The Human Body

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The human body is absolutely fascinating: a beautiful, complex, resilient machine.  From the macroscopic level of the heart – pumping 60-100 times per minute, every minute, often for decades on end – to the microscopic level of the immune system – constantly fighting off invaders we don’t even know we have, the more I learn of the intricacy and efficiency of the body the more amazed I become.  But what exactly is the meaning and purpose of the human body?  What is our relationship with this body, and how does it change over a lifetime?  As we prepare to intervene when the body is not working optimally, caring for individuals who may soon part ways with their bodies, these are the types of questions we have been pondering as medical students in our most recent Foundations of Medicine block, “The Call of the Body.”

As captivating as the human body may be, there is nothing like anatomy lab to remind you of its fragility.  At 8 am every Monday morning, those oh-so-fascinating bodies, sprawled out on stainless steel tables and ready for their insides to be cut and poked and prodded, gently remind me that there will come a day when I will no longer inhabit my own.  Though we often allow our bodies to define who we are, this weekly scene demands us to recognize that in fact our bodies are just the temporary vehicles through which we experience life.

As such vehicles, every unique body allows for a unique experience of life.  The body presents challenges to each individual in a way that is often neither fair nor pleasant.  These challenges range from nuisance to life-threatening, from a broken leg to blindness to cancer.  Though it may be easier to see the body as burdensome in these cases, it is in accepting these challenges we cannot control and learning to use one’s own original body to experience life that we find fulfillment and continue to inch toward our maximum potential.  For the person with a broken leg this may mean navigating daily life with crutches for a few weeks, for the person with blindness this may mean learning Braille, and for the person with cancer this may mean continuing to learn and love with friends and family between treatments while fighting for his or her life.

Through CrossFit, we recognize the necessity of meeting life’s challenges head-on.  We refuse to take the easy way out, as comfortable as it may be.  Not only do we learn to live our lives with the challenges our bodies present, but we actively seek out new challenges for our bodies to overcome every day. In the box, the uniqueness of the body becomes even more apparent as every individual has his or her own limitations – poor shoulder mobility, low cardiovascular endurance, a stiff knee.  We realize the importance of attending to our own personal weaknesses so that we might use our bodies more efficiently as we continue to challenge them in new ways.  More important than the time on the clock or the weight on the barbell is the fact that we are constantly expanding the unique limits of our own bodies.  Using the vehicles that are our bodies in such a way allows us to grow stronger in mind as well, so that we may develop the fortitude to handle all of life’s challenges, large or small.  After all, the body is just a temporary vehicle, but  the person, and how that person chooses to live through his or her body- choosing to succumb to life’s challenges or overcome them, lives much longer.

 “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” – Nietzsche

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  • Holly Arrow

    Enjoyed this, thanks! And the video gave me new motivation to work on my wall balls (not my favorite) — I think his form is better than mine…

  • http://gravatar.com/powellperng Powell Perng

    Great blog julie! I really like your writing style as well. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for new posts – each of these is personal-statement worthy!

    • http://juliefoucher.wordpress.com juliefoucher

      Thanks Powell, good to hear from you! Hope everything is going well in Africa. I am following your blog as well, hoping to pick up some new vocab so keep it coming :)

  • G8rDave

    That is a man who truly has every excuse in the world available and we’d all empathize…what astounding courage and refusal to accept pity. Our bodies? Mere chemical processing plants that respond to whatever we dump into them and do to them. Like sharks…highly evolved machines at the top of the pyramid. It is what we choose to do with them, for ourselves and more importantly, together, for others, that gives us the purpose, the fulfillment of the potential that God imputed to us.In CF, we share, publicly, our weakness. There is no shame in it as long as we are dedicated to relentlessly reducing that weakness…sometimes to no apparent measurable gain except that we keep striving to better it. We share our strengths too, in encouragement, in caring merely for what a fellow athlete is trying to do. Celeste hitting her first 30-inch box jump yesterday…after how many failures? After she said to me “There’s no way…” And I was as excited as she was as she stood on top of that box. Oh well…great post, Jules. I check daily hoping for more insights from an admirable person. The comments are great too.

  • Cary

    “We realize the importance of attending to our own personal weaknesses so that we might use our bodies more efficiently as we continue to challenge them in new ways.” I couldn’t have said this any better. Great article, Julie!! Thank you!

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  • Roger Cantor

    Julie,

    Watching you this past weekend was nothing short of amazing. Your efficientcy and power is remarkable.

    I read thru your blogs here tonight and found them not only to be well written but thought provoking. To work within yourself to be the best you can be and more importantly to accept the things you can not change and to change the things you can’t accept.

    Best to you and your journeys.

  • http://all3100.wordpress.com nickkala

    Well written! The human body is an amazing system. I am eight weeks out of an ACL reconstruction surgery and its been challenging both mentally and physically, simply not having the luxury of running up a mountain (like Camp Pendleton) or playing in the ocean! CrossFit has inspired me in many ways to push hard but practical during my rehab.recovery. Thank you for the post.

  • Josh

    Julie! Saw the 2011 replays on ESPN 2 today and came home and found your website. I enjoy your blog posts. My undergrad was in Sports and Leisure Studies at Ohio State and I remember being in constant awe of the human body during my kinesiology classes and others. This post inspired me to suggest to you the writings of John Paul II called The Theology of the Body. I think you would find in them further fascinating thoughts of the connection of our bodies, souls, and the Creator of both. Keep up the great work! Josh Cordonnier, LPC