Scroll the pages of any exercise related blog, and you are sure to find compelling arguments for the benefits physical activity has on your body. I have a different point today, and I want to begin by asking you how often you consider what exercise does for your character?

Why should you worry about developing your character while you perform physical training?

  1. YOUR CHARACTER QUALITIES DO NOT PASS AWAY. You will age. You will lose strength, aerobic capacity, function, and the appearance you desire to maintain. However, your character can grow stronger for life, and it can last forever.
  2. YOUR CHARACTER BENEFITS OTHERS. Chances are you are responsible for another person or group of people in your life. Whether it’s a spouse, child, co-worker, teammate, student, or client, there are others who depend on you. Your character is the measure of how adequately you can serve them.

How does physical training build your character?

  1. PHYSICAL TRAINING MAKES YOU SUFFER. There’s no question vigorous exercise can be stressful, and that’s positive. Stress initiates the growth or adaptation process. As a matter of fact, the same mechanisms that trigger thoughts of whether you can or can’t finish in the middle of a tough workout speak to you in key life scenarios where you find yourself in a struggle or even suffering. What’s key to building character here is your response to such discomfort during training. Will you quit, or will you fight? Remember, others depend on you. For those who fight, the reward is not just a physical adaptation, but a growth in character. You will become resilient and ready for real trials. You will be able to soundly reason when you feel like panicking.
  2. PHYSICAL TRAINING MAKES YOU ENDURE. Stress also sustains the growth process, so it must be applied continuously. Real development occurs through steadfast efforts, not single heroic bouts that are few and far between. The idea of enduring goes deeper than the emotional highs you ride to conquer one stressful workout. What about the days when you’re out of adrenaline and pride, and you have to make a contemplative decision to exert your best effort? That’s life! They are the most common days you experience, but the greatest opportunities to build character. Tough days leave you no reason to go take care of business but the people you care about. It physically hurts, it’s mentally fatiguing, and it’s emotionally difficult, but the result is pure and enduring character.

Why should you choose physical training as a mode of character building?

  1. TRAINING IS SAFE. We implement multiple forms of training to practice various skills in life, because it’s safe to mess up when nobody is keeping score. You can securely put yourself under a legitimate amount of stress in the gym in order to reveal your weak character points. Do you accomplish things the easy way, skip reps, make excuses, have a bad attitude, lose your cool, or ever treat your training partner with insensitivity? If you do, there’s no doubt your particular issues will show up during other stressful times in life, but you can go to work on them in the gym without consequence.
  2. PURE MOTIVATION. You have undoubtedly entered the gym for the wrong reasons before. Try refocusing on character. All of the sudden, the way you look, how much you lift, or the people who are possibly sizing you up behind your back won’t matter so much anymore. There’s freedom. Most importantly, investing your resources in something everlasting like character will often make you eager to be active, because it’s deep and fulfilling, not shallow or fleeting.
  3. KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE. You are inhibited by the limitation of time. You have an overwhelming amount to do between caring for people, work, rest, and exercise. Additionally, I’m telling you not to neglect character building either. Well then, devote your exercise time to not only improving your physical health, but also your character. There’s your twofer.

There’s not a longer-lasting, stronger quality physical training builds than character. Improving your character directly enhances the lives of the people you care about most. It greatly aids in your life-long preparation to be the person you need to be for them. Keep the importance of your character in mind when you’re tempted to quit, give half effort, or not show up at all.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” Romans 5: 3-4

By: Fred Munzenmaier, SPARC Director