Mindful Athleticism

Philosophic and Athletic Parallels to Self-Actualize the Mind for Self-Worth

LEARN HOW you can self-actualize the mind for self-worth by tapping into your mind like philosophers and athletes! FREE your mind and loose the chains of fear to build and re-construct a better YOU for more muscle, less fat, increased energy, and improved and actualized self-worth! An energized mind with a fit body is an enriching quality of life marked with each successful stepping stone that is motivating and exciting to live and share!

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Philosophers are analogous to fearless athletes in mental training seeking to broaden perspective that is not confined within the limits of language. In his leftover notes, and a book known as The Will to Power published posthumously by his sister a year after his death, Nietzsche writes, “Language is founded on the most naïve prejudices… We read contradictions and problems into everything because we think only in the forms of language… We cease to think when we refuse to do so under the constraint of languageAll rational thought is interpretation according to a scheme [of thought] we cannot throw off” (no. 522, Nietzsche’s emphasis). In Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein similarly says, “Philosophy results in uncovering one or another piece of simple nonsense, and in bruises which the understanding has suffered by bumping its head against the limits of language. These bruises make us see the value of that discovery” (no. 119, my emphasis).

The Mind: Igniting the Spark!

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There is much that philosophers and athletes understand regarding mental and physical training of the mind or of the body for enhancing the quality of life all together: Improved intelligence, increased performance, superior aesthetics, and above all self-worth. Both philosophers and athletes pursue mental and physical extremism. Philosophers drive their minds to the border of insanity seeking to understand this chaotic world we call ‘Life’ in order to have a deeper appreciation of it. Athletes push their bodies to the brink of cardiorespiratory and muscular collapse seeking to perform and look the best that they can be.

It may not be pleasurable to endure pain along the way, but PAIN is the motivation of each stepping-stone of success! Both philosophers and athletes alike subject their minds to gain excellence and mastery of oneself as a constant self-overcoming for more life and extol this joy on others to experience the same. Without the mind the body cannot function. To accomplish any goal in life the rendering of the mind ignites the spark of a specific quest and an unfailing plan to succeed that is fueled with a passionate devotion of self-worth, an unrelenting force within, and an obstinate desire that explodes! The parallel between the rigors of philosophical thought and the disciplined athlete in training enhances both the mind and the body on the way to balanced perfection.[1]

Making the Mind/Body Connection

The connection between athletic fitness and philosophical thought is that first, both are an aesthetic art of self and human worth, one of the body, and the other of the mind, (strictly speaking). And second, they require the active engagement of the mind necessary for coordinating and improving both the mental and muscular functions to power the body. Since physical training is more mind than muscle – at least 70% - for improving physical performance we understand that the mind is the most important “muscle” to engage.

Just like there are distinct levels of "progressive" training programs to follow in accordance with the adaptation of the central nervous system's (CNS) learning capabilities and the growth of the mind,[2] an athlete learns how to progressively engage his or her mind to adapt to a higher level of training to improve his or her quality of strength, muscle, performance, and appearance. We get better doing things through habitual practice because our minds make a stronger connection to whatever we are trying to better coordinate. This is why I do not believe in “changing up” one’s training too frequently because the mind ceases to think by refusing to suffer and be bruised to make a stronger connection with the CNS to metaphorically “overload” one’s training (not necessarily an amount of weight or technique that makes a set harder to complete) for the sake of improving the body.[3] Properly controlled movements or actions of the body are achieved with the mind that reaches a point called mind-body unity. The body is subjected to the mind because the mind controls the body. Any individual sport or activity like bodybuilding, karate, tennis, gymnastics, etc. are just a few positive mental effects of using one’s mind to teach self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-worth.

A Self-Actualized Mind is a Stronger Self-Worth

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The parallel between athletic training and philosophical thought John Stuart Mill states a relationship between mental and muscular powers. In On Liberty he says, “[They] are improved only by being used” and “are called into no exercise by doing a thing merely because others do it, no more than by believing a thing only because others believe it. If the grounds of an opinion [like the grounds for exercise] are not conclusive to the person’s own reason [i.e., a reason to exercise must be your own, not anyone else’s], his or her reason cannot be strengthened, but is likely to be weakened, by adopting it [i.e., a reason other than one’s own to exercise]: and if the inducements to an act [such as exercise] … are not … to his own feelings and character … it is so much done towards rendering his feelings and character… inert and torpid instead of active and energetic” (Ch. 3, pp. 122-23; my brackets and emphasis).

