The Choice of Exercise

Continuing our thoughts on the meaning of exercise, we have to believe there is a reason behind health and fitness more so than we are "supposed to".

One alternative is that exercise or sport can be one of the few games that we actually choose to play.

When you play a sport, at the gym or studio, you are participating in the rules and 'feel' of the program. If you remember back to your childhood when you 'played' you 'pretended'. You dressed up; you make believed. As lover's of fiction, we pretend that we are at Hogwarts or Westeros and Essos. When we enter the gym, dojo, or track, we are essentially pretending but this time, it's not insubstantial or inconsequential.

In a short essay "On Fairy Tales", J.R.R. Tolkien supports these secondary worlds that we have 'sub-created' as important but only because we live in a primary world that also has rules. When we are participating in the secondary world, it's not that we are "suspending disbelief", but rather we have wholly committed to those worlds' rules. This commitment might allow us to better review our own world from the perspective of the secondary. A key ingredient of pretending is that we know it's secondary and not primary.

Ordinary life (including our jobs, social circles, and domestic roles) is also a game of sorts. It has rules, winners & losers, and there are certain things at stakes, also known as, rewards. (*this author wouldn't, however, recommend mentioning to your spouse or loved one that your relationship is a game) You have a "feel for" what you should or should not do at home, at work or out with friends.

You know this, as renowned socialist Pierre Bourdieu suggested because you know the laws of society. Just as artificial as the dress and manners of a certain social class, so are the rules of basketball. We grow up believing they are inarguably real. Bourdieu's term "illusio" communicates that we know the stakes of the game and our commitment to continually playing the game insinuates that the game is worth playing.

When we choose to exercise as the game we play, we aren't giving up on reality for a false make-believe world; we're just choosing one game over another.

Commitment to anything is to sacrifice something - rebuke some comfort of pleasure for something else. Every game has a cost, but the sacrifice of exercise is sometimes more rewarding. It has simpler rules and clearer objectives.

For example,
"Perform these movements & work hard for 20 minutes"
seems more straightforward than
"look for a work promotion not only by excellent work but recognition of your superiors, acknowledgment of your subordinates, wear the right attire, participate in the other unspoken requirements of the job and MAYBE you will be successful".

"It's such a good feeling to know you're alive"

"It's such a good feeling to know you're alive"

Life is vague at times; sport & exercise is specific. It is simple for, at that moment, we know who we are. This could be why you see so much of the same clothing, etiquette, and rituals at gyms & studios: it's a transition from one world to another. It's why we relished Mr. Rogers wardrobe change; it signified an ending to one role and a beginning of another.

This transition blocks out part of the world. When it works, it creates a reprieve from the confusion of the other games we play. It's much easier to evaluate if you played by the rules of exercise today compared to if you were a good father.

What makes exercise and physical activity so great is that we choose to do it; every time. Because we invest so much in the primary world, it's a welcome breather. It's a choice freely given.


Enjoy the choice.