Soul-out: The future of work-out focuses on the holistic wellbeing and soul.

This article explores the present and future of work-out. Ego-oriented and superficial body-focus belongs to the past. The future holds a more holistic and social movement with focus on collaborative wellbeing — and pays attention to soul instead of goal.

Written by Sisse Haynes, article from Spring 2015, edt. 2016

As I was paying my fitness bill for the 10th month in a row without having been there more than twice, I couldn’t help but wonder how come it is so hard to commit to this work-out and just do it? On this basis, I wanted to explore I wanted to explore the future aspects of working-out. One thing is certain: It’s not really about the number of kilometres you run or the distances you cover, it is all about exercising your MBS (mind, body and soul) and being part of an engaging community. What we witness right now seems to be the emergence of a modern and more holistic practice, a natural rebirth of connecting, to yourself as well as to other human beings. This means stepping away from the ego-centered, body-building and superficial goals of working-out, which is now outdated.

From the 90’s mainstream fitness to more soul soothing practices
Since the boost of the ego-fitness-maniac mainstream movement of the 90’s, the tendencies of the past decade indicate a shift in focus from which two quite different, yet coexisting, ways of working out emerged. The first being the Crossfit mantra “Making your body your machine” (“Don’t use a machine — become one!”) along with the mainstream Marathon/Ironman trend. The other is the more soft and soul soothing flows of yoga, tai chi, pilates, mindfulness and so forth. While sculpting your body versus nourishing your mind, body and soul may be two very different approaches to health and working out, they have have one significant thing in common: They primarily focus on the individual ego.

Crossfit vs Holistic Fit
The Crossfit movement draws from the resilience-theory of how we as modern citizens have to be able to survive stressful defeats and external challenges. The idea is that we have to be ready to change and adapt to threats. For instance, we have to deal with the external changes of extreme weather conditions and thus be strong enough to rebuild our house and survive a storm, a tsunami or a flood. Internally, we have to deal with overloads at work and stressful modern lifestyles. When we build our bodies to function like machines, we accept to break down from time to time but the idea is that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Maybe quite impressively so, however not a healthy nor sustainable solution in the long run of a lifetime of ups and downs. Naturally, this also affects us mentally. If this modern tempo keeps accelerating at this pace, we will need to adopt a more holistic and healthy view with regards to strengthening the mind, body and soul instead of relying on the fragile frame of a strong ego and body. In other words we must remember to focus on our core as well. Furthermore, we must acknowledge the importance of cooperating with other human beings and engaging in strong communities. It is time to stop banging our ego-minded heads against the wall of stress and to start focusing on how to climb the wall of stress and loneliness together in meaningful, solid and soul-engaging relationships.

The future movement: me →Wii → we(eee)
These trends show a counteraction to the 90s mainstream fitness-wave, because both Ironman and Crossfit have a “connected with nature — moving away from machines” approach and focus on practising one’s own strength and ability to survive and taking control.
These trends were regarded as tools to deal with the ubiquitous work and lifestyle related disease of the beginning of the 21st century: Stress. “Exercise is a good way to prevent and overcome stress” and “nature heals” were the mainstream mantras of this era. Breathe deeply at the mindfulness course at the office, lift trees at Crossfit and run in the desert until you are filled with endorphins and survival-energy — or simply burned out. Doesn’t this sound healthy?
The main problem of these practices is that the more stressed out your system is, the more unhealthy it is to pressure your body to extremes. The reason for this is that extreme exercise increases the cortisol level, which can actually be very unhealthy if you are already stressed out (and therefore already have a high level of cortisol in your body) and thus it has the opposite effect.

How to prevent Stress and Loneliness
The lifestyle epidemic that is about to hit us, won’t be stress alone but will be accompanied by the even more harming effects of loneliness. Tendencies indicate that we are moving more and more towards the importance of keeping a balance between the High Tech and High Touch parts of our lives. It’s not enough to interact with colleagues, friends and family through computer, touch-screens, phones and other electronic devices. We need human touch and strong relationships to survive. Of course we are thrilled by the increase in high tech developments around us, but along with this High Tech movement, a parallel need for High Touch in real life emerges. In the mid 90s, lonely Japanese people committed suicide, when their tamagotchis broke down. This is an early, and extreme, example of what might happen if real people forget about the real world.