We can draw an analogy from the quote above concerning well-meaning fitness enthusiasts wanting to become fit when in fact their actions speak otherwise:

1.    Lack personal passion

2.    Accept to be guided by reason other than their own

3.    Refuse an unfailing training plan by a bonafide personal trainer

I see these well-meaning fitness enthusiasts in the gym nearly every day. Whether someone became a new member 6 weeks ago or if someone has been training for years, it makes you wonder why they still look the same. The purpose of exercise is to improve your health or change your appearance and improve your performance. But these people walk around the gym like half-zombies refusing to devour their own passions and consume energies to ignite the spark in their minds! When I am in the gym my energy, focus and time is on me. But I am not unaware of witnessing the lifeless energy emitting from both the fit and the fat refusing to bruise their minds to exercise their bodies to make that mind/body connection that can create a better and healthier YOU. Why am I not gaining muscle, losing fat or increasing energy? Ha! I’ve already answered this! Because you are “inert and torpid instead of active and energetic!” Movement is all too familiar to us! What?

Well-meaning fitness enthusiasts who have no exercise plan or an exercise plan chosen for them without question, Mill says, “He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation” (Ibid., emphasis mine). While visiting the Detroit Zoological Park I came across this inscription of the gorilla exhibitions: “Gorilla’s speak to one another through… vocalizations including grunts, barks and hoots… The day is usually spent resting and socialization with other members of the troop” (emphasis mine). Some, if not the majority, “aping” or copying what other members of the troop do in the gym from the advice of fitness gurus on Instagram or YouTube or an App without question or understanding is nothing but motionless lazy imitation. In the sarcasm of Nietzsche, this has become the norm of the “genius of the species” for improving itself? Whether we have grown more moral by following the herd Mill brilliantly states, “Instead of great energies guided by vigorous reason, and strong feelings strongly controlled by a conscientious will, its result is weak feelings and weak energies, which therefore can be kept in outward conformity to rule without any strength either of will or of reason. There is now scarcely any outlet for energy … except business” (Ibid., 135; my emphasis). Pause for reflection…

Enduring Pain and the Will to Advance Growth

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Athletes become relentless in desiring to achieve the most excellent body or performance. They do this by getting command of their minds and choosing actions in their own best interest. And as a result, their ability to endure pain to bring their dreams into fruition through self-discipline becomes a great sensation! As Will Smith says, “it is not discipline in the sense of punishment, but discipline in the sense that you forgo immediate pleasure for the exchange of long-term self-respect.” As for enduring pain, the body has a natural chemical it releases to relieve pain, an occurring morphine-like substances called "endorphins." When endorphins are released, we can continue to train harder and make a difference in effecting change to our bodies! If endorphins are not experienced, then it means training hard is not an option because it is the mind that actually ignites their release! In this respect the power of the mind cannot be underestimated in anything we set out to do or wish to accomplish. If endorphins are kicking in it means that the challenge of enduring pain along the way to bring your dream into fruition has been accepted in-spite-of mental and physical exhaustion! It means you have won the Will to turn on and advance your own growth!

Ask a woman in labor about to give birth and she'll tell you birthing involves excruciating pain. Schooling a child or educating an adult involves pain to increase knowledge in preparation for life's challenges. An athlete's training for a perfected physical state, likewise, involves the physical and mental threshold of pain and unrelenting sacrifice. A mother, an educated person or a winning athlete will acknowledge it was pain and sacrifice to get their just reward: the aesthetic pleasure of creating and advancing their own growth!

Affirming Pain and Learning to Ascend above it Invites Growth

Losing one pound a day without dieting and exercising brings no profit to the mind and body. The good, desirable, and profitable life is applying one’s mind to construct a strong healthy body and endure pain along the way to bring one’s dreams into fruition in order to be successful and live well. One who knows how to live well would not in their right mind take pleasure in sleeping all the time because it is living the life of a slumbering plant only existing bringing no profit to oneself or others! It is a great consciousness of being alive to pursue one’s personal self-worth with the dignified effort of over-pouring in blood, sweat and tears!

Affirming pain in-spite-of the negation of pain and learning to ascend above it invites growth. Life’s meaning is oddly found in life’s negative failing experiences. Coordinating together the mental and physical powers whether in busiest, lazy or idle times one must "painfully endure" a philosophy of "mental exertion" and a body of "physical exertion" to build or re-construct a willful and disciplined mind for a strong body to ascend to a higher type of being (as Nietzsche would say) “to more life” for ourselves and share it with others twice saying “Yes to Life!”

Endnotes:

[1] It is ridiculous to think we ever reach physical and mental perfection, but we constantly strive to attain our idea of a perfected state because we are stubborn enough not to want it that is within our genetic potential and environmental means to improve our self-worth!

[2] See a brief summary of  training programs on my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_FKOmS2h2wKJ_pOzlVgs0A

[3] See my article “The Importance of Adaptation” why we can get results by doing the same workout: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-adaptation-randy-herring/ Also see my article on “Effort” how the strength of the mind can be actualized to overload one’s training to realize one’s potential: https://www.randypersonaltraining.com/blog-1/effort-with-it-you-unlock-your-potential