Maybe the most important thing I do for my skin is exercise. It’s nice to have some Acne Control Extra Strength Tablets or a Five Minute Skin Purifying Mask, but something has to come next. You have to live healthy too.
The gym has a few connotations - that’s where my sweaty uncle goes to listen to bad trap music and nod at personal trainers who are just too full of energy. Really, who jumps around that much?
But the gym is full of surprises. The best way to lose fat, regulate hormones and improve your health is to lift heavy weights, then eat plenty. The cardio machines monitor your heart and have TV screens attached. And those testosterone-filled dads can be quite nice. There’s a mutual understanding that weightlifters have to be super nice to each other, because everyone’s blood is screaming with a feel-good cocktail of growth juice and rage.
Working out is like real life, but more rewarding. It’s struggles and setbacks in a controlled condition. When you improve, you can measure it in numbers. Last week you were lifting 20 kilos, now it’s 22. Imagine if we did that with more chaotic things, like social interaction. “Today I slogged out 20 minutes with that old lady next door AND did five sets of eight customers. I can’t wait to tell Instagram.” Life would be so much easier.
And there are so many ways to build yourself. Sure, our bodies choose a few details for us - you may be better with explosive power, which means you can jump and throw your body around better. Your body type might build muscle easier, meaning you will get strong fast but running takes more effort. Or you might be a runner - you might pack away kilos of food and retain hardly any, but on the track you fly.
Which exercise type am I?
People will say that the way you grow muscles and how fast they can twitch will decide your body, its shape, everything you can do with it. There’s a glimmer of truth in that, but only at first, before you start to really work toward an exercise regimen.
The best explanation I have is geek analogies. This isn’t so much like being sorted into a Hogwarts house (Hufflepuff would be that one guy who’s always trying stupid things but never gets hurt), it’s more deciding what character you’ll play at the start of a video game.
When you’re exercising long term, you can be whatever you want. You’re big and you want to be a runner? You’re already carrying a bunch of fuel, and it’ll get easier every day. You’re naturally terrible at building muscle, but you want to get strong? Just be persistent. This is how bragging rights are born.
Sure you’re naturally inclined to a certain kind of exercise, but it’s not your fate. Finding your identity is exciting, discovering that you’ve been part of something big and respectable all this time. But there’s no sword in the stone here that you’re destined to pull out. Instead you’re part of the most respectable and adaptable race ever - you’re a person, with willpower, plasticity and more brains than anyone realises. You can do anything, including shaping yourself into a sprinter, marathon runner, fighter, barbell smiter, protein bar biter. All you have to do is do it … regularly.
The thing is, you can have any body type you like.
It’s like how Harry Potter is a Gryffindor, so he’s naturally inclined to fight and be brave. But he has other plans, so he lets Ron take the Sword of Gryffindor and focuses on talking to snakes. He’s the good guy, but he’s drawn to the bad guy.
It’s like using geek metaphors on a skin care blog. You can have both.
No person is a one dimensional character. If you run well, you can add strength. If you’re a gigantic Viking of a person, you can still learn to do handstands and backflips. When you’re human, you’re all of the above.
Peter is a weightlifter, skin care enthusiast and writer living in Melbourne. He’s an easy gainer but he likes to run and jump carelessly, so he exercises for performance.