Exercise as Punishment

By April 11, 2016Exercise

Exercise as Punishment Blows

“Exercise is the technique by which one imposes on the body tasks that are both repetitive and different, but always graduated. By bending behavior towards a terminal state, exercise makes possible a perpetual characterization of the individual…It thus assures, in the form of continuity and constraint, a growth, an observation, a qualification.”-Michele Foucault

In Discipline and PunishFoucault theorizes that what we know as discipline today is a way to control another human’s body. Specifically, a collective body of individuals. The purpose? To prepare someone for an industrial, regimented life. School, factory work, and now, office work. But what about when you force it upon someone?

Too much force and the prison will riot.

When an authority punishes someone with exercise, they learn that negative actions have an associated physical cost to go along with them. At the same time, they aren’t learning why the act is negative, or “bad” in the first place. If someone acts out can we distinguish between exercise as an arbitrary punishment as opposed to exercise as a positive outlet for stress resolution?

In psychology you have what you call defense mechanisms and they’re pretty primitive. This is why kids are quick to outright lie. It’s a way to resolve a stressor and one of the first ones we learn. Along with anger or acting out. One of the important things to cover is that you can resolve the stress in a few different ways. You have the biochemical, psychological, and mechanical options.

Chemical Solutions

So let’s say you have a stressor. You are feeling “off.” You have an impending deadline and it’s fucking you up. Whatever. You can resolve it. By way of your biochemistry there are a few ways you can do this.  If you’re an adult, you can smoke some reefer. If that is illegal where you live, be careful. If you get caught, you can go to jail and thus be subjected to all kinds of arbitrary punishments. All under the guise of “rehabilitating” you. Tread with caution. You also have the option to drink something. Popular options include whiskey, water, soda, milk, tea, or juice.

Note that you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to be an idiot. If the resolution you choose is chemical, be careful. Getting hammered, getting baked as fuck, or going insane loading up on blow, are not the proper way to do this. You will go overboard and maybe develop a nasty habit. If you fail, you might become the liquor. Just like Jim Lahey, Trailer Park Supervisor.

You also have the option to eat something. Again, this isn’t an excuse to binge. There is a big difference between have an Oreo and having two rows of Oreos to resolve your stress. For your peace of mind, try the first option. To take it even further, try going to your favorite restaurant and having your favorite dish. Once you start to feel better, pack it up and move. Save the food for later. Give it to a homeless person, your dog or your significant other. To give you an example of my life, while writing this I started to feel lethargic. I am watching Batman: The Animated Series and typing away as I look at my notebook. I decided to mitigate that stress and make some food. I cooked bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Without fail, I no longer feel tired. The other option would be to take a nap. If that  chemical option failed to resolve the lethargy, I would have had some Alpha Brain. If it still didn’t resolve, maybe a nap was in order.

Psychological and Mechanical Solutions

If you’re feeling like you have a double barrell shit machine gun pointed at your face, you have a few options for this. Have a conversation with your bro to improve your state. Wait to have the uncomfortable conversations when your state is better. If you can help it. You could binge watch Supernatural, watch something funny, or listen to music as well. Text an old friend. Thank someone. You get the idea.

You can also resolve stress via your physical movement. Options abound with this, but an easy option is to go gymming. You could play a game of racquetball. Walk your dog. Ride a bike. You can even do yoga, if you’re into that sort of thing. But the most important thing still holds true. Don’t use these options to beat the shit out of yourself. Going to the gym and vomiting, making yourself uncontrollably depressed? That’s not what you’re going for. Engage in the activity until your state improves.

One last note on resolving stress.  Sex. With someone you like even a little bit is a good way to meet the aforementioned needs. You can even roleplay punishment scenarios.

For Others

If you are an a position wherein you are an authority who can enact some sort of punishment, these options are such that you can impart them onto the person who is under your authority. These options can also help you with your line of questioning. And this is a fantastic way to learn. Some Greek guy who starred in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a big fan of questioning. He even has a method named after him. From my baby sitting days, this was often the most effective way to teach a valuable lesson.

If the child is getting turnt up, the correction begins:

  • Are you hungry/thirsty?
  • What do you want to eat/drink?
  • How much of that is good enough to resolve the stress?
  • Do you need a nap?

And so on. With that, you can guide someone to resolution. BT Dubs, please don’t give your own (or anyone else’s) child reefer.

Moreover, at it’s core, when we punish someone we’re correcting an action.

Coach Frankie says:

Physically speaking, is there any distinction between catching a ball or any other behavior? No. All are biomechanical events. If that’s the case, what if we applied how we got better at catching a ball to getting better behavior from our children?

OK, how do we get better at catching a ball?
Practice it.

How do we practice this?
Scaling it. If it is too hard, we find a way to make it easier. If we mess up, we don’t make a big deal out of it. After all, we’re playing while we’re practicing. And if we aren’t getting better when we practice, we stop practicing and do something else.

Punishment most often occurs when a child is doing something we don’t want them to do. In Psychological terms, we want to extinguish that behavior. But there’s a question we aren’t asking: What do we actually want the child to do?

When Frankie taught the Movement Model to me and his other pupils, we learned ourselves that we could apply it elsewhere. And the fundamental goal of that is to figure out what is unique for us to do.

In all cases, the questions are not phrased as negatives. In the case of punishment, as explained above, it’s not “I didn’t want the child…” but “I wanted the child to…” and so on. For ourselves, it is “what can I do?”

We start with specifics. Can’t do it? Can you do a part of it (scaling it)? Can we do something else and come back to it at a better time?

Exercise as Punishment

In light of this, when you force someone to exercise as a form of punishment, it’s taking a psychological and physical toll on someone. As discussed, nobody learns the correct behavior intended. Instead, the punished gets no real lesson regarding actions and consequences. They do learn that actions do have consequences, and most of the time, they seem arbitrary and without reason.

Furthermore, if you punish with exercise, the person is bound to hate exercise—one of the things we can use to resolve a lot of stress in our lives. In fact, it is something we can use to lead a better life. When I was a freshman in highschool, Coach McDonald used to make me do burpees every time I would say something. Well, when I would say something while being a smart ass. Wall sits, too. Aside from the general uselessness of both of those exercises, they were also used to fuck me up in other ways. I will never take a CrossFit class, since they do burpees ad nauseum. (Side note: it seems fitting that punishments like these take the form of useless exercises).

But, you have the means to educate now. Start on yourself.  I will quote Frankie again before I leave. “Punishment requires so little from you and takes so much from [someone else]. It takes away both their psychological and physical health. I’m not saying, “don’t correct.” I’m saying correct more by practicing more. Practice will require so much more from you. You’ll have to emotionally regulate so that you can practice…but isn’t that what you ultimately want from [them]? Take the opportunity to model that.”

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About Peter Baker

In addition to being a fan of music and heavy metal, I am an avid player of table top RPGs, and I am a personal trainer in Tampa, FL as well as a graduate of the prestigious University of South Florida. Formerly, I was a prefect for House Slytherin.


  • Bryan Anderson says:

    This must be why ex-military people usually get out of shape once they get out. I’ve seen a lot of strong, fast, powerful guys turn into couch potatoes.

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