High Tech requires High Touch
The Wii-workout-games focus on bringing the modern family together, and most importantly keeping them fit, through high tech. However, the balance between “Tech” and “Touch” isn’t as effective as it was meant to be, as it only requires one person in order to play, for example. Furthermore, it is a practice that takes place inside our own living rooms, isolated from other people, communities, nature and fresh air.
The future Soul-Out is all about finding a balance that works for all elements of mind, body and soul. A practice that means interacting with others and having fun. A prime example of such a practice is “Friday Night Skate,” an organized rollerblading event that takes place during spring and summer in Copenhagen. Here, thousands of people and families join in experiencing the city and having fun while rollerblading on the empty streets that are cleared by the police in order to support and make possible this soul-gathering event.

From IronMan to Balanced (Wo)Men
We need to get out more. We need to enjoy nature and get in contact with a more simple, holistic and healthier part of life, together with other people. We are about to experience a shift away from the more superficial, ego-boosting, sculpturing culture of working out. A shift towards a more holistic-oriented sense of health and well-being. This holistic orientation focuses on being able to think, feel and sense freedom as well as being present in the Now. It is all about achieving a balance between mind, body and soul whilst enjoying yourself. The aim of ‘working out’ becomes not so much about a quantitative goal as about the importance of maintaining a sane soul. We are moving away from the need to meet quantitative goals and into embracing ways to open up our souls.

Take a walk with Kierkegaard
The future promises a lot of great ways to practise Soul-Out, for instance the revisiting of a quite well-known way to exercise: Walking. This concept is by no means a new one, but one that is worth remembering and revisiting. Do not underestimate the multiple effects of a good old-fashioned walk or hike in the woods!
Walking is healthy for both mind, body and soul. Furthermore, it is extremely easy to go for a walk. You can do this together with new friends, old friends, alone or with family-members of all ages. It is the walk itself that is the goal, and not a quantitative result of the work-out. About 200 years ago, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said: “Naar man saaledes bliver ved at gaae, saa gaaer det nok” / “As long as you keep on walking, everything will work out!”.

I predict a renaissance of people actively taking their time to go for a walk. It is a simple exercise, one that allows you to breathe-in every step of the way, embracing nature, fresh air and the space that allows you to clear the mind. Walking encourages us to step away from technology and stressful environments and it doesn’t need to be time consuming. Walking without purpose becomes the purpose itself. Enjoying nature and online detoxing. Quite opposite of the way walking is usually implemented in modern lives now a day, where one is typically using walking to trying to get from A→ B as fast as possible, during rush-hours. Furthermore, this is usually done with headsets in ones ears, trying to create a tranquil distance from the busy rush-hour madness surrounding the stressed out walker, or with eyes on the iPhone. In this way, one is not only isolated from oneself, other people and nature — but also lacking tranquility. The re-encounter of walking will be beneficial for many, that quickly reconnects with the basic happiness of simply being in nature, enjoying a walk. And then, this will hopefully, and most likely, create a mainstream movement of walking — simply for the purpose of well-being. In Copenhagen, silent co-creation consultant Bastian Overgaard has been hosting some very successfull silent walks around the city where random people/strangers meet and enjoy an 2–3 hour walk together in silence just to be and enjoy and observe. I believe not only an apple (as in the fruit, not Apple) a day keeps the doctor away, but a smile and silent walk a day keeps the doctor away!

Walking is natural medicine for your mind and soul
There are several neurological benefits connected to the basic art of walking. For instance, the brain gets an incubation break, which is an effect of decreasing cognitive inhibition level: We become less fixated, stressed, and narrow-minded. This incubation effect occurs when we spend time working on a problem subconsciously. We do this by spending time away from the actual problem. In this way, one can benefit from thinking about a problem on a subconscious level while being involved in a totally different activity. Activities such as taking a walk, a shower or something as mundane as doing the dishes. Such non-demanding tasks create a low arousal level that makes us receptive to new information, impressions and perspectives. When the arousal level is too high it influences our system in a negative way and it might block completely or even break down.

To sum up: During a walk you have to be present, observe your steps, surroundings and connect with the company you are walking with. It fuels both your mind, body and soul. It also helps prevent several lifestyle diseases.

