The type of physical training should root deeply in personal philosophy. Again, I do not take professional athletes into consideration, their objectives and mentality are very specific. Any pro-athlete would tell you that professional sport goes hand in hand with traumas and that by definition makes it incongruent with the very concept of health. In a present discussion about the philosophy of fitness, I want to talk about you and me — common people who prioritize health and intelligent design of a happy and productive life.
My personal philosophy of fitness can be condensed to five following values: Movement, Mindfulness, Endurance, Longevity, and Enhanced Cognition.
“Movement is the song of the body.”
We, humans, have an incredible potential for mobility. The Movement component of fitness philosophy implies that our training should be designed in a way that allows us to realize this potential. A self-actualized body must be able to perform confidently within a virtually infinite range of motions — it must be able to climb, crawl, tumble, run, jump, and swim. Put it bluntly, we are animals and we must be able to move like animals. Our movements should be fluid and effective.
“Mindfulness of the body leads to nirvana.”
The Mindfulness component of the fitness philosophy is a mindset of filling every single exercise with the power of your awareness. Mindfulness is a choice to prevent your body from performing work thoughtlessly and stay fully aware of what is going on with and within the body consciously processing physical pain. This mindset makes the workout a dynamic meditation. It places you in the state of acute presence and awareness of the body. The Mindfulness component also implies that I should design my training in such a way that would expand the feeling of comfort for my spirit that lives inside the body. Making the body a pleasant home for the soul is crucial for living a happy life.
“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”
~ William Barclay
The Endurance component is important from both psychological and physical point of view. The word Endurance itself implies that you have to endure — pain, struggle, suffering. Routines that set endurance as an objective will put you on the path of strengthening your willpower, forging self-discipline and self-control. Endurance-focused training develops grit and grit is the insurance of success in any endeavor. Train the endurance of your body and reap the endurance of your brain — the stamina of the body is the foundation of a tireless mind.
From a physical standpoint, a strong heart developed in endurance training will secure the fourth component of a fitness philosophy — Longevity. The bigger and stronger your heart is the less work it needs to do to provide the blood circulation for the body.
“Life well spent is long.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci.
The Longevity component suggests you have a certain philosophy behind the idea of how much time you would like to hang around on this planet. I love life and I am intended to make it a lasting and worthy ride.
As time goes by people come up with novel ways to extend the span of human life. The 40s is the new 30s, the number of the methods to feel great and be active at retirement age is unprecedented. Who knows, perhaps one day new technology will allow me to live up to a hundred years but clearly it is my responsibility to live up to the day when such tech will be available.
Finally, my personal goal is to design my training so that it maximally engages not only my body but also my brain. Enhanced Cognition became my #1 priority. My intention is to develop memory, creativity and problem-solving skill during exercise. I can exercise my brain by learning new movement patterns and solving kinetic puzzles.
Wendy Suzuki, the neuroscientist who is passionate about the transformative effects of the exercise on the brain is sharing three major brain-changing benefits of the exercise in her TED talk. Here are the excerpts that are worth noting:
Benefit 1. Exercise has immediate effects on the brain.
- “A single workout that you do immediately increases the levels of neurotransmitters — dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. That is going to increase your mood right after that workout.”
- “A single workout can improve your ability to shift and focus attention and that focus improvement will last for at least two hours.”
- “A single workout will improve your reaction times.”
Benefit 2. Exercise induces neurogenesis and changes the anatomy of the brain.
- “Exercise produces brand new brain cells in the hippocampus that actually increase its volume as well as improve your long-term memory.”
- “Improved attention is dependent on your prefrontal cortex.”
- “There is a long-lasting effect in good neurotransmitters.”
Benefit 3. Exercise has protective effects on the brain.
- “Think about the brain like a muscle. The more you’re working out the bigger and stronger your hippocampus and your prefrontal cortex get. Why is that important? Because the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus are the two areas that are most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and a normal cognitive decline in aging. So, with increased exercise over your lifetime you are not going to cure dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but what you are going to do is you are going to create the strongest, biggest hippocampus and prefrontal cortex so it takes longer for these diseases to actually have an effect.”
I feel happy to live in the time when the things that intuitively make sense get proved by science. If these benefits do not convince you to live an active life then I do not know what will.
This is the combination of different types of training that corresponds to the five values of my fitness philosophy:
Animal Movements. The earliest reference I was able to find about this training system brings me to 1983 and a man called Alvaro Romano who introduced animal movements under the name of “Ginastica Natural”. Later on, the Animal Movements were presented in 2007 at the Tokyo Yoga Festival by Cameron Shayne as Budokan yoga. Recently this type of training started to become popular again with internet influencers such as Ido Portal, Vahva Fitness, Naturaletics, and others. The Animal Movements training as the name speaks for itself is a system of movement routines designed based on mimicking animals. A big part of these routines is focused on learning how to move using all four limbs as our quadrupedal ancestors did.
Animal Movements is a great full-body workout because it teaches your body to follow complex movement patterns that engage all muscle groups. The feeling right after the workout is amazing. You can feel that all the muscles of your body from neck to toes have worked.
Most importantly this type of training pushes your mind to explore the possibilities of the movement of your body constantly keeping you in a learning state. Learning new patterns is good for the brain.
Calisthenics. For me, the body of a gymnast represents an ultimate physique. Gymnasts are aesthetic, strong, and have great endurance. They can run, they can jump, and they are incredible movers. Calisthenics is as close as it gets to gymnastics in a city environment. I fell in love with calisthenics in 2010 and what I love about it since then is the mindset that you need nothing but your body to be strong and fit. No special equipment, no gym memberships, no special uniform, no specific time or place. I know that calisthenics is something I will be doing for the rest of my life.
Yoga. Yoga develops flexibility and develops a sense of balance. The most important aspect of yoga is the philosophy of mindfulness and body awareness. Yoga includes a lot of back bending and back flexibility exercises which are essential for the health of the spine. As the “father” of the Pilates said: “You are as old as your spine”.
Rock climbing. Climbing is one of the essential skills of an all-round mover. It is an incredible endurance workout and what I value the most is that rock climbing increases your movement intelligence constantly challenging you with kinetic puzzles. You don’t only climb with your body, you have to “climb” with your brain.
Barefoot running was another discovery for me. Our ancestors didn’t have Nike or Adidas on their feet, yet they were the best runners on the planet. Soon enough, I realized that the sneakers industry is just another layer of a lie that must be peeled off. The high heels on the sneakers cause an unnatural distribution of the stress resulted from the impact of the foot and the ground during the run. As a consequence, our leg muscles and tendons do not develop in a natural way and that increases the risk of injuries.
When I started running barefoot, I was wowed. I instantly felt the difference in mechanics. No longer burdened by sneakers, I felt lightness and freedom. What I like the most is the special feeling of being in contact with the surface. It feels right. Of course, you have to carefully choose the place for running. Barefoot running is perfect on the artificial grass of soccer fields, not asphalt.
Swimming. This exercise doesn’t need any introductions. Swimming is natural for humans, it is meditative, it is a full-body workout. Water is a cradle of life.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.