Zen and the Art of Physical Training

Once I heard a cool Zen story. A newbie was trying to learn the art of archery under the harsh guidance of a Master archer. The Japanese bow is very stiff and takes a lot of strength to bend then hold on the target. Master archers make it look completely natural and relaxed, but it takes years of training to just let the arrow fly to the target.

The newbie was trying so hard to hit the target that he was holding his breath. Huffing and puffing and his arms wobbly, he couldn't aim and his arrows were flying all over the place.

One day the master, who had been watching the newbie struggle for weeks, approached and told him to stop. The Master then moved the target and placed it just a few feet in front of the newbie.

"There, you can't miss the target," said the Master. "Now you can concentrate on learning to shoot the bow."

Many exercisers are like the Zen newbie, including trainers and coaches. Exercise books, magazines, and blogs are loaded with  instructions to set goals, quantify, measure, list, be obsessed with outcomes, but there are other, maybe more effective, ways to get stronger or run longer, and enjoy training for an event or just maintaining your fitness. Too often reaching for physical goals set us back and, in the worst cases, cause injuries.

Read this provocative post by Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Body. The training secrets of a U.S. soldier named Victor are fascinating and appropriate for TOJs of all ages.

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