Function, Purpose and Motivation in Fitness Training

Pune, 2 January 2023, 2101 hours:

Just past 9 pm and I have clocked 10 kilometres of walking for the second day in a row. Will I be able to sustain this for the rest of the year?

These are the kinds of questions I don’t sweat about. To be precise, I don’t think that way.

I have always trained for something or the other, but never in a gym or a controlled formal environment and this was by choice because for me training always has a function – an everyday utility.

When I stepped into my teens, I was given the responsibility of a few household errands: Getting the monthly ration, collecting the milk every day from the village chief’s house (they were the biggest suppliers of milk in the locality), accompanying my father to buy fish and meat every weekend. All of these errands required walking – 2 kilometres to the ration shop, one-and-half to the cow sheds, two and a half to the meat market. All these errands required me to carry stuff.

So far I have never been able to lift the equivalent of my body weight for a few seconds or a minute since I never trained to lift weights nor build any specific muscle sets for strength.

But I could – and still can after 40 years – carry 5 kgs of grain in each hand over a distance of two kilometres. Yes I did adjust my grip on the bags several times, sometimes slugging one and then the other over my shoulder, but I can walk two kilometres with 10 kgs. I trained for that by doing it regularly in the actual environment which was the route to the shops and back.

All my friends could do this – girls and boys. It’s what we did as middle class kids. I could also run for 400-500 metres with 6-7 kilos of vegetables, meat, fish and turn sharply, snarl and kick out at barking dogs on the road who wanted us to drop the meat. Very useful skill and I trained for it almost every week on the roads of Mumbai and Delhi.

As an athlete and high altitude climber, I trained hard on the track or in the mountains regularly. Similarly as a chess player, designer and writer, I train every single day by playing and designing and writing diligently.

In each of these cases, the function and overall purpose was clear and that provided me the intrinsic motivation to strive for proficiency, then mastery.

Recently, I decided to learn how to swim and how to train my body by muscle groups for endurance in the gym, but this time I had an intrinsic motivation that provided me a purpose and related utility for the training. But that’s a story for another day.

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