “cage-fighting”. Yano what, they might! Yes they’re not professional athletes and wouldn’t last 2 minutes in the ring or cage with someone who is actually well trained but providing they’ve done a few classes, learnt how to throw a punch and not just roll around on the floor, actually taken a punch because throwing them is the easy part, then they will have some knowledge of how to defend themselves if attacked. That is one of the most important skills in life in my opinion. We live in a World full of idiots. Some people manage to go through life avoiding these helmets, I think it gets easier as you get older, but I have certainly had my fair share of runnings with them. Likewise I may have been one in my younger years at times. But some of them, no matter how much you try and walk away, won’t stop. Or some may want to mug you and your misses when you’re walking through town at night or try to steal your car as you’re opening it in a car park.

A man should be able to defend himself and those he is with/cares about. There are a million disciplines you can learn, well there isn’t but there is a lot. I’d suggest boxing as punching properly is important and when sparring you get invaluable experience of getting hit and how that feels. A lot of people these days have never taken a dig to the chin and you can tell. When you do, you develop some humility. Fast. Muay Thai is another one. Muay Thai is probably the most brutal combat sport on the planet and by learning that, you learn how to move with precision balance, use all 8 limbs to adequately disable a potential attacker and learn how to defend said onslaughts too. Go to a class, pay for 1to1 if a class isn’t for you, but just go and do it for a few months. It doesn’t take long to learn the basics. Then every now and again, hit a bag, do a 12 round circuit, work the pads with a friend who knows a bit too and keep sharp. Again we are not trying to be elite level fighters, but I want to know that if somebody comes for me I stand some chance of handling myself. That being said a goal of mine over the next year is to learn jujitsu. I can fight standing up, I have no experience on the ground and these days a lot of fights end up there as some people don’t stop when a man is down. So I still have areas I need to improve on and I am planning to work on those. 

Just to confirm, I honestly hope I never have to use any of these skills but in case I do, I want to know I can!

OK, hanging overhead and touching your toes. Here we are basically talking about having some mobility in the most basic form to reduce risk of injury and ensure you can move freely through whatever you are doing. I love lifting weights, love it! Barbells, dumbbells and kettle bells; you’ll rarely catch me using a machine. But there are people in my gym (a non-commercial gym too) who cannot lift their shoulders above their head in a straight line. They are massive! But if they were to slip from a cliff and the only way of saving themselves was to hang onto a branch (a very thick, secure branch) and climb back to safety, they would die! Pressing overhead properly with barbells promotes good range of motion through the shoulders; machines not so much. A lot of men who train don’t even do pull ups. Even if you can’t do a pull up, grab an overhead bar and dead hang. Do it for 10 seconds, then next week try 15. Build it up.

I’m no gymnast, but a few years ago I visited my friend Daryl in Oslo who is probably the most well-rounded athlete I know. He can literally do it all, and do it all very well. He also looks like a Spartan God and trains the complete opposite of a bodybuilder (the common way most men train and get nowhere). Anyway at the time he was specialising in movement training, he asked me to get into a few basic positions that humans should be able to. Hanging from a bar was one of them, I could do that. The rest… not so much! I realised how immobile I was and for a man in his then mid-twenties who literally teaches children the benefits of being active, that wasn’t very good. So I worked on it, everyday actually. Things like sitting in a full squat position for 5 minutes and touching my toes comfortably, these are things you can practice every day and when you do, they become easier, you become more supple and can actually feel your body becoming freer. Bench pressing 200KG is great but if you can’t lift your arms above your head, touch your toes with straight legs, sit in a squat without feeling that your hips are going to break or stand up from sitting on the floor without using your hands then you are NOT in good shape!

I believe a man who can do all of the things I have discussed in this article to even a moderate degree is a man who is in relatively decent shape and can physically handle all of the various situations and experiences life is going to throw at them with potentially good success. This isn’t superhero stuff. These are basic things that your body should be able to do as a man. I will discuss how this will affect you psychologically in my next post.

To be continued…

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