A few weeks ago, I made the conscious decision to start getting in shape. Mind you, I was already eating healthy and taking good care of my body--I was and am happily situated in my BMI index--but ever since I progressed into Hellenism, I wanted to get into fighting shape. I don't like to work-out; I have tried the gym, some sports, and nothing stuck. I had given up long ago--in general, I barely had the energy to get through my days, let alone add a work-out routine to it. Then, I discovered my intolerance issues and I slowly found myself with more energy, a stronger body, and a renewed drive to get healthy.

I gave my body a while to adjust to my new diet and when the mood hit me a few weeks ago, I picked up running again. I had tried to get into that years ago, but my body couldn't take it. Now, it's still hard but so much more rewarding. I have since added a calisthenics and cardio routine that has me working out anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half every day, depending on if it's an off day or not. The goal is muscle definition, not weight loss, and the over-all goal is to finally get the body I want for myself and for my Gods.

Perhaps no other civilization has held fitness in such high regard as ancient Hellas. The idealism of physical perfection was engrained into society in such a way that nearly everyone took part. Beauty was a great good back in ancient Hellas, in fact, physical prowess, good health and beauty were virtues which were highly sought after and greatly admired in others. Those who possessed these traits were considered blessed by the Gods. In a society of strict gender roles, attaining physical beauty was part of life for both men and women.

The ancient Hellenes believed development of the body was equally as important as development of the mind, in fact, they believed mental well-being was linked to physical well-being to a great degree. A great mind needed a strong, healthy, body to develop. Many founding medical practitioners facilitated the growth of fitness throughout ancient Greece, including the likes of Herodicus, Hippocrates, and Galen.

Gymnastics were taught to young men at palaestras, which typically consisted of an indoor facility for gymnastics, in addition to an outdoor area for running, jumping, and wrestling. When adulthood was reached between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, the site for fitness training switched from palaestras to gymnasiums. Exercise in the palaestra and gymnasium was supervised by the paidotribe, who is similar to the modern fitness trainer. Especially in Athens, this type of exercise was encouraged.

Perhaps best known for their bodies were the Spartans The heightened interest in fitness within Spartan culture was primarily for military purposes, and fighting skills were highly correlated with physical fitness levels, making working out a necessity. Spartan society required males to enter special fitness programs at the age of six. From this point until adulthood, the government was responsible for the child’s upbringing and training. This upbringing consisted of rigorous training programs that ensured all boys would grow into highly fit adult soldiers. Females were also required to maintain good physical condition for the purpose of being able to have strong offspring who could serve the state. The military-dominated culture of Sparta resulted in one of the most physically fit societies in the history of mankind.

The ancient Hellenes practiced many sports, and as is evident by the importance and prestige of the Olympic games, being good at them added to your value as a person. Sports were a way to become a living hero. On top of sports, though, weight lifting was of great importance to the ancient Hellenes. They weight trained with activities such as stone lifting, stone throwing, wrestling and rope climbing. Push-ups and pull-ups were a regular part of training and, of course, ancient Hellas was a far more physical culture. Splitting logs, mining, farming, crafts, all added to the work-out and the building of muscle definition.

Fun fact, did you know that for to get the actors in shape in preparation for filming the movie '300', the actors trained for four months using similar training intensities that would have been used during the times of the Spartans? Their work-out included plyometrics, sprinting and intense weight training and made use of barbells, kettlebells and medicine balls. At the end of the four months of training, the actors where invited to complete the ' 300 graduation workout' which involved performing the following exercises in sequential order: 25 pull-ups, 50 deadlifts at 135 lbs., 50 push-ups, 50 box jumps onto a 24 inch box, 50 floor wipers at 135 lbs., 50 kettlebell clean and presses at 36 lbs. and 25 pull-ups. The combination of all repetitions for all of the exercises totals 300 repetitions.

Needless to say, I'm not looking to get up to the '300' level of fitness, but getting in shape slowly but surely is definitely good for my body and over-all health--including my mental health. I'm dead tired--physically--by the time I head to bed, but mentally I've been feeling better than I have in a long time. I have added Ares to my daily prayers, asking Him to give me the endurance to push myself and the protection and wisdom to work my body wisely and never to the point of injury. So far, so good, and while I can't remember what it's like to wake up without feeling sore in some place on my body, I'm starting to see results in my legs, arms, and abs.

I emulate a good few practices from ancient Hellas in a semi-religious manner (my hair, for example), and getting in shape is semi-religious for me as well; it makes me feel closer to understanding the society my religion was first practiced in and brings me closer to the Gods. It's my way of practicing arête. it's not a must for all Hellenists, but getting in shape is never a bad thing; even just fifteen minutes a day can make a world of difference for you and your body. Consider it next time you have a few minutes to yourself; you don't need equipment for any of it, although I invested in a mat, a few light weights and a jump rope. It's well worth the effort, I assure you.