We tend to idolize historic figures. In a similar way, we admire exercise enthusiasts, assuming they have the body we want because they never overeat and never skip out on a day of exercise. Maybe this is true for some people. Jack LaLanne may be one of those people–everything in moderation. And perhaps he can keep to his motto, but even Olympic runners admit to not wanting to get up and run some days. Sometimes it take a lot of effort.

I think it is important to remember what might be considered imperfections in people when we look at them as an example or way of life. No one is always what they seem, and people can often become immortalized and perfected after their death. Joseph Pilates is one of those people. According to individuals who studied directly under him he smoked cigars daily, drank his fair share of whiskey, had a glass eye, and his tattoos are visible in pictures. This seems more like an example of Popeye than a man who created exercises that are now being recognized by doctors and physical therapists.

Joseph Pilates had characteristics that we could considered flawed. He wasn’t perfect, but he was passionate. He believed in what he was doing and how it could help people. He was frustrated by people who didn’t seem to want help. By all accounts, it sounds like he spent a good part of his life frustrated–another potential flaw.

No one is perfect, but our flaws usually have opposing characteristics that are beneficial. Pilates was frustrated because he didn’t think people were as healthy as they could be. That’s generally true. He was also frustrated because since he wasn’t a doctor he wasn’t always taken seriously in his day by people in the medical field. His frustration created an intense desire to change how people exercise. His writing reveals this intensity, as did his classess. He pushed people to their limit and expected them to excel.

To Joseph Pilates credit, while a day may have never gone by without a cigar, I’m not sure a day ever passed without exercise. He may not have lived by moderation, but had he we may not have been left with his exercises.

I find Joseph Pilates fascinating. Cigar smoking, whiskey drinking, and frustration are the flaws that made him human. I would like to have met the man who invented “Contrology,” which evolved into Pilates. I think he would have been an inspiration, not only because of his passion, but because he wasn’t seemingly perfect. Maybe if we start idolizing real people, we’d be a little better off because we could idolize ourselves instead of thinking we can live up to something that doesn’t truly exist.

Being seemingly flawed is not always bad. Moderation is good for some, and perhaps ideal, but there are different ways to get to the same place. Find your way. Find your passion. Accept your flaws and appreciate how they make you unique.


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