1. Drive Awareness

The Spirit and Rules of Sports & Fitness

Nobody is attracted to rules.

I remember the first time that I saw a professional baseball game at Tiger Stadium with my dad. It was the sheer beauty of the game that got me – the sunset over the field, the singing, the smells, the jog onto the field, the outfielders tossing the ball so far with a graceful motion of the arm, and the home run trots. I was drawn by the spirit of what I saw and how I was moved. I had no idea how to even play baseball – but I knew I wanted what those guys had. I wanted to play. 

Playing  was the logical next step. I got in a little league and tossed the ball around, and I took my cuts in the batters’ box.  I really didn’t understand what I was doing in those early little league days. In fact, it was frustrating. I didn’t know how to turn a double play, how to bunt, how to position myself in the batters box…I didn’t  understand any of these things. And until I did, I simply couldn’t experience all that the game had to offer. The way that those guys were playing on the field at Tiger Stadium was a million miles away for me…but it was the beauty and spirit of that game that got me onto the field.

Then it was the sheer joy of playing.

But I had hit a certain point in my development. And it was at that point that I wanted to really know what I was doing.

And so I learned the rules. I learned how to turn a double play, how to shield my eyes from the sun as I caught a pop-up, and how to pitch from the stretch. I learned everything that I could possibly learn about the game and it was fun. As I learned more and more, I enjoyed the game even more. There was a certain sense of freedom that came with it. Once I understood the rules and exercised the skills that I needed to have, there was an even greater joy in the game. The rules came naturally.

This is what can happen when we start with the spirit. We lead with that, and the rest follows.

We at activprayer say that we are about “The Spirit of Fitness” because the rules without the spirit can easily kill. It all starts with spirit. It starts with the beauty of inspired action. It starts with the heart.

It has to.

Nobody is attracted by the rules. Nobody is attracted by a diet. Nobody is attracted by law.

If I hadn’t watched that game at Tiger Stadium and been drawn in by the sheer beauty of the game, I would’ve never experienced the joy of playing the game. And if I hadn’t experienced the joy of playing the game, I would’ve never wanted to learn the rules of the game.

The movement is simple: the spirit moves first. If it doesn’t, we lose our joy. We lose our purpose. We grow old very quickly. And things grow old for us very quickly.

And the real beauty is this: when we lead with the spirit, the rules take on a whole new meaning. We want to understand them because they help us ski better, play better, train smarter…they allow us to play an instrument with the freedom to play any song we want after we’ve actually learned what the notes are. The rules help form us, and they’re critical.

But without the spirit, they’re dead.

Modern fitness is rules without spirit – exercise programming, diet plans, technique, dogma. We’ve completely lost the essence of play, the beauty of a body that is moving the way it was designed to move, and the joy of fitness as a craft. We jump straight into exercise form, calculating body fat percentages, looking at ourselves in a mirror.

Those things have never attracted anybody to the joy of fitness.

This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why running is so popular with many people: they simply get out there and experience what it feels like to go for a long run. They experience the spirit of running, and it changes everything. They are caught up by it. They want to learn more, run better, run farther – but they’re driven by a deep desire to master the craft that they saw the beauty of and experienced the joy doing.

I saw the game. I saw the beauty.

I played the game. I experienced the joy.

I learned the rules. My joy increased.

This is why we lead with the spirit. And this is why we’ll continue to be that voice in the industry. This is why we’ll continue to proclaim this simple message: There is a spirit of fitness, and we have to recover it.

Luke Burgis
Luke Burgis, CSCS, is a Co-Founder of ActivPrayer, an architect of the activMAP, and a sports and performance coach that has worked in the nutrition and fitness industries for over 10 years. He graduated with a B.S. in Finance from NYU and also completed an S.T.B. in Sacred Theology at a university in Italy where he worked closely with the Vatican's office of Church & Sport about the role of sports and fitness in renewing cultures.

He is a well-known public speaker on the topics of entrepreneurship, fitness, and faith.
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