Health and Strength

As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, one of the new topics I’m excited to start tackling on the site is one of health and strength. Obviously the concepts aren’t new to me and shouldn’t be new to anyone, but my revived focus on it is. For now, the plan is to do a health-related article as the first post of each month. The reasons for this are two-fold. One, this is still a style blog, and – while a physical aesthetic is something that is an important factor in a man’s style and being strong and capable is an inherent part of masculinity – there are other blogs more focused on this particular topic. Two, I’m no expert in this field and will be writing more from the perspective of learning as I go rather than teaching. I’ll get more into my own history with diet and exercise in next month’s post. Today I want to focus on why it even matters.

The link above will take you to a guest post from a few months back about how a man’s style is affected by his physicality. I agree with all of Manny’s points and still stand by that article. However, the purpose of both health and style is to enhance a man’s life. If either of those, or really any other niche focus, becomes the primary reason a man gets out of bed in the morning, it’s time to do some reevaluation.

Elk Fighting

So I want to start this post off with a question. It’s one I’ve asked myself and I’ve only been able to come up with one answer.

How many men do you know who are both intellectually and physically trained and formidable?

I don’t mean men who you chat with online or are aware of. I mean, how many men do you interact with, face to face, on a regular basis, who fit that qualification?

I asked my wife that question the other day while we were driving and we had a hard time coming up with more than one answer. I know plenty of men who are intelligent – one or two standard deviations above the average IQ. They’re ambitious and are able to shape the world around them by influencing men and women. However, some are overweight, others are frail, and others are skinny fat. Most of my associates who are men of intelligence are either at or below average when it comes to their physical ability and have declined from what they were as teenagers.

To the opposite effect, I know a few men who are great examples of strength. They are dedicated in the gym and the kitchen and their bodies reflect that from both a capability and aesthetic standpoint. Many of them are even very smart. They’ve graduated college, have decent jobs, and could spout off obscure facts about macronutrients and how the body works. However, none of them have dedicated the same amount of time to building their minds as they have to building their bodies. They don’t read as often as they work out. They don’t ask the question “why” very often, and they don’t take as much pride in their minds as they do in their bodies.

After looking at all of those factors, my wife and I came up with my friend Gary. I’ve known him for ten years now and when we first met he was as chubby and soft as they got. He also was naturally intelligent and capable, but – like me – was young enough that building intelligence was a more formal pursuit than personal one. He’s now one of the deepest thinkers I know and has the strength and build that most men envy and most women admire.

That’s it though, of the hundreds of people with whom I’m in contact, only one had vigorously pursued growth in both the physical and intellectual realms. I don’t even fall into that category. I’ve been skinny fat myself for the last ten years. I’ve always prided myself much more on my intelligence than my physical capability.

I believe that the current state of the West sees most men feel that one value is inherently more important than the other. It’s why we see sniveling intellectuals who will call any sense of traditional masculinity archaic, outdated, and misogynistic. It’s also why we see thundering meat heads who are unable to control their temper and emotions and believe the answer to every slight is a physical altercation.

Whether it’s an intended or unintended consequence, I believe this is a direct result of the modern malignment of masculinity. Men who are truly formidable and followable are those who seek to improve and perfect themselves in all arenas of their lives. When a culture creates a polarity of manliness and pits the two camps against each other, it’s a way to keep them constantly fighting amongst themselves and prevent them from becoming threats to the status quo.

A well-rounded man is one who isn’t intimidated by the slyest snakes or the most brutish beasts. He has learned to handle himself in all arenas and is free to shape his own life.

Both intelligence and strength are naturally a part of who we are as men. Both are tools by which we can shape the world and conquer nature. Both are means to accomplishing, conquering, providing, and improving.

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training

Socrates was obviously known for who he was as a philosopher, not as an athlete. However, men of the past understood the connection between mind, body, and spirit and worked to improve all three. All major religions have had a focus on what’s good for the body, along with what’s good for the mind and the soul. If we choose to build one to the neglect of the other, we’re cutting ourselves off at the knees.

This is obviously something I’ve been guilty of and I’ve repented. My goal is to be a man who comes to mind immediately when someone asks about knowing a man who is both strong and intelligent. I have a long way to go, but I’ve been encouraged by the progress I’ve made.

