Written by Mila
Design & illustration by Eros Dervishi
Stress is on the rise, and so too are feelings of resentment, depression and worries about the future. To help us “cope” with our state, health gurus try to convince us that it’s all in our head – stress, we’re told, is simply an emotion that we need to suppress or will away through curated thoughts and applied mindfulness.
Yet we feel stress every day, and not just as an emotion but also physically: as fatigue, pain, and inflammation. The conditions of our hellworld are set up to hold us in this state – driving in large killing machines across the city, we spend our days slaving away, only to return home exhausted and still drowning under the weight of financial responsibilities. Stress is not just “in our heads,” it’s real and this chronic underlying state of perpetual stress makes us feel like we’re headed towards death without ever having lived.
Maybe the worst part, however, is how this distortion of stress robs us of the physiological advantages that stress, paired with rest, help to develop: making us stronger, protecting us against real threats, and most importantly, letting us experience life, including its most dangerous and exhilarating dimensions. In this sense, it’s wrong to say that fitness training is a way to eliminate stress. Instead, we might argue that strength and conditioning offer us a way to truly begin to inhabit our own bodies, curtailing the excess of stress forced on us by hellworld and mobilizing the remainder in a way that we have some marginal control over. This fitness guide is a practical contribution to the discussion of how to do this and, in the process, how to inhabit our bodies and build our collective capacity to become stronger.
Written for insurgents, this guide is a starting point for the beginner but may also be helpful for the seasoned gym-goers and even athletes. These are methods that I have seen practiced everywhere from high levels of sports to overworked patients experiencing chronic pain. It is not meant to make you an elite athlete, but rather to help you become stronger and more confident in your body and the environment around you. Obviously, building basic physical capacities is also helpful when order begins to break down and we once again meet each other in the street. But this isn’t a field book for training those antifa supersoldiers we’ve all heard so much about. It’s a sort of minimum program, aimed at constructing a base of physical power from which you can build.
Although hellworld keeps us from knowing our physical potential and the world to come is too much of an unknown to be able to properly prepare, we still have the ability to win small battles within ourselves and among the people around us. If we invest in collective gym spaces, we create a place to learn about ourselves, meet one another, and begin to reclaim our bodies together. To become our strongest, we need people to be there with us, to support us, motivate us and offer constructive feedback. Emotional strength helps to build physical strength, and vice versa. Our individual and collective strength will largely depend on each other.
Ultimately, through the process of experimentation with our breath and movement, we become better equipped to handle new challenges, uncertainty, and chaos. And when we add physical strength to an already solid structure, our bodies become more capable weapons on the road to becoming ungovernable.
Update: Print-friendly version available here.