This weekend I tried kayaking. It had been planned for some time, but with the cold, rainy weather we've had lately, I didn't think it would happen. As it turns out, it was a great day to be outside, on a little lake, enjoying nature and one of the last days of summer weather. It couldn't have been more perfect.
It hasn't been deliberate, equating Sundays with trying new active things, or getting together with friends in fit and healthy ways. It's usually because it's the one day of the week that people have off work and are able to make plans.
But I got thinking about the spiritual side of exercise. Finding Fitness. Is it a little like finding religion? I mean, what do people get out of spirituality? They get a direction for their life, a purpose. They get strength. Sometimes they get a social group out of it, because you're with like-minded people. Most often, they get peace, a way to find an inner calm in a society of chaos.
"Working out" doesn't always do that for me. However, physical activity DOES. It's why I think it's really important to find something that you enjoy. The working out in the gym allows me to do these fun, adventurous things with people in my leisure time. On occasion, the gym IS the social aspect, or what I accomplish doing something hard or something new or something fun in a workout IS the peace or confidence I'm seeking.
And the physical strength that I build in the gym translates pretty directly to an increase in overall strength: emotionally, mentally, and - yes - spiritually. In a recent article about female bodybuilders, Dani Shugart wrote why women train, even when they're not entering competitions: "We train for mental clarity. We train because the goal of fat loss is soul-sucking, cliché, and mostly unenjoyable. We train because we'd rather look like Wonder Woman than Barbie. We train to be the type of woman nobody wants to mess with. We train to build grit. We train for habitual excellence. We train for ourselves."
I guess it really all works together. The pursuit of fitness is the purpose and direction I'm trying to base my life around, and I get a lot of the same benefits out of it that many people do by pursuing religion. It supports and enhances all other aspects of my life.
Why this never occurred to me before, I don't know. I only made the connection yesterday when, in a conversation with Mat about having to decide how much I have time to do and what I can afford to pursue, he reminded me (again), that I am not doing this for him. I don't exercise for anyone else, I do it for myself. "You find what works physically, financially, spiritually, etc." he told me.
That word jumped out at me. Seemed a bit odd and out of place, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.
Fitness is becoming my new religion. And I can worship anywhere.