Exercise is typically thought of as structured physical activity we perform at the gym under the guidance of a coach. This definition is mainly true, yet have you ever considered the metamorphosis that is happening to your character each time you focus your aim on improving your fitness?
The word exercise originated in the 14th century as a combination of the prefix “ex” which infers something is being let out as well as arcêre or an ark. An ark is something which provides protection and safety, historically something we build ourselves. In other words, exercise means to let out or unleash the protector you have made. It is unleashing our inner hero, someone we crafted ourselves to make us stronger so we can carry life’s burden, in order to be a better fit with our environment.
Although it may feel like it when you are learning new movements, functional fitness is not embarrassing exercises your coach makes you do because they look funny and you have no clue what to do on your own. To select means to choose based upon its fitness to the environment, its ability to help an organism survive and thrive, and functional fitness is a selection of exercises chosen based on their fitness to the situation. Functional are exercises that make you better able to bear what life throws at you, physically and mentally.
Exercise is commonly used as a term for bringing something into play or realization through action, such as, “I exercise my right to the pursuit of happiness.” People realize who they are through play, interacting with the world. We liberate the former versions of ourselves through exercise or deeply playing with the world and as a result become stronger. We are bringing a new person into reality by burning off the old through sweat and determination. In essence, exercise is the modern metaphor of the mystical creature known as the phoenix. Our old self is burning and being reborn through fire, a catalyst of change, hard work and determination.
If exercise is the phoenix, then you are the alchemist, someone capable of transforming useless metal i.e. dumbbells, into gold; the best version of you. What is more valuable than the best version of you? The word virtue originated from the Greek word Vir meaning strength, specifically strength of character. To the ancient Greeks, living a virtues life, one where we balance the good and the bad, excess and restraint, is a life requiring strength of character, an awareness of when we have too much or too little, when we must hold on to something and when it’s time to let go. Exercise encourages a more virtuous life, it strengthens not only your muscles but your character by allowing you to burn away excess energy, not too much, and not too little, and teach you that with effort you can become who you desire.
As I mentioned in the beginning, exercise is much more than burning calories. It is a metamorphosis on the deepest level, your inner self, your ego. Your ego protects you from unknowns by providing you with a sense of self-worth, the confirmation that you can prevail and not only prevail but thrive. Exercise strengthens your ego and builds your character in a healthy way by providing you self-worth you have earned.
In a society where everyone is searching for hacks and shortcuts, it is good that we still have one thing which we have to earn. Something which regardless of how much we desire, we need to sacrifice for in order to attain, and during that sacrifice, you give up a piece of the old you, the weaker you for someone stronger.
The entire concept of exercise is gold. Exercise provides us our fundamental rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When we strengthen our mind and body to fit our environment, we are healthier, can overcome more obstacles, and are capable of pursuing what makes us as individuals happy. That is gold, that is alchemy, that is what it is all about, realizing who we are through play. Finding our purpose in all our potential by engaging in the world and playing it out.
If you enjoyed this quick blurb, you may enjoy my new book A Vigorous Life: A Guided Journey of Purpose and Fulfillment in which I discuss using play as a means of entrenching our purpose from our potential.