Quite apart from all the mind-boggling new research into how the right kind of exercise can rejuvenate your body, I have discovered for myself that exercise is a great deal more than something you do to counteract aging or protect yourself from heart disease. It can be used to fan the flames of creativity and help make you more true to yourself. It can also foster personal metamorphosis of the deepest order - physical, emotional and spiritual. Not only is such transformation possible, it is virtually guaranteed - provided you are patient, and provided you are willing to put real muscle behind it.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of transformation - you know the kind of thing: Frogs into princes, Cinderella becomes belle of the ball. Most people believe that in real life, transformation is not possible. They have obviously never learned to work with muscle.
Some time ago I made a decision to explore just what kind of transformation was possible for me by working intensively with muscle. I had come to understand the enormous importance of enhancing Lean Body Mass (LBM). I knew that skillful weight training (not the slap-about kind you see carried out in most gyms) is the fastest and most efficient way to do this. So I searched out someone who could work intensively with me as a trainer to shift the LBM to fat ratio in my own body.
I found a Welsh champion weight lifter, Rhodri Thomas, who said he would take me on. When we began to work together I was scared to death that after the first two hours I would collapse in a heap. After all I am no athlete. However, I was keen to find out for myself just how change happens through muscle, so we trained six days a week. Every day we would work with weights backed up by aerobic exercise such as running, swimming and cycling interspersed with other activities like squash and tennis - just for relaxation.
I found to my amazement that I did not collapse. Instead I watched as all sorts of deep changes began to take place. Muscles I didn't know existed slowly and quietly began to surface through my flesh. I discovered that the psycho-physiologists are right - feelings, thoughts and past experience is indeed held within our own flesh. All sorts of old memories, feelings, fears, I discovered seemed to be encoded in some mysterious way in my muscles. As you work muscle intensively, sometimes these rise to the surface to be lifted off - much as the body is detoxified of physical toxins on a fast. Frequently I found myself pushed to my absolute limits. Then the gym floor would be covered equally with my sweat and my tears. Still, thanks to Rhod's presence and a will that came out of somewhere deep inside me, I kept working.
I was glad that I did. I discovered that working with muscle in this way transforms the body in an outer way by changing LBM to fat ratio and reshaping your body, which has all sorts of wonderful rewards including more energy, freedom from aches and pains, and a lean, firm body, as well as better hormonal balance.
In many ways even more wonderful, it helps develop from within you a slow but steadily growing sense of self confidence, clarity and independence. For many - myself included - this was a deep change which had been virtually impossible to come by any other way.
It now seems to me that working with muscle slowly and steadily day after day builds a powerful bridge between one's inner and outer world, so that with each passing week you become freer to live the truth of who you are.
So now when I think back to all those fairy tales about transformation, about frogs and princes, for the first time in my life I feel I am beginning to understand them and to understand what real transformation through the body is about. It is not all glitzy, like they say in the movies. It is slow and inexorable. Yet it brings in its wake gifts far beyond our wildest dreams.
Now I wonder, would Cinderella have been prepared for union with her Prince Charming had she not for many years before strengthened her body and purified her spirit through hard work?