Stanford’s Fitness Culture

Zack Warma wrote an interesting column for the Daily today “Father’s Weakness is Vanity. Hence the slut.” (I am not quite sure exactly how the title pertained to the article). He discusses Stanford students’ obsession with working out, noting how all of the treadmills at the gym are taken at 12:30 AM. He remarks that

Our obsession with working out is in some way intimately connected to an acutely refined self-consciousness that is both a byproduct of our time at Stanford as well as a trait may of us carry into the beginning of freshman year.

Warma has a really good point. But I would also add that Stanford students suffer from an acute sense of perfectionism and insecurity. Most of us students here want to be perfect, and that includes having the perfect body. Additionally, since we’re surrounded by world class athletes, many of us non-world class athletes can feel insecure with our bodies.

Working out is a healthy habit, and cultivating a strong, fit physique is a worthy endeavor. The problem, however, is that some students take this endeavor to extremes. If students aren’t training for a particular athletic event (e.g. race, triathlon) and are working out just for physical health benefits and mental well-being, then there’s no reason to spend more than 45 minutes doing cardio. For the past few years, I’ve been frequenting the gym in the morning about 3-4 times a week. I see the same girls (with toothpick legs and arms) hammering away at the elliptical for over an hour. Then they go do crunches (rarely do they lift weights, probably because they’re afraid of bulking up).  This obsessive habit of some girls (and they’re usually the ones on the elliptical, so it’s safe to say they’re not training for an athletic event) seem to be unhealthy. I’m not sure what the school can do about it other than making students more aware of the negative physical and mental effects of overtraining. However, I feel that the obsession with working out is merely one more symptom of the Stanford duck syndrome.

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