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Level Up: Fitness and the Superhero


The other night, the family and I watched a neat “documentary” on Netflix called 1 of 1: Genesis.  The result of a collaboration between the unlikely partners of Marvel and ESPN, it’s all about the comparisons between superheroes and star athletes.

First, let me say that I do think the term “hero” being used to describe athletes is more than a little irksome.  There’s no such thing as “late game heroics” because, frankly, there’s no bravery required to play a game where the worst you’re likely to get is an injury.

That said, Genesis was a fascinating work that did a great job of comparing star athletes like Cal Ripkin, Jr., Brandy Chastain, Danica Patrick, Tim Howard, Carmello Anthony, and others to characters like Spider-Man, Ironman, the Hulk, and their brethren in the Marvel universe.

However, while watching it, I found my motivation for the gym ramped up a few dozen notches.

You see, the comparisons weren’t just about the fact that superheroes look like the star athletes of their day, but about the drive and determination, the overcoming of adversity, the essence of what makes superheroes stand out.  It’s also what makes elite athletes stand out as well.

When you walk into the gym, the chances are pretty good that you’re not thinking of yourself as an athlete.  The thing is, you’re sure as hell training like one.  You are an athlete.

While watching the documentary, I was struck with my own comparisons.


I want this.  I want to be stronger and healthier.  The only time I took off from the gym was when I was moving, and then I was picking up big, heavy crap in a different setting.  Even then, I felt awful, like I was cheating myself.  I knew what I wanted, and I didn’t believe what I was doing was designed to get me there.

Overcoming Adversity

If you’ve followed this column, you’ve heard about some of my adversity.  Low blood sugar causing me to crash and pass out on the gym floor, pulling a muscle in my abdomen, both conspired to keep me out of the gym.

I was back every. Single. Time.


Now, I’m not saying I’m a superhero, and there was a lot more to the comparisons than just that, but I want you guys to go check out the film.  Watch it and then look at your own journey.  Imagine it as your own superhero origin story.  Use it when you don’t feel like hitting the gym, or when you don’t feel like doing laps in the pool.  Embrace it, make it your own.

The truth is, as geeks, our motivations might just tend to be a little “odd” compared to some of our gym companions.  We’re far more likely to look at a bench press as a great tool to help us slay a dragon, rather than to get girls at the beach.  Yeah, we’re weird, but we’re our kind of weird.

But then again, are we really that weird?  Think about the guys at the gym with Colossus or Wolverine on their shirts, or with a Punisher skull tattoo.  Perhaps they’re among our numbers too?

More importantly, however, is that we remember that we’re athletes too.  We deserve to be there, and we owe it to ourselves to push ourselves as hard as we can.  Even if we’re not going to be battling the forces of evil, we will still have our battles to fight.

Plus, what’s wrong with wanting to look good while doing it?

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