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Succeeding at Fitness

Do you cringe at the word “fitness”? Do your eyes glaze over and does your mind slam shut because the subject seems so overwhelming? Does the word sound like a chore, drag, or even punishment? Quick: In a sentence, what’s your purpose for fitness?

In How to Think About Exercise, Damon Young (“Your thinking about fitness is all wrong” by Mike Plunkett, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/3/15, page 20E) helps us clarify our thoughts on fitness. According to him, changing your thinking about it is essential to becoming and staying fit. Young is neither a trainer nor was he a physiology major. Rather, he uses “philosophical inquiries to explain how we in the West came to think about exercise and fitness and how that way of thinking is a major barrier to being fit.”

He makes sense, arguing that “much of our thinking comes from the philosophical separation of mind and body” and maintaining that “we as a society put more value on intelligence and mental ability than on the body and its improvement. When the body is worked out, it’s to fix a deficiency. People are living sedentary lives and trying to overcome this by treating their bodies as machines needing a tune-up.”

He suggests that the purpose of exercise should be the seeking of a more whole and full life, adding that “Fitness is a quest for character, virtue, beauty and pleasure. The point of intelligent exercise is full embodiment of that, a commitment to working out the body and the mind together.” Embracing this philosophy, we leave the gym with “a more defined version of ourselves.” Said another way, fitness changes our character. How do you feel when you sit in a chair thinking about going to the gym or for a run or a walk? How do you feel when you’re doing these activities and, later, in a hot shower? I’m not asking how your body feels, but how your mind feels and what you feel about yourself.

Another question to ask yourself is what you’re getting fit for—to compete with others, look good, feel good, be healthy, etc. Come up with an answer that’s not only about your body but about the rest of you as well. And know who are you getting fit for—yourself or someone else. Doing it for yourself is a much healthier, more lasting and sustaining motivator.

If your answer to my question about your purpose for fitness in paragraph one doesn’t gel with Young’s philosophy, that might be why you’re having trouble getting fit. In that case, come up with another statement that includes his concept of mind and body when you think of fitness. Consider how they both develop together and you’ll find success.