(First published on Life Hack)
For me, fitness and philosophy are inextricably linked. So, with this article, i hope to give a brief introduction into Calisthenic Philosophy.
Showing some of the lessons we can learn from training the mind and body together, as a whole.
As i have mentioned previously - The word Calisthenics come from the greek roots
Kalos – meaning Strength
Sthenos – meaning Beauty.
So, in essence, the calisthenic philosophy is easily summed up as the pursuit of “beautiful strength” .
But, this does not just mean Physical beauty and Physical strength.
In fact, the physical side of Calisthenics is only the start.
More important, is the development of beautiful strength "internally". And how we can learn to cultivate things like strength of character, beauty of mind, will power and so on.
With that said, let's look at 5 key life lessons that Calisthenics can teach us.
Say you set yourself an endurance target of completing 300 full range of motion bar dips in a single workout. Or 500 push ups or 1000 squats.
Or, maybe you decide to pursue a certain strength skill . . . for example a one arm chin up, or front lever.
Whatever your individual goal may be – it is obvious that you will need more than just the physical capability to be successful. You also need mental discipline; to actually dedicate yourself to completing set after set, rep after rep, hour after hour until you reach your target.
And this mindset transfers to other sides of life too - because, after all, the ability to persevere, and to remain consistent in our practice, is the key to success in any field.
2. Self Control yourself
The very essence of Calisthenic training is being able to control your body. Whether you are hanging from a bar, or working from the floor.
But, being able to fully control our body is impossible, unless we also learn how to control our mind too. And here, Calisthenics begins to tie into other great philosophical schools.
For example, Epictetus - a famous Stoic Philosopher - used to write that we cannot hope to control the external world around us; but, with practice, we can learn to control our own selves, and how we react to whatever happens to us.
In short, we can't control all actions. But we can always control our own reaction.
And so, with Calisthenics - as we learn to work with the body we have been given, we also learn to work with our own inner lives too.
No longer a slave to fear or desire. But able to remain composed, and self controlled, no matter the situation.
3. The lesson of real strength and beauty
As eluded to earlier, Strength is not just about being able to lift heavy things.
Real strength is to be kind and caring – and to remain composed, even when being provoked or persecuted.
Real strength is taking a stand for something you believe in, and remaining yourself in a world that is always seeking to change you.
And, it is the same with beauty too.
What good is it being physically beautiful if, in your heart, or in your attitudes towards other people, you are ugly?
No, Real beauty is having a beautiful mind, and a beautiful soul.
It is being graceful with every step you take, and every word you say, and with everyone you meet.
So, Calisthenics encourages us to puruse "Beautiful Strength".
But, the most beautiful strength, is internal.
4. Coping with fear of failure
If you wish to attain more advanced calisthenic skills – you are going to fail.
This does not mean that you will never reach your goal. It just means that along the way, you are going to have to deal with failures.
You’ll try a certain hold – and fall. Or, you’ll aim for a certain rep count – and run out of energy.
It is all a natural part of progressing. And, if you are committed to improvement, you must replace the fear of failure, with the commitment to keep trying.
So too with life.
How many times do we hold ourselves back through fear of failing? Or how many times do we fail once, and become so despondent that we give up entirely?
But failure is not our enemy. In fact, the only sure-fire way to avoid failing is if you never have any ambition, and never do anything. In that situation, you will never fail – you will just be a failure.
So, start to see failure through calisthenic eyes – as a sign that you are trying to learn ,and trying to grow. Then, you will actually embrace it.
5. The lesson of not relying on externals
It is so easy to believe that the key to our own life, lies in the hands of someone else.
We might think that we can only get fit if we work with a certain "expert".
Or thay we can only be happy if we are with a certain person, or if we achieve a certain position of status.
But, when we train Calisthenics, everything is stripped back.
It is just us, working with ourselves. Taking personal responsibility. And seeking our own success.
Then, we translate to every day life too.
And, suddenly, we no longer say “I cannot feel good unless I have expensive clothes, or possessions, or so and so’s approval”.
But, instead, we see that the key to our own success - just the health, happiness, and peace that we seek - is not somewhere "out there".
It is here. Where we are.
We just have to learn how to correctly use what we already have.