The Art Of The Ordeal…


One more from the past this week — very busy and writing has not been a priority.  However,  I intend to have a new column up on the subject of (my) body image, Friday, November 12th.    Please check back then.  Comments are open and welcome this week.

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I’m not exercise obsessed as many who know me suggest.  Together, art and beauty are my passion, exercise my medium.  And no, it’s not so much about the beauty of the human body which lures me into my daily movement.  Rather, it’s about the beauty of the actions involved in forging the human body – my attraction is to the workout itself as a form of art.

My solitary exercise, strength training in particular, is an artistic joy. The process of creation, through movement, has better connected me with my artistic side than any other medium, including writing and sketching. Art through back extensions, lunges, peddling, and sprints…? I find beauty through movement, and art from that beauty.

A point: the act of weight training, to me, isn’t so much about lifting weights. It’s about motion. Scarcely, it’s about painting a picture on the canvas of my body. More so, the real art lies within the brush strokes arisen from a kinetic grace I have learned to master through decades of practicing hundreds of exercises.  I enjoy the movements of exercise and feel my most creative when executing them. What I seek to create is not the perfect body at all, but the perfect workout – one repetition at a time.  If the body is a byproduct, than I get to win twice.

I understand most people will never embrace exercise in this way – strength training in particular.   However, if you are an individual who wants to benefit from strength training but fails to connect with it, perhaps the disconnect is in your approach and your perception of what those exercises are meant to be – let it be art.

Don’t think of it as weight lifting.  Rather, think of it as just moving – with weights in your hands and at the ends of your feet. Fact: weight training really is just the act of controlled movement, of stretching and contracting muscles – no different than yoga or Pilates. The weight themselves enhance the stretch. Secondarily, it should be about how much you lift. Primarily, it should be about how well you lift – how well you manage and control the movement.  Fluid, like water.

Too often people expect results from exercise overnight, and when the results don’t arrive, they swiftly dislike exercise because there is not a positive to associate with those actions. If this is you, this may be a good time to forsake the concept of the changing body, and pursue the perfect workout.   In my late 30s I began to explore the workout, rather than my body, as my creative release.  Since that time my connection to, as well as the aesthetic flow of my body has risen in a favorable way. I’m pleased with both the cause, and with the direction.

There can be art in exercise. With art comes joy. Where there is joy, there is always the desire to return. Don’t just do squats, perform them. Don’t just run sprints, decorate the street with them. Don’t just swim laps, paddle into poetry.  If you’re going to move your body, strive to move it artistically, and I will suggest better things might happen.

Don’t get me wrong, even within beauty there can be intensity. There should be sweat. There must be challenge. There can be power too.

All too often, the beauty in power and sweat are obscured by anxiety. Power and sweat display much more beautifully when they arise from artistic cause. Make today the most beautiful workout you can – intensely beautiful.  Make today’s workout powerfully graceful – challenging, yet seamless and fluid.  Live your creative side through each movement of your exercise today, whatever discipline of exercise you choose.

These are some of the words which I use regularly to guide each workout into art – in and out of the gym: grace, seamless, fluidity, mastery, intensity, reflection, sanctity, poetry, concentration, dance, connection, prayer, and joy. To know these as you workout, is to know art through movement.  Be well. rc 

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I will be back in ten days with a fresh column, please check back then.  Oh, and speaking of beauty there’s this from John Hyatt… Enjoy!

19 responses

  1. I understand what you’re talking about. I’m kind of obsessed with movement, but I don’t work out with weights. I run and do Kung Fu. I am a person who lost the ability to move through years of disuse of my body and becoming overweight. I am journeying back to movement again one step at a time, one day at a time. When I get in and out of the car and it is stiff, difficult and creaky — not all those beautiful words on the list you wrote out — I long for the grace to get in and out of the car smoothly and fluidly. Or not to dread when I drop something on the ground because it is difficult to squat down and pick the object up.

    I don’t know if it’s to late to get everything back, but I will keep improving one day at a time to restore the freedom of movement in my life as far as I am able.

    • Frances: Kung Fu and running are both an aesthetic. Yes, I too creek sometimes getting in and out of the car and doing other things as well. It’s part of the aging process. And when I do creek, and I am stiff, I ask myself, “How much worse would it be if I didn’t practice daily action…?”

      Keep it up — you may not get it all back but you definitely stay ahead of the game 🙂

  2. Make today’s workout powerfully graceful – challenging, yet seamless and fluid. Live your creative side through each movement of your exercise today, whatever discipline of exercise you choose..

    I did that Roy & each time I head to the gym!

    Love this post!

  3. Roy,
    I love this look into fitness, and weight training in particular. Especially – as I’m beginning a new weight training routine – I’ll now look at it with new eyes. I’ll see the art within the movement…

    ….and I’m very much loving that thought…

    • Thank you Lance. It’s funny, even for myself the weight room can be an anxious and intimidating place. But when I back off the wights and do it for the sake of movement, my gym becomes a sanctuary.

      I wish you much success in your new routine!!!

  4. This was a beautifully written post and has given me a lot to think about as I contemplate how to or whether to proceed with my present trainer, or to go it on my own at the gym, which I think I am more than capable of.

    Thanks for shedding a different light on this topic and giving me something to think about.

  5. Free weights saved my life. Finding the soulful connection when I move and handle those weights enrich my life each and everytime.

    Did I like free weights a month or even two into my personal training sessions? NO. Did I connect with myself on a higher level right away? NO.

    It took repetitive movement, striving for something better, learning, patience, yearning to know myself and how to apply my lessons in the gym in my real life. Every time I commit to walking thru those gym doors, I commit to entering my own euphoric zone in the gym.

    Thank you for this post. Beautifully written as usual on every level.

  6. I love the abstractness and deep thinking here. “The beauty behind the exercises”. I never quite thought of it that way, but it will sure get me extra motivated from now on. 🙂

  7. Finding art in exercise interesting. It would seem that since I have re-claimed my self-preservation role just today, this could work towards finding the beauty in working out instead of the dread of it’s undertaking.

    Looking forward to your new post, but the past one’s are well worth the read, or re-read for some.

    • Thank you Lisa. My take on dreading exercise has always been this; if you dread it — save the gas money because it’s over before you ever begin. I think there is a direct relationship between joy in exercise and results.

  8. This was one of the first posts of yours I read some time ago. Beautiful.
    I need to commit it to my memory so I remember it especially on days when movement does not come easy. Just a change of perspective from work to art creation will make exercise so much more meaningful.
    Thanks, Roy.

  9. Have you ever taken Aikido? The philosophies of that martial art are very similar to your thoughts here.

    I love the idea of exercise as simply movement. That takes the pressure off of it, somehow (in more ways than one).

    Hope all is well with being busy! Taking writing breaks is necessary from time to time.

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