November 25, 2015 | by Andy Waterfield

There’s a stock response often parroted by Batman fans, myself included, when asked why they relate to Batman more than perhaps other superheroes, and it usually goes something like this:

“He’s a normal person, with no superpowers. He just trains hard. Anyone could be Batman.”

Of course, as many have pointed out, this is complete bollocks. One week of the kind of physical and mental strain Batman endures would leave most real humans, however well-trained, with serious joint problems, a couple of hernias, a bunch of broken bonds, and depending on whether they encounter the Joker, a severe case of PTSD. If they even survive.

And that’s setting aside the fact that Bruce Wayne has a genius-level intellect, access to extraordinary technologies, and billions of dollars, and is, through the miracle of fiction, able to sustain and heal from incredible amounts of physical damage on a nightly basis.

Simply put, you cannot be Batman. No matter how much you train.

Nobody you know can be Batman.

Nobody you will ever meet in your life will ever be capable of being Batman.

Sorry.

Don’t be downhearted, though. There is a greater truth to be had here, superficially less glamorous, but to my mind significantly more powerful:

With willpower, dedication, and training, you can become a stronger, more capable version of yourself.

The media tells us that our bodies are imperfect, ungainly, and ugly (and it tells women, people of colour, and trans people a lot fucking more often and more loudly than it does cis white dudes like moi). The media is in the business of telling us that shit, because it’s in the business of advertising and selling crap to make us feel better about ourselves for a short time.

Even the fitness industry, which is supposed to be about helping people achieve their potential, is bogged down with redundant and counterproductive thinking designed to increase anxiety, lower self esteem, and sell product. Aesthetic is venerated over capability, as cut bodies adorn magazine covers, advertisements, and posters.

You think Batman trains to get cut? Does he fuck. He trains to run faster, and farther, to jump higher, fight longer, and lift more than he could yesterday. He trains because there are benefits to fitness beyond superficial aesthetics, indeed completely divorced from that nonsense.

The-Batman-Workout
Neila Rey’s Batman workout – rad

Exercise has always been a part of my life, but I only got serious about it when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and my GP recommended that I start exercising more seriously as a way of managing my condition. Unlike many things, training does not bring instant results, to anyone. You might have a longer stride and a perfect gait, but you have to work your arse off to build up to serious distances. You might build muscle faster than most, but you still have to do the reps, you still have to push yourself, and you still have to work to get there. But when the improvements start to show, when your runs get longer, the weights you’re shifting get heavier, and you’re looking for new ways to push yourself, you look back on where you were, and realise that you broke through whatever limits you thought you had ages ago. That’s the moment you realise that you’re capable of things you never imagined, and you start to wonder where the real limits are.

Sure, it’s easy to feel more confident when you fit more closely with society’s absurd ideas of the ideal human form, but a much greater confidence comes from the understanding that you have a command of your body and your mind that you didn’t before. There is a truer confidence to be had, through training, and that is the knowledge that you have, through your own efforts drastically increased the physical and mental capabilities of the beautifully imperfect flesh sack you’re piloting through life.

That’s the lesson of the Batman, one of many, that whatever you set yourself to do, you are capable of more than you imagined. In the case of physical prowess and fitness, you will never be Batman, but you can be a stronger version of yourself, forged of sweat, muscle, and steel, built from your own efforts, on your own terms, and that’s so much fucking cooler.

Andy Waterfield is a hairless ape hammering blindly at a keyboard somewhere in West London. Alternatively, he is a punk rock warlord, a writer, an effortlessly fabulous diva, or history’s greatest monster. It really depends who you ask. Follow his nonsense at @andywritesstuff.

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