20 Lessons After 20 Years of Training (lessons 11 to 15)

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

(If you managed to catch the first two instalments (lessons 1 to 5 and lessons 6 to 10) skip the intro and dive straight in at lesson 11.)

strongman pushing a huge boulder up a hill

I don’t know about you, but I love exercise. Actually, that’s probably a gross understatement. The way I feel towards exercise is perhaps comparable to the way Romeo felt towards Juliet (or vice versa).

Of all my passions – playing the guitar, learning, sharing what I’ve learnt, writing about what I’ve learnt, talking about what I’ve learnt – exercise is the only one that I've remained faithful to. For a while, when I realised I wasn’t going to play like Steve Ray Vaughn (my guitar idol), I stopped practicing – to my shame. I have since resumed you’ll be relieved to know.

I made a similar mistake in my campaign for intellectual enlightenment. When I couldn’t comprehend Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason I felt intellectually inferior and turned my back on books – for a week or two (which doesn’t sound like long but for someone who routinely squanders three hours a day turning pages a couple of weeks, I can tell you, is an epoch).

However, what I’ve come to realise is, not once in 20 years have I fallen out with exercise. In all that time, roughly 7300 days, I can only recall two occasions when I went longer than three days without getting a sweat on – both occasions were because of illness, one of which was very nearly fatal.

What’s so different about exercise? For me it is the purest form of expression. Also, for me, it is the most direct route to the flow state – that hyper-focused, deeply engaged state popularised by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (find out more about flow).

Moreover, exercise is not only good for us physically but also psychologically and epidemiologically – that is, it reduces our susceptibility to many diseases and enhances our longevity (unfortunately room doesn’t permit an in-depth discussion on the benefits of exercise; but you can learn more by reading my article: The Benefits of Exercise.)

It is perhaps because of the multi-faceted beneficent nature of exercise why I’ve never been able to give it up.

The purpose of this article

In this article I am going to share with you twenty lessons that I have learnt from exercise after two decades of near daily practice. The lessons are related to exercise, of course, but some of them transcend the realms of the physical and penetrate the mental – perhaps even the spiritual.