Run in groups, for your happiness and wellbeing

Another concept worth mentioning is how more running communities focus more on the event, experience, happiness and holistic part of running- in stead of monitoring data and creating competitions neither for yourself or against others. A great example is the increasingly popular City Run Copenhagen which focuses on small (less than 10 km), but adventurous runs in spectacular sceneries of Copenhagen and encourages you to bring your running buddy or family-members. For instance, you might be running through the ZOO or other fun places to experience your city in a new way- and the event also focuses on sharing healthy snacks and meals in the end of the journey. Another running-concept that is increasing its popularity is the Color Run, which happens all over the world. It is a great, short (5km) run and event, where friends join together for the joy of a fun experience together as focus.

Soul Flow: Reconnect and heal your own and others’ lost soul
There are already many examples of this ever-increasing trend of Soul-Out taking place. Mental and spiritual fitness centres already exist in most big cities and offer practises such as Contact Improvisation, Dance Impro, Energy Flow, Chakra Dance and Soul Flow. These are all about becoming one with yourself and others around you. It is about practising empathy and intuition instead of only shaping your body or mind. The focus is on the heart and the energy between people. How about dancing a colour? Express your feelings through body movements? These new ways of Soul-Out are about facing, and maybe overcoming fears of, your own soul, as well as others’ souls around you. It is also about facing ones own traumas, connecting with strangers, keeping an open mind, rebuilding your soul, nurturing scars from the past and creating a natural sense of togetherness.This new kind of workout also has a great therapeutic impact on us — bonus!

“Rise and Shine”: Dare to dance at morning parties!
Another great example of this practice of togetherness and being in the Now is the hip concept of ‘Morning Parties’ (no, not the place you end up at 4 am, staring down an empty beer bottle and listening to bad music after a crazy night out in town). The new Soul-Out oriented Morning Parties are gatherings where hundreds of people meet at a cafe or a similar cultural venue in the morning between 7–10 for some fun, spiritual boosts and sober dancing. One thing that ensures a great start of the day, is when it begins with laughter, endorphins from movement and nice music, while connecting open mindedly with random people. Furthermore, this morning-party wave is also implemented in the amazing Groove”-concept by the inspirational Misty Tripoli (I’m personally a huge fan of this — check it out!) This is all about dancing your own moves (sober, of course), feeling the music and dancing among others — typically in a dancestudio- but with one important difference: no mirrors and no wrong moves possible! You can’t fail! The importance of the practice is to connect with yourself and get in touch with the needs and feelings of your body and soul- and you decide the tempo to dance etc. Beautiful.

Another simple, yet amazing, movement that we will be seeing more of in the future is free dance events, much like Groove, but where everyone can participate from time to time, much like the “Free Your Feet” initiative. This will definitely expand into the future, as it allows everyone to join, irrelevant of age, level or experience with dancing. It is basically just about having fun, sharing great energy and being happy in the Now, together with others.

Furthermore, concepts like “Creativity Gym” are becoming quite popular too as they focus on mind-challenging, innovative practices of training creativity together in a group of random people. This shows how easy it actually is to be creative and to challenge our mindsets and beliefs, while having a fun and relaxing time. A complete nurturing experience for mind, body and soul!

Forget about bikini-season: Soul-Out season is here to stay!
To sum up: The future Soul-Out has no focus on the goal but is concerned with the process of bouncing into other people’s worlds, minds, souls, bodies and sharing the great power of togetherness. For the future, you don’t have to focus as much on fearing the bikini-season, working-out while focusing intensely on burned calories or superficial diet programs, as we are moving from bodybuilding to a more holistic soul soothing, soul shaking or mind mingling era of Soul-Out. In other words, the new beauty perspective does not focus as much on the disaster of a couple of extra pounds, but focuses more on the whole you — your MBS achieved level. From ego bodybuilding and monitorization to builded endorphins and meaningful relations with other human beings. Personally, I’m looking forward to partying soberly on the beach with new friends instead of sweating and dreading the lack of calories burned on a machine, not being able to feel myself or others around me. It is time to open up, take a look around and start challenging your soul by engaging in MBS oriented movements. Does it sound scary? Healthy? Fun? Whatever you may feel about it, one thing is certain: The future movement of Soul-Out is coming! So you better prepare for some social movements, sober dancing, body bouncing and real life walks and talks. Last, but not least:

Enjoy spring everybody (sorry, everysoul) and… don’t forget to Soul-Out!