The Purpose of Exercise

WORKING OUT, I’ve realized, isn’t about getting your body into perfect shape. It’s about the type of person you become — physically, yes — but mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

Because no matter how you felt before you went on that run, hit the gym, did those fifty pushups — you’ll feel better afterwards, however slightly.

Your mind will declutter.

You’ll gain greater motivation in other facets of your life.

If you’re like me, you might even shed some tears as you look at the sky, grateful for the gift to feel your legs move. This thought changes everything.

A run — feeling your lungs expand, your heart pump, your worries lessen, your legs drive — is the greatest medicine there is.

It physically feels like I’m running away from my problems, or as a friend told me as I explained this, running toward them. I’m facing them with greater courage.

I’ve had some of my most intense, beautiful, life-changing thoughts while exercising or running through a city. You never know what you’ll see, who you’ll meet, or how your mind will change. Don’t think too hard about it.

Just get out there and go.

It’s taken me years to understand that going to the gym isn’t about how much you can do in an hour or two. If you’re there, use the time well — but it’s not how big you can get or how much weight you can lose in one go.

By going, by doing something, you’re designing a lifestyle to stand the test of time. Consistency leads to change, however slight, over sudden inspirational bursts.

The ability to start again, no matter how many times you fall.

That is what it takes; discipline is freedom.

In college I’d regularly hit the gym for two hours, sometimes more. I thought I could outwork the hangover, push my body into shape that day.

It’s been a hell of a journey discovering that it’s not about that, and the journey’s only just begun.

I limit myself to an hour now, maybe a little over. It takes more effort for me not to overdo it than to push. Obviously that’s not how it is for everybody, but trust me, this presents its own difficulties.

I want to feel healthy and strong, but that’s not why I joined the gym in Japan, not why I’d run across Lisbon when I lived there over the summer to do pull-ups at the park, and not why I went on long swims in Tel Aviv while traveling.

It’s because it’s who I am. Who I want to be. The middle way, the good life, a joyful existence, comes with some sort of balance.

I don’t work out to be perfect. I exercise to honor this life I’ve been given and the world we live in, just as I do by sharing drinks and delicious food with people whom I love.

If we’re only focused on the physical aspect of exercise, it’s easy to say, what’s the point?

The point is, that day, you overcame resistance. Perhaps you went for a run, and felt the cold, fresh morning air, course through your spirit. There’s no taste sweeter.

You gazed upon the mountains with a uniquely open mind, and lost your sense of self and worry. You solved that problem you’ve been mulling over for months, as the sweat loosened the cogs churning in your soul.

No matter how you’ve fallen, which we all do and will, you got back on the damn horse.

You got out there.

You tried.

You lived.

The benefit of exercise is how it changes your mood that day, your attitude for the week, the outlook on the month, and slowly but surely, the way you live your life.

  • Stuart Danker
    Posted at 23:14h, 15 October Reply

    I’ve connected the action of exercise itself to my feelings of achievement. I don’t care how well I do, or what results I get. As long as I did it, I’m gravy. That perspective shift has allowed me to attain a nicer body, and it only came when I didn’t set aesthetics as my main goal. Great post here. Thanks for sharing!

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 19:04h, 17 October Reply

      Awesome point, Stuart! I’m feeling the same way these days; when I do my warmup, just a quick run, I think to myself I could leave now and I’ve already accomplished something. It’s a freeing mindset for sure! I appreciate you reading my friend, cheers! 🙂

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