What does the word Exercise mean to you? Search for definitions online and you will find:
- exert: put to use;
- practice: carry out or practice; as of jobs and professions;
- skilled in the utilization of;use: the act of using;
- systematic training by multiple repetitions;
- a task performed or problem solved in order to develop skill or understanding;
- drill: learn by repetition;
- do physical exercise.
I often forget that exercise is both a verb and a noun. Also, that its meaning has nothing directly to do with physical exertion. The meaning is more about using repetition to learn. When it comes to physical exertion, it is the repetitive movements we undertake in order to learn something about us and the physical world.
- A person could be running and learning how to breathe into the sweat and ache 10 miles into a 12 mile run.
- A person could be swinging a kettlebell and learning the natural rhythm of gravity and centrifugal force using their own body as a fulcrum. *
- A person could be dead lifting for the first time and learning how all the muscles in their body work together.
Those who find exercise mind-numbingly boring are those who do not have their heads in the activity. They have probably bought into an idea that exercise means only one or two things – running or weight machines for example- and have not spent the time to find those activities that will challenge them mind and spirit.
I could have made this same mistake if I believed that running -or jogging- is a superior form of exercise than walking. When I run, I find it torture – I cannot get to that place where it becomes meditative. It remains a step-by-step form of mental torture. Fortunately, I have immobile toes that limit -and sometimes completely eliminate- my ability to run.
Walking, however, is heaven. The rhythm of the movement sets in, my mind falls into a deep form alertness where I’m aware of my breathing, of the quality of the air around me, of the tension my muscles. I become unaware of the passing of time as I move. Walking is a pleasure -and an exercise for me.
Next time you’re exercising your body, take a moment to notice – what are you learning from this day’s physical exertion?
*(fancy language for an English major isn’t that?)
photo credit: The Inadvertent Gardener’s Flickr stream.