Recently, many friends and acquaintances have been devoting themselves to workouts carrying names that are probably in fact designed to inspire cult like worship. There's the "P90X" devotees- of course putting "X" in the title of anything is cool- bonus points for putting it at the end, after a number, thereby demanding that one simply pronounce it "Ex." Then there's this "Spartacus Workout" that apparently is responsible for the ripped abs of Hollywood's elite Persian-stompers. "Crossfit" is your more run of the mill generic workout title- it would be much snappier as "Crossfit-X." But this post isn't about these other workouts. Its about a new workout- one superior to all the "vicious" workouts out there.
That's right, vicious, as in the adjectival form of 'vice'.
What does working out have to do with vice?
Let me explain. Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, characterizes virtues as "states" of the soul, as opposed to feelings and capacities. Any virtue exists as a state of the soul along a certain axis, whose poles are the vices corresponding to the virtue- which is the mean. For instance, bravery is the virtue concerned with rationally dealing with fear (more specifically, facing death in battle- badass, I know). The vice of excess is rashness (one extreme), and the vice of deficiency is cowardice (the other extreme). The virtuous person's soul is stable at some point between the two extremes. In the case of bravery, its slightly closer to rashness since rash behavior resembles brave behavior more than cowardice does. Furthermore, the vicious (as in vice-ful) person need not exhibit only one of the vices. Since virtues are characterized as stabilities, vices are characterized as instabilities. Thus, a vicious person tends to oscillate between vices. A rash person rushes in to battle, imitating the truly brave, only to retreat in cowardice once he realizes the true extent of the danger.
Now, what has all this got to do with workouts?
Glad you asked. Most workouts, diet plans, and general intentions by people to "get fit" result in the sort of vicious oscillation described above. People rush in, guns blazing, on a landmark "Monday morning," only to injure themselves, burn out early, or go on periodic food binges. Even the very structure and movements of many standard dude gym sessions exhibits this sort of unhealthy back-and-forth. Jerky repetitions. Overly long breaks between short intense sets. A whole day devoted to only one muscle group, not to be worked again for a week. You can see why so many of these programs fail.
Here, I wish to propose the "virtuous workout" as the stability corresponding to these other vicious plans. Of what does the virtuous workout consist, you ask? Namely, a series of isometric and balance oriented exercises. Every movement is stabilized by one's core, every exercise and repetition integrate several muscle groups, and emphasis is placed on quickly moving through a sequence of movements with as little rest as possible. Essential to the virtuous workout are an exercise ball, a bosu ball, and a medicine ball. With practice, one can learn to jump onto a workout ball without assistance, and pass a medicine ball back and forth between partners. This sort of sequence is fun, challenging, and above all- virtuous.