Exercise and Fitness: What are they?

Begin with the End in Mind

Many people go to the gym without and move around without a particular end in mind.

This is okay if you’re only trying to enjoy yourself or meet people (a common event at gyms).

Toward a Definition of Fitness and Exercise

But, if you want to become fit, then you have to know what fitness is. Lon Kilgore says that to be fit one must have:

“Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.”1

What this means is that fitness is relative to the needs of the individual, but objective precisely because one’s optimal fitness is not actualized if they experience unnecessary struggle in work, fun, and family.

So much for fitness, but what is exercise? Exercise can be defined as training undertaken for the purpose of obtaining and maintaining fitness. For instance, sport training is not designed for fitness per se, as one can be fit without being good at a sport. And one can be pretty good at a sport while still being incredibly unhealthy otherwise.

Now that you have a definition of fitness, I suggest that you make a plan to achieve it. Any good exercise plan should make provision for improving or maintaining:

  1. Strength
    Include some form of resistance training with weights, bands, and/or calisthenics. Also, certain explosive activities like sprinting and jumping have utility here, but they do come with an increased safety risk.
  2. Endurance
    Endurance exists at several levels. For instance, if you can dead lift 350 pounds, then your endurance for light weight lifting is probably quite remarkable. Cardiovascular endurance is another level, but it is important to remember that while general physical fitness is real, activities still improve in specific ways.
  3. Mobility
    Mobility can be enhanced by stretching, running, walking, lifting weights through a full range of motion, jumping, etc.

References

1 Kilgore, Hartman, and Lascek, Fit: An Unconventional Guide to using conventional methods for creating fitness for the real world (Killustrated, 2011), 5.

Overcome Writer’s Block: The Common Topics

Writer’s Block
You’ve had it, I’ve had it. It’s not pleasant.

As far as I can tell, there four reasons for writer’s block:

  1. Trying to sound profound (This is part of the game in fiction and poetry.)
  2. Poor research
  3. An inability to make an argument
  4. Nothing to actually say
  5. Bonus Reason Five: You’re just procrastinating.

I have very little to say to help poets and fiction authors to overcome writer’s block. What I will say is this: Write about something else. Literally just write a narrative or a poem about something entirely unrelated to the project that has left you stumped. Write a narrative about your trip to the bank or a rhyme about your wait in the grocery line. That helps me come up with sermon illustrations and illustrations for speeches on engineering topics as well.

The big question is this. What can people who are writing term papers, essays, sermons, and persuasive speeches do to overcome writer’s block?

I introduce to you: The Common Methods of Argumentation

The traditional term for this typology of argumentation is “The Common Topics.” They received this name because they represented the forms of argument that could be utilized in any form of persuasion whereas some arguments (like mathematical proofs) are only specific to their field. But it’s important to note that the list below includes argument forms that function on the level of persuasion as well as on the level of discovering the truth. I pulled most of it from Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (Corbett and Connors), but some of it is from more modern rhetorical experts, and the list itself is based on Aristotle’s work. Here are the common forms of argument (common topics):

  1. Definition – Arguments are frequently as effective as the definitions of terms allow. And so to define a term is to control the conversation, or at least to narrow it.

    • Genus – To define an item by its genus is to describe what is essential to its nature. “Computers are devices that can be programmed to perform human inputted calculations at inhumanly fast speeds.”
    • Speciation – This is to define something by how it differs from others in its class. “A laptop is a portable computer that sits in your lap.”
    • Division – This is defining something by describing its parts or by explaining what fits within it. “A computer refers to a calculator, a smart phone, a desk top, a main frame, etc.” Or “A computer consists of a cpu, input, output, a power supply, and software.” 
    • The Reframe –
  2. Comparison
    • Similarity
    • Difference
    • Degree
  3. Relationship
    • Cause and effect
    • Antecedent and Consequent
    • Contraries
    • Subcontraries
    • Contradictories
    • Implication
  4. Circumstance
    • Possible and Impossible
    • Past Fact and Future Fact
  5. Testimony
    • Authority
    • Testimonial
    • Statistics
    • Maxims
    • Laws
    • Precedents
  6. Personal
    • Reciprocity
    • Halo Effect
    • The Neg
    • Social Proof
    • Scarcity
    • Charisma

Uses of the Common Topics:

  1. Research Tools:
    When you’re doing research look for these types of support in relationship to your thesis statement, topic sentence, or rhetorical purpose. Find definitions that frame the paper in the direction you want it to go. Look for research that determines relationships, find testimonials and statistics about your topic, look for old quotes that seem to carry handed down truths, and try to determine logical relationships (possible/impossible). If you find enough evidence to establish deductive certainty or a high probability that a position is correct, then you are not only closer to that elusive truth you wish to grasp, but you are also ready to write a paper!
  2. Persuasive Tools:
    If you know your audience, then you can determine which types of arguments will most convince them. For instance, personal testimonials work really well for people who want to experience personal transformation, whereas statistics and maxims do not seem to work very well. In a courtroom testimony, by way of example, is a very common form of argument. One tactic that I’ve witnessed work on a jury is utilizing audience sympathy for a party who, on the evidence presented, did not seem guilty. But when admissible evidence remained scarce, an appeal to pity worked very well.
  3. Reading Tools:
    When you read a book and wonder, “How is the author actually making this point?” The common topics give you the tools. If the author makes the point without using them, then the point is not being made well or you’re not reading carefully enough.
  4. Mindset Tools:
    The common topics give you mindset tools that help you be confident and humble when giving a speech and answering questions. You can say things because you have good evidence and feel confident and courageous in the process. But, because you know why you accept an idea, you can also be humble because other people might have good reasons for rejecting the idea. Knowing the common topics and how to use them can arm you for more confident and humble conversation. Knowing the common topics can also guard you against smooth operators who make claims with no support or spouts profundities with no apparent meaning.

Conclusion
The Common Topics are quintessential for any liberal arts education. Really, they matter for engineers and scientists. One has to consider whether or not the evidence in favor of a proposition of any type is compelling and which lines of it are most convincing to a particular audience.

AppendixThe Specific Topics

  1. Deliberative (speeches meant to call people to action)
    1. Inherent Worth
    2. Utility
  2. Forensic (speeches meant to convince people of the truth of a proposition concerning past fact)
    1. Evidence (whether something happened)
    2. Definition (what is the nature of the thing)
    3. Motives/Causes (qualities and circumstances)
  3. Ceremonial (speeches celebrating people, virtues, institutions, and so-on)
    1. Virtues and Vices
    2. Personal Assets and Achievements

Works Cited

Corbett, Edward P.J, and Robert J Connors. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.