Stoicism and Fitness

Have you ever been to a gym that has a lending library?  Ours does, because we realize to help people transform we need to work on more than our member’s bodies.  In fact, bodies won’t change UNTIL we begin to shift our mindset.  One of the books on our shelf is called ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book based on stoicism, but it’s easily applied to fitness.

If you’ve only heard of stoicism you probably associate it with someone who is cold, or emotionless. And yes, not letting your emotions control you is a part of stoic philosophy. But stoicism is ultimately about controlling three areas of your life: Perception, Action, and Will.





Seeing things for what they are and realizing ‘things that happen’ are just that, THINGS. They are not inherently good or bad. How we perceive them is where the trouble begins.

Perhaps you’re trying to lose weight and you prep a delicious healthy lunch to bring into work because your co-workers order pizza every Friday.  Lunch time rolls around and you excitedly reach into your bag to grab your meal, but it’s not there.

That event is simply something that happened, how you choose to react to it is what matters. Do you throw a fit, get angry at yourself, and eat pizza out of frustration? Or do you use it as an opportunity to learn how to order the healthiest meal possible from a pizza joint?  That’s how you apply stoicism to fitness via nutrition.





Doing ‘stuff’ is easy. Doing the RIGHT stuff is hard. Action must be directed. You can work your ass off in the gym and accomplish nothing that helps you move forward.

Everything you do should be in service of the whole. We are all tiny pieces on a giant playing board, playing what is in the grand scheme of things, a VERY short game. Our moves affect all the other pieces on the board, so you must act for the benefit of those around you.  Taking action to become healthier makes you a better parent, spouse, and friend.

Action requires bravery because when you take action you’ll inevitably encounter obstacles and risk failure- and nobody wants to fail.   No one wants to look silly because they don’t know what they’re doing in the gym.  No one wants to look weak or slow next to someone who is more fit.

With creativity, flexibility, and persistence however, failure is impossible. You’re not unfit, you’re just not fit YET, there’s a big difference.  The secret to taking meaningful action is realizing you can not fail- unless you lose your persistence.  That’s how you apply stoicism to fitness.

And remember, people define you based on the actions you take- what you do, not what you think or what you say. So act now, and act with discipline.





No one can take away what’s going on between our ears. No one can force us to quit. That choice is yours and yours alone.   Action is what we take when we have some control of a situation. Will is what we depend on if something is out of our hands.

Kyle Maynard was born a quadruple amputee.  He still managed to become a wrestler, fight MMA, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, open No Excuses CrossFit, and speak all over the country.   That is the power of will.

There will be times when something unchangeable and negative occurs. That’s our opportunity to learn, to be humbled, or to be a rock for those around us. Hard times are coming for us all, and our ability to practice acceptance, and even find joy at those moments is the power of will.

We can only be broken if we’re willing to break. Will is about acceptance, not about force.



Remember Your Place


Remember how small our place really is in nature. Remember you’re going to die, maybe tomorrow. Then see how you perceive things around you, what you do when it’s time to take action, and how you react when things seem impossibly difficult.


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