A few weeks ago, a poster for Equinox Fitness Clubs popped up on phone booths all over the city. It reads, “Life is outrunning lesser versions of yourself.”
My initial reaction, as an Equinox member, a runner, and a student of life, was ‘Right on.’ But every time I’ve seen it since — especially walking home from a good workout yesterday morning — it bugs me more and more.
Now, I’m not much of an athlete, but I do have an appreciation for t-shirts with slogans like “Pain is weakness leaving your body.” Maybe a bit much, but when you three hours into a marathon, and you see some dude with that written on his back, it helps a little bit.
And I’m all for exercise as a means of strengthening you inner world: for becoming stronger willed, more goal-oriented. For me, that’s the whole idea. (Well, that, and not developing what my father refers to as a “German Goiter,” aka a Pot Belly, which Wagner men possess in spades.)
It’s the word “outrunning” that I object to. I mean, I get the witty word play. I get that it’s ad copy. But I think it feeds into the prevailing American myth that we can somehow leave ourselves behind, that, with the appropriate amount of exercise, plastic surgery, of just a new pair of jeans, we can be someone else.
But we can’t. We are a product of all our yesterdays. There is no outrunning, there is only running with. We may grow stronger, we may change and evolve — and we should — but we still need to drag or carry or simply jog alongside that former self. It’s still us. He’s still me.
So I cancelled my membership.
Not really. I’ll just wait a couple more weeks until they change their ad slogan to something else, something like “Pain is weakness leaving your body.”