My Life as a Gym Rat

Nov 21,2011

I'm not sure how many people this is going to appeal to, but it seems to come up in conversation quite a bit among people who have a similar interest, some of whom have come to the TPIEF office just to chat with me about it: fitness and health.

I've always thought of myself as thinner than average, but in Japan I don't seem to be. At the the gyms in the US I was generally the skinniest guy there, while at the gym where I work out now there are men of various levels of fitness; these could be chalked up to genetics, differences in training intensity and lifestyle, a yawning gap in the amount of fitness information available to rural Japan compared to urban America, or any combination thereof.

As an aside, there are guys who simply can't gain weight. One of them came in and informed me of a bulking plan called GOMADs, which stands for Gallon Of Milk A Day. My first reaction was, 'Egad, that's disgusting' but then I recalled the days of my youth when I might have been able to get away with what the industry terms 'dirty bulking'. For better or worse, though, I spent a big chunk of my teens as a vegan, meaning that eating enough low-calorie, high-fiber vegetable matter to fulfill my growth spurt requirements meant that my jaws were in a constant state of painful fatigue. I really had to scratch my head and wonder how certain of my peers actually managed to become fat. (See the previous blog entry.)

My local gym is small, and its space is divided approximately equally between cardio and running equipment, and weightlifting equipment. This is in striking contrast to American gyms, which tend to be heavily geared toward weight training equipment, with only a few cardio machines, demonstrating the different fitness priorities of the two populations, and probably at least partially responsible for the relative dearth of incredible hulks in these parts.

My previous post on the large size of the American population should amply demonstrate that I in no way believe the typical regimen in the old country is superior to any other, but rather that it is fact responsible for many of the problems of which that country is redolent. Conversely, by some indexes available on the Interwebs, Japan ranks as the healthiest country in the world. (Though one of those studies used 'number of doctors per 1000 people' as one of its standards, which seems to me a very odd way to gauge health, like using 'number of police officers per 1000 people' as an index of morality.)

That being said, it seems difficult to gain muscle mass or achieve high levels of fitness on the high-carbohydrate, low-protein, high-sodium diet that I see lots of people consuming around here. White rice and noodles just aren't the way to go, and I have a hard time convincing folks of that, since the cultural status of those staples makes any suggestion that they should be avoided tantamount to blasphemy. Then there is the cultural obligation of many professionals to give nearly all their waking hours to their jobs, which leaves little room for exercise or proper diet. Hopefully this will change in future.

Hopefully also, organically produced foodstuffs will become more available, though the comparitive lack of these in Japan could be because the regular stuff just isn't that bad. Lots of people who get used to drinking Japanese milk and then try the milk in the US say the latter has a hideous chemical taste. Farms here also tend to be smaller and probably use a lower proportion of agricultural chemicals. Still, none is best when putting these substances into one's body, and there is a chance that the recent controversy over the radiation levels of produce originating from the Touhoku area in the wake of the disaster may spark at least some interest in organic food, and maybe more interest in health in general.

I would like to hear how these situations compare to those in other countries, especially those who I can see are accessing the blog, and from whom I hardly ever hear anything. (Yes, I am soliciting for comments! I don't get nearly enough.)

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