Definition: a portmanteau word that mashes up two Japanese words: お宅, Otaku, loosely translated as “fanboy,” and 元気, Genki, meaning “full of life and energy.” In this context, the combination of the two means a pop culture fan who is also committed to a healthy lifestyle. This is not a contradiction in terms, as I will explain.
As geeks, most of us have lived our lives in opposition to the values of jocks. We value smarts over brute strength. We tend to think our way out of a problem rather than fight our way out of it. In the food chain of our schooling, it is the jock who is valued over the geek most of the time. Most of us geeks have, as a consequence, developed a self-imposed allergy to anything physical. We don’t want to resemble in any way, shape, or form, the hated jocks. By doing this, we have denied ourselves a very important aspect of our lives. Our bodies have evolved to be active. The sedentary lifestyle that is made all too easy by the modern world is not the way nature intended us to live. More below the fold.
Perhaps one of the geekiest civilizations to ever exist on the planet was that of the Ancient Greeks. They were the founders of things like philosophy and the scientific method. We owe a great deal about what we know from the foundations laid by such geeks as Plato and Aristotle, Pythagoras and Archimedes. One of the aphorisms that were part of Greek life was this: “Νοῦς ὑγιὴς ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ.” OK, that’s Greek to both you and me, so I’ll translate. It means “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” It has also come down to us from its translation into Latin, which might be a lot more familiar: “Mens sana in corpore sano.”
The typical geek lifestyle is sedentary. We sit around a lot. We eat convenience food. We play video games. We spend a lot of time online. We define ourselves by what we collect and our mental skills. And this shows in the usual shape we take. We tend to be big and out of shape. And we tend to complain amongst ourselves about our health. We catch colds and flus a lot, particularly after conventions. Anything physical becomes strenuous. And we tend to develop serious lifestyle-related diseases in our later lives.
This is not working, my beloved Otaku-zoku peeps.
Not every geek is like this. A few of us have discovered that the big blue room with the big yellow light will not hurt us. A few of us have discovered a truth: you do not automatically become a jock when you do physical things. I number among those people. In April of last year I launched on a fitness journey that will last the rest of my life. In the past 10 days, I have walked 22 miles, almost a marathon’s distance, but in chunks of a few miles a day. I’ve also done a strength training session…I don’t do enough of those, but I hope to improve that. My goals for the foreseeable future are these: the Avon 2 day walk in Santa Barbara in September, the Great LA Walk in November, a walk across the San Fernando Valley in December, and walking the LA Marathon in March 2014.
I feel the best I have ever felt in my life, and I’m not exactly young. I wish I had gotten into this earlier, when maybe my body wasn’t as beat up as it is, and the vigor of youth would make what I’m doing a bit easier. But all we can control is now, and from where I stand now things look really good. I’d like to progress faster, but I need to balance being safe and not injuring myself with hastening progress. Progress at the pace I’m taking is sustainable. This is going to have to be the way I live for the rest of my life.
I am not asking you to train for half-marathons, marathons and something in between. I’m not asking you to give up junk food, or install a treadmill at your computer desk, or anything else. I’m just asking you to step out a little. Increase your activity. It’s as simple as a walk. Start small. Park your car a little further away from your goal in the parking lot. Do an errand on foot rather than in a motorized vehicle. Or on a bike. Or on a skateboard. Or on Rollerblades. If you have access to a pool, do a couple of laps when you are cooling off, rather than just soaking and splashing. Whatever your pleasure.
In regards to food: again, small steps are fine. I have done some major food hacks. You don’t have to. If you go to a restaurant that you know has huge, Epic Meal Time-sized portions, split it with your dining partner or ask for a to-go container along with your meal, then cut your entree in half and reserve it for another meal. Leftovers make great breakfasts, especially if standard breakfast fare is not your favorite. Or it’s an easy lunch. Maybe you might substitute a piece of fruit for a cookie, or a handful of trail mix instead of a candy bar. Remember I talked about how eating real food is best? Get real with your meals. Buy food that has a low number of ingredients on the package, and that has ingredients you recognize. If you improve 80 percent of what you eat, you can splurge 20 percent of the time and still be fine.
This is not all about looking better or being skinnier. This is about health, this is about feeling good, this is about living rather than just existing. Give it a go. I intend to write more specifically about fitness for those like me who are part of Otaku/geek culture. I am also developing a community site specifically for geek fitness discussion. Yes, it will be called Otagenki. Stay tuned.