It is the resolution time of year where you may have a list of goals for 2019, possibly put together with some fine productivity hacks from the good writers on Medium.
You probably know that exercise and fitness are core parts of health and also mental well being, so perhaps you will resolve to take up some sport, or work towards a new level in what you already do. There is a high chance that you will have a training plan, or possibly you will go to a fitness professional for one. Good.
Despite the title of the article I have nothing against physical exercise, it’s something I enjoy personally and coached many people in.
I’d just like to add the possibility of something more. Something that in many ways eclipses whatever specific exercise you choose to engage in. Perhaps the article could be titled — Don’t just train.
What if there is something more than dead-lifts or ring routines or stretching protocols or rolling on the mats, or tree running (yes, not only is tree running a thing it is a very good thing).
What if there was an opportunity to target and develop more than gross muscular, physiological improvements and coordination?
When you choose to engage in a physical activity it is something that all of you has the potential to engage in, not just your biceps and glutes.
Can you make your movement a conscious practise of being?
(I almost have to apologise for the last sentence because I know from certain angles it can provoke nausea more reliably than certain Crossfit workouts. I just don’t know how else to put it).
Can your practise be an expression of qualities that touch more things in your life than the bar that you lift?
Let’s say that yes, you can.
Then what qualities could you develop? What would you like?
Also how can you enrich your training this way?
(The how is a little further down).
At the top of my list I start with presence and awareness, because without these you would not know if you were practicing any others or not.
From these two key qualities you can get more specific.
Sensitivity is a fine extension of awareness. Lightness might be a handy quality with which to balance a weight. Precision has value in movement and elsewhere. Focus is one of those universally applicable qualities. Elegance is always appreciated as is humour when elegance fails. These qualities overlap and support each other.
Alternatively you could borrow from the classical traditions. The main virtues espoused by the currently popular Stoics are wisdom, courage, justice and temperance.
To approach an exercise this way take a moment to consider what any of these qualities is like, how it feels in the body, how it changes the way you hold yourself. Then keep some attention to this as you lift or run or grapple or fence.
Of course you will lose it sometimes, or often and that is what learning is all about.
You can even engage in this as you sit (or stand) now. God forbid you are reading this article while walking or driving. Try the following quality because you are in a superb position to test it right now.
Read the rest of this article with the quality of being unbaitable. Imagine the least baitable person in the world, how would they sit, how would they read, how would they hold their head and move their eyes, what would their internal dialogue be like and their breathing? Take it on.
Then when you finish the article and you are presented with The real reason you will never succeed at X, or These five hacks will transform your Y, or whatever is served up that they know can hook you and notice what happens.
These are short and simple instructions, though challenging to maintain.
Also beyond the little test suggestion they do not prescribe how many qualities to work on, or how long to work on them. This is not meant to be a simple prescription to success and transformation, but an avenue of research and questioning that has the potential to be more satisfying than a hunt for likes, followers, readers, or points scored against the enemy.
While I do have goals and plans for 2019 this is where my resolutions are.
As the Stoics explain the success of goals is in the hands of fortune, so it is wise if the primacy of attention is upon what is more closely and intimately bound to what I can influence. A year developing well chosen qualities will be a year well lived, especially if I you have a method by which to develop them.