I’ve gotten pretty serious about running. I’m climbing my way to 60-mile weeks this spring. (Yes, I know #beepboop, I can’t stop.) As I’ve been getting more and more serious, I’ve been immersing myself more in the running world – reading books, listening to podcasts (Running Rogue is my favorite, driven as they are by the commitment to elite principles for the everyday runner; I also enjoy the Clean Sport Collective, and Indiana native Lindsey Hein gives great interviews on I’ll Have Another), buying gear (so many things, but this and this are my fave). As I’ve been getting more and more serious about running, I’ve realized that the language, commitments, and ideology of capitalism extend even to running. I mean of course they do, but it isn’t immediately obvious.
So I’ve been thinking about what it might mean to run like a socialist. What I have concluded is that the capitalist funding structure of running in which athletes seek corporate sponsors to ‘go professional’ does not serve the sport well. As a philosopher I like to look for the root of problems. I think you can see what’s happening in an institution or a community by the problems it faces. One of the perhaps defining problems of running as a sport is doping and the question of which technologies to make athletes faster are fair. These problems, I maintain, can be traced back to the profit motive upon which capitalism rests. I think it is clear that the sport of running, and perhaps sport in general, will struggle to deal with pressures to dope as long as the funding structures for athletes are corporate sponsorships, a structure specific to a capitalist regime. Further, the arguments in the service of anti-doping fall short as long as they appeal to principles that perpetuate the ideologies of capitalism: hard work not resources is the source of success alongside a recourse to the natural.
Sims’ claim based on her own research as an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist is that people who have more estrogen and progesterone and other hormones we have traditionally called “female” cannot be trained as small men as they have been for decades. During the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle for those who menstruate, the body has a harder time taking up protein. If you don’t get significant protein within 30 minutes of a workout, the body recovers by taking protein out of muscles — basically eating the muscles instead of building them. In addition to the different needs brought about by different hormones, the different physiology, specifically for example broad pelvic bones, lead to less stability in the knees and thus more of a likelihood to be knock-kneed — and in running to have less stability and a tendency for knees to collapse in — unless glutes are significantly strengthened. Even really strong women athletes can have strong quadriceps and still buckle their knees when they jump if they aren’t working on building all three gluteus muscles.
Yesterday was the last of 30 days of me being alcohol free. I haven’t had a drink yet today, but I’m no longer holding myself to not drinking. I decided to take a break from drinking because I realized that my “I smoke when I drink” line had ceased to mean that I don’t smoke that often and had started to mean I drink a lot to accompany the cigarettes I want. It had become hard for me to have a drink without a cigarette. So really, I took the month off to stop smoking. I was surprised by what I learned.
I had to get some blood work done this morning at my doctor’s office. I was struck, as I always am when I submit my body for testing, of the sense in which the body is treated as a confession by the medical establishment. I am always nervous about this process because I fear what truths my body will tell. I fear that I cannot hide my bad habits as they might show up in my body. I am reminded of a police procedural, maybe it is the CSI series, where it seemed like in almost every episode someone would say, “The truth is in the body.”
This week I was also having a conversation about the status of the body in Black Mirror, specifically in some of the episodes that produce cookies out of human DNA, which is to say, the DNA becomes digitalized in ways that produce a person in the virtual digital world. What strikes me about the cookies is that they are independent even though the person controlling the system can change the bodies of the cookies (as in USS Callister) and cause them great pain (White Christmas, Black Museum, Playtest). It seems to me that even in the digital world, the truth seems to be in the body. That is, the fact that the body suffers is a report on the conditions. The body is taken as material that exhibits a truth about the situation. Read more
In Aristotle’s account of how a person becomes virtuous, he argues that a virtuous action is done in the way a virtuous person would do it. This account often appears circular to those who first encounter it, but I would suggest it is less circular than spiral. The person who aspires to virtue looks to the person further around the spiral who is already virtuous in order to consider how to be virtuous. By looking at the virtuous person as the model, they become a virtuous model themselves for the next person. Some readers of Plato argue that Plato presents a view of goodness as imitation. One becomes virtuous by participating in, which is to say, imitating the Forms of virtue, of Justice, of Courage, of Wisdom.
On Aristotle’s account, the virtuous person serves as a model for how the apprentice virtuous person should be, but that model is fundamentally about learning to make the judgment in a virtuous way out of their own character. The judgment in the process shifts from, what would that person do to what would I do. A person has become the phronimos, or the one of good judgment, when they are able to make their own judgments without a model, that is, when they become a model, not by having replicated the previous model, but by uniquely being able to determine what the bulls’ eye of virtuous living would be. Read more
I have long been involved in two forms of exercise that really don’t take that much equipment. Running and yoga. Running requires a good pair of shoes. I should probably replace my shoes more often. I buy the top of the line shoes, but I almost always only have one pair of running shoes that I’m using at a time. Yoga requires a mat, a towel, a bottle for water and some running pants and a sports bra. I have three yoga mats, actually two are my husband’s that I have commandeered. I use my old bath towels for yoga towels in addition to one YogiTowel that I got with my annual membership deal at the studio. I don’t actually like it much better than the bath towels. I’m happy to wear my running tights some of which have holes in them to yoga class. I don’t really care how I look in class–it’s hot and sweaty and no one looks good. Running, same.
