Exercise Is Not a Final Destination: How to Enjoy the Journey
What if a magic pill could replicate the effects of exercise? A way to get a healthy and toned physique without all of the blood, sweat, and tears. No more crowded gyms or grueling hours of road work, and the only weight you’d have to lift would be a cool drink at the end of the day.
Sound too good to be true? While no magic pill yet exists, one recent study suggests that such a dream could one day become a reality. Scientists from the University of Virginia recently magnified the benefits of exercise in mice by increasing production of a specific molecule. The study both demonstrated the power of exercise in providing “profound” protection from chronic health conditions and suggested that one day the benefits may also be available in pill form.
What Science Can't Do
Depending on how much you enjoy exercise, this may or may not be thrilling news to you. The prospect of not having to spend countless hours performing exercises you don’t actually enjoy might sound like winning the lottery.
But while science may some day be able to imitate some of the physical benefits of exercise, you can’t take a pill that will reproduce the journey of exercise. It is on that journey that we discover our sense of purpose and passion in relation to our body. It is where we develop our craft and learn poignant and lasting lessons from our successes and failures. That experience will never be available in pill form.
"Exercise for many is about reaching a destination. But behind every destination is an adventure that takes us there."
Exercise for many is about reaching a destination. But behind every destination is an adventure that takes us there. More importantly, every destination is merely a layover en route to another temporary locale. But even if you do somehow arrive a destination - be it health, wealth, or mastery - life has a way of forcing the unexpected upon us.
All of us must grapple with life’s ultimate question of what’s next. Athletes retire, bodies atrophy, health can be fleeting, and even wealth can be lost. Therefore, it’s essential that we look not on exercise, fitness, or sport as a means to an end - but a journey.
Here are three life lessons to help you maximize your fitness journey:
1. Stop Looking at Exercise as a Means to an End
Focus on your purpose and your passion for the work. Many find this difficult to accept, as we are very much a means-to-an-end driven society. But while setting goals is an admirable process and part of how we grow in life, make no mistake - there is no way to win the war in fitness. All of us will age and die.
In fitness, the means-to-an-end attitude translates to burning calories and striving to achieve a body that looks a certain way. This paradigm is all well and good, assuming you actually do the work, for the work teaches us who we are. But arriving magically or instantly at such a destination is a fallacy. Many who win the lottery find their fortunes lost within years. Money without the work and purpose behind it loses context.
It’s not about the money - or in fitness, the body. All of us must ask deeper questions about our true sense of purpose. In fitness, these questions include: “How are you meant to express grace and your true physicality?” and “How can you express fitness as a lifestlye?”
2. Seek Out Coaches, Mentors, and Heroes
A great coach will get the most out of you and help you outperform your own limitations. A great coach rejects the notion of can’t and helps you see possibilities. A great coach won’t come cheaply, but will be more than worth his or her weight in gold.
"Every hero starts as an individual with a drive, a vision, and a belief that he or she can make a difference."
A great mentor will impart wisdom and serve as a coach in a different role - that of the sage. It takes humility to ask for help, especially from those you know. But mentors have the experience you lack and from their expertise you can gain valuable know-how. Having a good mentor is like taking a fast-track college course in the subject in which you want to excel.
Heroes are larger than life and almost mythical figures, but they can also inspire us when we see that they, too, put their boots on one at a time. Every hero starts as an individual with a drive, a vision, and a belief that he or she can make a difference. When I look to my heroes, I notice they all shared one trait in common - a passion for the work. Even masters of their art, who have everything they could ever want materially speaking, such as a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, go to work each and every day. To them, there is no end destination, just the journey.
3. Find Exercise With Deeper Meaning and Purpose
If you hate exercise and find it devoid of meaning and inspiration, I have some advice for you - stop. If you hate cardio, then never do it again. Instead, find a way to move your body that you do enjoy - ballroom dancing, ice skating, or ultimate frisbee. The human body is meant to move and everyone has something in them that can provide an outlet for grace, health, and passion.
"When you watch a master in motion, you see unbridled enthusiasm and joy, but getting to that point takes years of sacrifice and hard work."
A word of caution: do not make the mistake of thinking joy is synonymous with ease or even fun. The athletes I know do not refer to their crafts as fun or easy. When you watch a master in motion, you see unbridled enthusiasm and joy, but getting to that point takes years of sacrifice and hard work.
Getting to that passion all starts with a small step. As to how and where to take that first step, if you experience a nagging sense of intrigue and butterflies in your stomach, odds are that passion and purpose aren’t too far down the path.
The Journey Is What Matters
A fad exercise program, a supplement, or someday even a pill could help you achieve a quick fix to your fitness woes. And whether you reach your goal with sweat equity or with a little help from a pharmaceutical, the larger means-to-an-end mentality in our society isn’t going away, in fitness or elsewhere.
"Deeper reflection and introspective work are essential in establishing what is behind our objectives. Without that, goals end up simply as brief moments and we miss out on the bigger journey."
Goals are valid part of the fitness process. They can serve as fuel for our fire. But deeper reflection and introspective work are essential in establishing what is behind our objectives. Without that, goals end up simply as brief moments and we miss out on the bigger journey.
Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” When it comes to your journey in fitness, immerse yourself expressing qualities that are enduring and lasting. Focus on the journey and find your passion. Ride a bike, ride a horse, do triathlons, practice martial arts, be a yogi - but do something.
You'll Also Enjoy:
- The Real "Ideal" Body Type Is Up to You
- The Hidden Costs of Pursuing a Passion
- Just Love the Bleep Out of It
- What's New on Breaking Muscle
1. University of Virginia Health System. "Preventing diabetic heart condition in mice by amplifying effect of exercise: Potential for benefits of exercise in a pill?" (accessed March 13, 2015.)
Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography.
Photo 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.