I recently became enamored with this article over at Stumptuous.com: Party Like It’s 1899: Physical Culture Interview with Craig Staufenberg.

To give you the gist of it, “Craig Staufenberg is an author and illustrator who’s just released an ebook titled How to Live: A Manual of Sensible Physical Culture that focuses on the history and lessons of the originators of the modern health, strength and fitness movement.”

Okay, so that might sound a little dry. But according to Mr. Staufenber, the “old-timers” viewed physical culture as a way of life and a philosophy, not just an end goal that’s focused on how you look or how much weight you can move.

This quote in particular spoke to me:

“There’s a direct link between the relationship you hold with your body and the relationship you hold with the world. The way you eat and the way you train aren’t isolated from the way you approach your life as a whole.”

That idea was what really got me interested and also got me thinking. What does the way I eat and train say about the kind of person I am? How does my health and exercise philosophy transcend into other areas of my life?

I usually train for strength, and I think that translates into inner strength as much as outer. The rest of it–being dedicated and (usually) motivated–are also traits of mine that go beyond the gym. But where as my exercise ethic is indicative of my strengths, my relationship with food is definitely a reflection of my weaknesses: neurosis, anxiety, bouts of stringency followed by overindulgence and so on. But despite the fact that I don’t always eat as cleanly as I could, I still think I make healthy choices more often than not. At the end of the day, I have found the joy in being fit and healthy.

I think for anyone who is interested in health and fitness, asking yourself what your training and diet says about you can be an empowering thing. Especially when you realize that exercising and having a healthy diet don’t have to be a means to an end. Doing these things will get you good results (hot body, strength, stronger immune system), but they don’t stop there. They’re part of a lifestyle. And there are certain philosophies attached to every lifestyle. Thinking about nutrition and exercise from a philosophical standpoint might help someone who’s feeling unmotivated. Instead of seeing it as a chore to be healthy, look at it as a way to further express your values.

For example, if you are the kind of person who needs lots of freedom and likes to explore, running or hiking can be a good way to fulfill that side of you. If you feel that you are spiritual person, yoga and martial arts would probably be a good fit for you. Even if you just want to feel good and energetic all day, shifting your diet philosophy to focus on whole foods would be beneficial. Look at exercise and diet as not only a way to improve yourself, but your life.

Lifting weights, running, or doing yoga aren’t necessarily things you just do. If you truly enjoy  them, they become a part of you. I know this probably sounds cheesy, but they feed certain parts of  your soul. The “old-timers” apparently knew this 100 years ago, way before Crossfit, Richard Simmons, Pilates and every other modern fitness establishment tried to sell it to us.

As I’ve said before, it’s important to find something that you enjoy doing. Something that fits you. If you hate running (I know I do), don’t do it. Walk or swim instead. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful.

And with that, I leave you with this final quote taken from the interview:

“Just as the person of sedentary habits and weak body possesses a correspondingly sluggish mind and lack of energy, so those who assiduously pursue a physical development gain not only that desired government of their organs, but in marked degree obtains a thorough mastery of their will and, consequently, an easy and contented mind.
– George Hackenschmidt – The Way to Live”

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