I particularly like running because nothing needs to be bought to do it well. My yoga studio on the other hand can sometimes seem like a pusher of yoga gear. I did a little research and learned that it is common business plan for yoga studios to have good deals for yogis to attend class and to make most of their money on overpriced yoga gear. I don’t really begrudge them the effort, but I only buy things when they are on 75% discount, and rarely even then. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile–there’s always a little “here’s the sale going on” bit at the end of class that detracts from the spirit of the class. I try to just meditate through it. Read more
Today is my one year anniversary of hot yoga–vinyasa and Bikram–in Indianapolis. Today I will have attended 176 classes in the last year for a total of more than 250 hours in the hot yoga studio.
I went back and read what I wrote about it in the first month of my renewed hot yoga practice (here and here and here and here last year (four times in my introductory month and then nothing about yoga all year). In the post where I first mention it (at the end of this post), I compare hot yoga unfavorably to cold running.
With this return to hot yoga in the context of a cold running routine, I’m not nearly as excited by the heat as I used to be. It’s great. I like the sweat. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I did real hot yoga. Maybe it is because this studio is really not messing around about the heat. Maybe the heat just makes you think about cold. Maybe it’s because after a cold run my lungs feel bigger, like all the cold air rushed in and hasn’t left, while hot yoga makes me feel like I am never quite getting enough air. Instead of feeling like a respite from the cold, the hot yoga has me missing cold runs.
Things changed. Here I am now, in the middle of a deep freeze winter, happily attending hot yoga every day, getting plenty of air in the hot yoga studio instead of running in the cold. I have run some outside this winter, but it’s been 6 degrees out there for the last week, and I think that is below my threshold. Read more
This post could have been called, “And then they came for me.” My employer is self-insuring and has experienced recent spikes in health care costs. Several years ago, employees saw their premiums rise considerably and last year they rose even higher. To respond to employee frustration with these increased costs that employees were asked to shoulder, my employer has now begun to offer high deductible health plans (HDHPs). HDHPs offer free preventative care, but everything else for the first $6000 or so (plans vary) must be paid out of pocket, negotiated at the insurance company’s rate, by the patient. After that, patients are responsible for 20% of costs. Alongside the HDHP, patients can set up a Health Savings Account (HSA). Patients can place a pre-tax portion of their paycheck into the HSA and draw on it through a card, like a flexpay account, but this account rolls over year to year. My employer is putting some money each year in each person’s HSA who chooses to take it. At this time, employees still have the option of taking the high premium regular insurance.
I have signed up for the HDHP and an HSA. The HSA is managed by a third party company, Employee Benefits Corporation who is paid by my employer to manage the HSA. Several days ago I received an email from Employee Benefits Corporation. The first line read, “Congratulations, this is your important first step to becoming a better healthcare consumer!”
From what I have described you can see how the HDHP and the HSA are meant to encourage patients to think of their health care as consumers and not as patients. This plan is how Republicans want to address health insurance coverage. Such a plan supposes that patients should think of health care as consumers who have to make wise chooses about how to use their money. I already started thinking like that in the transition to the HDHP. In December, I had a test done that I probably would have waited on and maybe never had done if I would have had them covered in the New Year, but I knew that I wouldn’t have coverage in the New Year. I also got a prescription filled early in order to get it filled under the previous health insurance coverage. Read more
The strange algorithms of Facebook brought Sam B’s post from several years ago–“Am I really lapping people on the couch?”–to my feed last week. People like to talk about their athletic efforts and workout regimes in terms of how they are doing better than other people. At the yoga studio where I practice they regularly say at the end of class, “You did more in the last hour than most people will do this entire day.” This sentiment suggests that I did something worthwhile because it was better than what other people are doing.
But I hesitate to just blame my fellow athletes for thinking about our physical efforts in this way. This way of thinking is exercising under neoliberalism. If liberalism underwrites capitalism through the idea that individuals bear responsibility for their position in the world and private property requires the protection of the government, resistance to liberalism came from workers organizing for their rights against the ownership class. Neoliberalism demands that workers be considered as individuals, not as a collective with shared interests. If labor opposed capital under liberalism by arguing that labor is the source of wealth production, under neoliberalism workers themselves are viewed as human capital, and as human capital, of being responsible for their own precarious situation that being workers puts them in. As human capital, the workers bear their own risks. Under liberalism, workers could demand that working conditions be improved to protect them because they argued that their well-being was necessary for wealth production. Under neoliberalism, workers are made responsible for the conditions. Read more
Over the last six weeks, I’ve been on the medical check-up tour. I visited my general practitioner’s office, my gynecologist, my eye doctor and my dermatologist. I’ve given my family medical history many times. In the last visit, at the dermatologist, I realized when I had to check none of the boxes they were concerned with, that family-wise, I was in pretty good health standing. On the contemporary view of American politics, this situation should make me shrug my shoulders at H.B. 1313, which passed out of committee late last week, which would allow employers to penalize employees who decline genetic testing. While such testing might lead to higher insurance rates for employees who have certain genetic dispositions for illness, people like me might have little reason to refuse such testing (except that it’s a gross invasion of privacy). Read more
I'm Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I work on ancient Greek--mainly Plato and Aristotle--and contemporary European philosophy inflected by social and political concerns. I'm particularly interested in the concept of nature and how historically nature, understood in relation to its apparent opposite of reason, nature, and artifice, has led to conceptions of community that require a founding exclusion. My first book argues that Aristotle's Politicsdraws on a conception of nature that is not opposed to these things and thus not exclusive. My second book considers Aristotle's conception of nature in his account of generation to show the ways that form and matter seem interdependent in the model of a Möbius strip.
I am serious about running. I care about justice, feminism, opposing racism and resisting neoliberalism. I think Socrates was on to something when he suggested thinking was a practice of living. I teach students to think--and to live. I delight in the pleasures of doing the difficult thing.