When we as a culture talk about fitness and health, we usually do so in terms of appearance or longevity or even athletic ability. We talk about doing thirty minutes of cardio or resistance training. I know that I often talk about building muscle and being able to run longer and faster.
These are all good things, obviously, and worth our effort and attention. But this morning, I had the opportunity to watch the most remarkable candid video, and it caused me to consider something even more elemental, more basic to the pursuit of fitness and health. Something that I would argue is the very point of it all.
Earlier this week, a traffic crash took place near Utah State University, in Logan, Utah:
Police said the BMW pulled out of a parking lot and in front of [motorcyclist Brandon] Wright. Curtis said the motorcyclist tried to avoid the car, which resulted in him laying the motorcycle down.
After crashing, gas spilled out of the motorcycle and ignited, engulfing both the motorcycle and the front end of the car in flames, Curtis said. The motorcyclist became lodged underneath the burning vehicle.
What happened next was caught on video. I can’t seem to embed the video (wtf, WordPress? CNN?) but if you go to the link above, you’ll be able to watch it. If you are unable to watch it, here’s a quick description:
After one person in the group tried to pick up the blazing car, the crowd joined in and were somehow able to lift the 4,000-pound vehicle.
One of the bystanders drags the fallen motorcyclist’s limp body from under the vehicle.
It’s pretty awesome to see a group of people coming to the aid of a complete stranger. In a time when the political rhetoric is such that caring for one’s neighbor seems less like a value worth pursuing and more like a relic of times past, it’s good to get a reminder that the majority of people really do give a shit about what happens to one another.
But what struck me was the presence of a young woman in the crowd. She didn’t hang back and watch with her hands clasped in front of her. Instead, she jumped right in, trying to help lift the car off the motorcyclist and lying flat on her stomach to get a view of the man underneath, then getting back on her feet and pushing the car until the group was able to successfully lift it and pull the man out from beneath the car. She did not hesitate, not even for a second.
I’m not a betting woman, but I’d be willing to wager that woman is physically active. Maybe she plays sports or she does a bootcamp or she takes a Pilates class. I don’t know. All I know is that confidence in her body and her physical abilities is tightly woven into the tapestry of her self-image. She sees herself as physically competent and powerful. She doesn’t recite it as a mantra in hopes of one day actually believing it. She actually believes it.
She did not hesitate.
It’s awesome to be able to do push-ups and to be able to run and to lift heavy things and to skate around really fast and to have a wicked ground game on the ball court. I don’t mean to diminish these things as unimportant, because they are not.
But really, the most important thing about all of this is that it gives us the faith in ourselves and the strength of our bodies that is necessary when we are faced with challenges like this. Most of us will never be called upon to help pull a motorcyclist out from beneath a burning car, or to dive into a retention pond to rescue a lady trapped in her car, or to lift a van off our child’s body.
Most likely our challenges will be more mundane, like walking through unfamiliar streets at night and tending to loved ones who are sick or disabled or the day-to-day tasks of managing a household. These are far less cinematic but they demand just as much of our bodies and our minds as a daring rescue. The question is, do we believe we have what it takes to rise to these challenges?
In the end, this is what it’s all about. It’s about believing in your body and yourself as capable of action and strength, and not just believing it, but knowing it.