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What Fitness Tells Us About Conservatism’s Appeal

Eliminate the politics and nearly everyone idealizes conservative principles without realizing it. Consider the world of sport and fitness.


Eliminate the politics and nearly everyone of any partisan stripe idealizes conservative principles without realizing it.

How? Consider the world of sport and fitness. It’s nearly always a fantastic encouragement of individual expression and ability while also promoting a positive community at large. Those hard working, disciplined, don’t-give-up mantras have become more prominent in the last few years as America’s athletic personality has swelled with amateurs.

Mentally tough and intuitively conservative-minded concepts of hard work and personal responsibility accompany these ventures.

Getting in shape isn’t just a chore — it’s morphed into some serious lifestyle trends. Since 2005, the number of people running marathons has nearly doubled for women and increased by 50% for men. From 2012 to 2013, participation in the CrossFit community has nearly doubled as well. Boutique fitness studios like Soulcycle, Solidcore and Barre have popped up on every street corner — and classes like Zumba & Barry’s Boot Camp fill many a Saturday morning calendar date.

Famous, inspirational quotes adorn many t-shirts, Pinterest boards and Facebook walls as people gear up for races or adventure-seeking treks up their own personal mountains. While the number of Americans participating in non-traditional sport may have increased as of late, these disciplined, dream big principles have always been present in the fitness world.

A few quotes to jog your memory:

  • “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
  • “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games, 26 times. I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan
  • “Nothing will work unless you do.” — John Wooden
  • “Success isn’t given, it’s earned. On the track, on the field, in the gym, with blood, sweat and the occasional tear.” — Nike

These are concepts grasped by most when applied to finishing a race or losing weight but there is often a disconnect when it comes to other parts of life. Is it possible for these “can do” mentalities to soak into the solutions we find in so many aspects of American culture? In truth personal responsibility, discipline and hard work are the lifeblood of nearly all success. Their emphasis is sorely needed.

Success is individualized both in life and in sport. This is highlighted in running by the personal record (PR) that individuals strive for when they train for a race. You may never win a marathon but if you attain a PR, you’ve still won.

And consider the discipline it requires to improve yourself – crack-of-dawn wake up calls, ice baths, hours in the gym, proper nutrition, sleep and sacrifice. As many a runner will tell you, a race is not won on race day but in the hours and months invested before you step onto the track. Such wisdom is true in every endeavor we choose to take on.

Similarly, Crossfit provides a structure with their prescribed Workout of Day (WOD) but most layman participants scale the workout to their personal abilities in weight, reps and skill. No excuses prevail for lack of participation – everyone does their part and attains their own measure of success.

Additionally, Crossfit promotes accountability by asking athletes to submit their daily scores on the whiteboard for the class to see, and save their latest lifts and workout attainments in a notebook in order to measure improvement and continue the trek towards being better, faster and stronger.

Even in activities like Zumba and yoga that don’t promote PR’s or weightlifting goals, the prevailing attitude to eliminate excuses and own your success with preparation and practice is stronger than ever.

Why not promote these ideas more prominently toward individuals in other parts of life? When government-centric solutions promise to deliver the goods with minimal effort on the part of the recipient, it takes away the opportunity for some that hard work, goal attainment and self-respect would offer. Government is necessary in many cases – a safety net for those in need – but when a net traps instead of saves, something has gone desperately wrong.

The human stories we love are usually those of character, humility and discipline. They are about people who have overcome despite the obstacles in their lives, who recognized they would miss 100% of the shots they never took.

Your “gold medal” may not be earned at the Olympics or on a race course at all. But if you apply the conservative principles found in the discipline of sport to other areas in life, your opportunities will have limitless potential.