Ch. 1 – “The Inner Statue”

The history of fitness begins in ancient Greece with areté, or excellence stemming from the union of mind, body, and soul. Inherent to this tripartite definition, areté does not mean just perfecting the physique or even improving one’s health, but strengthening all three dimensions. Kunitz describes the Doryphoros statue by Polykleitos, the ideal figure of a man, to introduce the values of ancient Greece, including self-mastery, discipline, and strength, and a manifestation of areté. According to Kunitz, Greeks were encouraged to emulate the Doryphoros and this was evident in the centrality of the gymnasium to Greek society. He explains any Greek settlement without a gymnasium was just that, a settlement not a city. These gymnasiums were not only places of physical betterment, but the homes of philosophical tradition and political thinking. Among boxers and philosophers, runners and poets, wrestlers and playwrights, the gymnasium cultivated competition, suffering in the name of improvement, and philoponia, or a love of training. As such, attendance at the gymnasium was seen as a civic duty as the interdisciplinary training made for better citizens and thus, a better state. It is through this example that Kunitz introduces fitness as a mirror through which one can better understand the culture and ethos of time and place.