I’m no Moses, but I’ve certainly experienced enough in my many years of fitness to establish my own ten commandments when it comes to fitness and wellness:
1. Thou shalt have no other gods in fitness besides health.
Behind every extrinsic fitness goal, such as wanting your body to look a certain way or getting your body to perform in a certain functional or athletic capacity, should be a lasting intrinsic motivator. All extrinsic goals will fail in the long run. All bodies age and atrophy and all athletes eventually retire. However, stand-alone concepts such as the expression of health and love of fitness can last the duration of our lifetimes. Make sure you aren’t bowing down to the temporary material physique and making a God out of what your body should look like.
2. Honor thy father and mother in fitness.
Regardless of whether you had great parents or a less than desirable upbringing, express yourself in fitness and wellness the way you should have been taught growing up. That is, demonstrate sportsmanship on the field of play, and demonstrate empathy, grace, and beauty in the realm of fitness and wellness. Always act with integrity in everything you do.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of fitness in vain.
Fitness should be synonymous with health and wellness, not vanity. The way your body looks isn’t your most valuable possession, your health is. Aesthetic fitness isn’t really fitness. Ultimately, the way your body looks isn’t an indicator of functionality, health, or even fitness. The people that truly matter to you don’t care that you have ripped muscles. You aren’t going to forge meaningful relationships, successful endeavors, or a sense of lasting happiness because you’ve sculpted the perfect physique. Everyone wants to look his or her best – I get it. But your guiding principle should be something bigger and deeper. Your grandmother was right. It’s what’s inside that matters.
4. Though shalt not kill…yourself in the process of getting fit.
For years, my goal was kill it at the boxing gym and in the weight room every day, often twice a day. I beat myself up a lot in the process, always winding up in some sort of physical therapy along the way. During those years, a wise man said to me, “Eric, you can either age gracefully or age foolishly. Which camp do you want to be in?” Solid advice, which I finally heard years later after my body gave me the same message the hard way. True fitness is finding a balance for your body, mind, and spirit.
5. Thou shalt not cheat, lie, or steal, in the name fitness.
Finish reps. Don’t half-ass your workouts, take shortcuts, or make excuses. More importantly, don’t profit by selling those same false hopes to others. If you don’t plan to face yourself in the world of fitness and wellness, do yourself a favor and just stay at home. There are no shortcuts, as we all know when it comes to anything worthwhile in this world. In fitness this is especially true. When it comes to being fit or healthy there are no magic pills or supplements and no six-minute abs – just the willingness to face your shadow at the fitness studio, gym, and dojo.
6. Thou shalt commit to thy exercise and fitness plan as a lifestyle and not a quick fix.
One of the things that bothers me the most in the fitness world is the before-and-after photo. As if in real life there’s an after photo. In life there’s just you, the process of aging, and the finish line. The sets and reps in the middle are what count. You can either live a life of integrity by working hard in everything you do or you can look for that brief momentary after-photo moment in the sun. Each time you hit a goal, pause to look at that after photo and the hard work behind it, and then put it away and move forward because the pursuit of health and wellness is forever.
7. Thou shalt not make any graven image that is not in the name of fitness and wellness.
We are fed countless images in the media of how we should look. Don’t make graven images out of what the media and societal pressure says you should look like. Those images are not necessarily akin with being healthy or fit. They also are not necessarily attainable. Be your own personal best body and level of athleticism and fitness. All of us have unique and special gifts, talents, and looks – perfect yours, not someone else’s.
8. Thou shalt not bear false nutrition in eating unnatural, processed, or diet foods.
Many in fitness are trying to sculpt physiques and lose weight by eating food that isn’t real and is disguised as healthy. Everyone over ten years old knows deep down that food is meant to be real and whole. Stop fooling yourselves in the believing that ingredients you can’t pronounce, food that comes in a box, and food that is chemically altered is “good” for you. We know we burn calories and get results the same way we always have – by working hard and getting uncomfortable. The same goes with our nutrition. We have to learn to like fruits and vegetables, eat more of them, and eat less packaged and processed foods.
9. Remember your rest day and keep it holy.
I despise apathy, laziness, and slothfulness. However, I despise arrogance more. Not being able to recognize that your body has limitations is one of the worst kinds of arrogance, as it flies in the face of what is health is really about – balance. Pushing too hard isn’t admirable. It’s arrogance. Every spiritual faith has a root in humility and the pathway to enlightenment runs right through the middle of downtown Humble Town. Do yourself a favor and give yourself the proper care and rest your body needs.
10. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s ass.
Lasting success is about knowing yourself in and out of gym. Trying to prove others wrong, trying look like the picture taped to your fridge, and trying to keep up with the Joneses may work as a short-term motivator. However, only the deep level of satisfaction in discovering your own talents and best body will keep you motivated for the long haul.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.