To that end, I’m going to finish off this post with a little poll. While I’m no specimen of peak physicality, I am making improvements – both in how my body looks and what it is capable of doing. If you want, I’m willing to post progress photos and update stats as part of the first newsletter I send out each month. You’ll have to subscribe and I’ll have to get enough people who want to see this progress. So please respond to the poll below.

[poll id=”2″]

If I can get 200 responses in the affirmative by midnight on March 1st, I’ll include that info in the upcoming newsletters. If not, then you’re all lucky you won’t have to see my furry chest each month.

Meet The Author


Tanner is the founder and primary author of Masculine Style. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and two kids, and helps run Beckett & Robb - a men's clothing company built around custom suits and shirts.
  • Brian

    To some extent, I think these goals are mutually exclusive. If you are spending time in the gym (which includes time commuting to and from the gym, showering, changing, researching exercises, buying protein, etc.), you can’t devote the amount of time you need to your intellectual growth, and vice versa. Of course, some of both is possible, but there is some give and take as well.

    I also think that a lot of a man’s success in the physical or intellectual arena has to do more with his priorities than his work ethic or time management. The men who excel at intellectual pursuits get much more a rush when they succeed in intellectual world than in the physical, and vice-versa for men who excel in the physical world. While that sort of goes without saying, I bring it up to make the point that it is far more difficult to change your priorities than it is to change your actions. Going to the gym every day or spending an hour reading is going to feel like a huge burden if you aren’t naturally inclined towards either one of those.

    However, I think the most important step towards changing your priorities is realizing the value in what you previous didn’t prioritize. And in this sense, this post is spot on, because it points out how important it is for a man to maintain both his intellectual and physical heath – one of which we all neglect to some extent.

    Great post.

    One comment about the poll Tanner: I think this blog has a great scope, and that posts like these do fall within it, even if they are on the outskirts. However, I think by posting physical fitness progress pictures, you will start to spread yourself too thin. There are already blogs out there doing this, and doing it well, whereas your blog is (currently) unique. Also, I’d be careful about paying too much attention to the poll results, because it is the readers you don’t have yet who’s opinions you want to know – not the ones who have been reading for a while, kind of “know you” and of course are curious to see more about the guy behind the writing.

    • MasculineStyle

      That’s a good point about the tradeoff Brian. The time can obviously compound. However, there are definite ways to manage it. I get up and go to the gym first thing in the morning so I only have to shower once. I lift three days a week and do cardio for three others. I just do an inclined walk on my cardio days and use that time to listen to podcasts and/or books on tape. It’s way for me to kill two birds with one stone.

      I think you’re also correct about my posting those kinds of photos being a turn off to new readers. That’s why I’m opting to do it as a small part of the newsletter instead of as fully-dedicated posts. The newsletter will increasingly be a way for me to expand out a bit further while allowing me to stay closer to target on the site.

      • 7000

        Brian/Tanner, I think if you look back at a lot of the actual Renaissance men during the Renaissance/later medieval period etc. whilst they may have practiced lots of things at the same time, they did often have a priority at any specific time which they changed around.

        They might have always played sports, trained, read, painted and whatever, but they usually went through “periods” where they were concentrating on one thing more than those others. Casanova is probably too late to be termed a genuine ‘renaissance man’, but he did loads – gambled himself into the gutter, was a priest, a spy, was a famous alchemist, a sort of tax collector/revenue raiser, dabbled in ‘black magic’, spent time with thinkers such as Rousseau, musicians such as Mozart, royalty of pretty much all of Europe, he was a good duelist with pistols, broke out of prison, escaped assassination and was in the army (so probably in decent physical shape), he wrote many written pieces and even some music, and then he finished his life working in a library. Yet if you look through his life, he has usually got one “scheme” going on which is dominating those months or even years before he moves on to something else which dominates the next few months/years.

        That is probably the best way to round yourself today in my opinion. Some things need constant work – general fitness and perhaps professional development/studies. But everything else can rotate between “occasional topping up” and “main focus”. So you focus on learning a language, then when it’s good, you focus on something else and just “top up” the language every now and then so you don’t forget it (maybe phone a foreign friend once a fortnight or month and chat to them or something).

        • MasculineStyle

          It doesn’t have to be a race. I don’t have to master everything today, by the end of the year, or even the end of my lifetime. However, if I allow myself to get lazy because I know I’ll never accomplish it all, I’m just making excuses. It’s cool to learn about men who decided they were going to tackle as much as they could in their lifetimes and never slowed down.

  • ike

    The problem is also our perception when we consider strength or intellect we tend to view the most obvious or pronounced examples in our lives. Example the guy who can bench press 500 pounds. I know plenty of guys who work out regularly or semi regularly and can hold an intelligent conversation. They also don’t look like the hulk but they can run several miles and are plenty strong for a normal person. I’m not a fan of obsessing there is plenty of room for both in life.

    • MasculineStyle

      You’re totally right Ike. It doesn’t mean you have to have six-pack abs and be able recite Shakespeare from memory. However, I do think many men choose to stay in their comfort zones rather than seeking to become more well rounded.

      • ike

        That’s definitely true.

  • GuildofGents

    Great post and looking forward to following your journey this year. In terms of the intellectual side of the ledger, I would say a huge part of the difficulty is that there really isn’t a well known plan on how to train our intellects.

    Is there a 5/3/1 for your brain? Is there a Crossfit for your intellect?

    How many men are interested in philosophy? At best you might find some lame sophists (*coughs* lawyers) who can argue out of both sides of their mouths and tell a punchline at the end.

    How many guys have the grit to teaching themselves, ‘The Theoretical Minimum,’ of physics? Even though all the tools you need is a trip to the book store and access to youtube, to learn from one of the greatest physicists alive today.

    If you say you don’t have time, but you own a game console and/or a netflix account….shame.

    I’m working on developing my intellect, outside of university or business, as a way to improve myself.

    I would recommend starting with Maria Konnikova’s ‘Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes.’ It’s a good enough framework/jumping off point into deeper waters, plus holds your attention better than some dry academic paper (though I got those too).

    Much Respect.

    • Awesome recommendation. I’ll check that book out for sure.

    • MasculineStyle

      I’ll definitely be checking out that book. As much as I enjoy learning new things, I’ve approached it with less discipline than I probably should. The idea of continuing to dedicate structured effort towards learning after having finished school is appealing.

  • Kenny F

    Tanner,

    You make some excellent points. I don’t think physical and intellectual pursuits need to be exclusive from each other. The problem we see today is people that are either caught up in too many leisure activities (i.e. TV, video games, browsing the web) or they pursue one activity so doggedly (ultra marathoners, iron man, etc.) that they don’t have time to be well-rounded. That does not mean that they do not exist, but true renaissance men are rare in American Society.

    Clearly, our physical fitness is a integral part of our masculinity. Not only does a man want to be able to look good in an unstructured jacket, he also desires the strength, agility, flexibility, and balance to pursue his recreation and labor with gusto. A man that dresses well, but does not take care of his body is nothing more than a clothes horse.

    I encourage you to discuss diet and fitness. Yes, there are many other blogs out their covering this topic, but how many have your unique perspective? So many take physical fitness to extremes. You on the other hand are seeking to be a better man.

    • MasculineStyle

      Thanks Kenny. You’re totally right that a man is severely limiting himself by not being physically capable. As a new father, the idea of not being able to keep up with my kids would be depressing and terrifying. How will I teach my own children about the ideals of manhood if I can’t show them an obvious effort on my part to live up to it?

  • Joseph

    This is what makes this site such an interesting and unique stop. I appreciate that you are interested in exploring what it means to be a man in such a holistic and unwaveringly honest fashion. Well done and I look forward to seeing where things go from here.

    • MasculineStyle

      Thanks Joseph. Obviously the site started and is still focused around the relationship between appearance and masculinity, but there’s so much more to be pursued.

  • This is great stuff Tanner, glad you’re taking your physical fitness seriously.

    One thing a lot of people don’t understand about physical training is that it actually makes you smarter! For example, take a look at some of the newer research on aerobic conditioning and the effects it has on cognition.

    Also, the book “Spark” is an excellent read that details the role exercise plays on our brains. Highly recommended.

    This idea that the physical is wholly separate from the intellectual is starting to become an antiquated notion. Research is now showing one of the best things you can do for your intelligence is exercise!

    That’s why I always tell people that when I hit the gym I’m training my body AND my mind.

    • MasculineStyle

      I had no idea the two were linked so tightly. It makes sense though as a lot of the broscience and bodybuilder guys really do have a better biological interest and understanding than a lot of men. I think the key is not wasting the link between the two and being willing to push your intelligence beyond just the physical and how to get stronger.