Druid on the Run: Exercise is Druidic?

I’m on a mission.  My goal is to get in shape.  I’ve never been very athletic.  My favorite forms of exercise are kayaking and dancing but, unfortunately, I don’t do either of them nearly enough.  I love to take nature walks as well but running through the forest near my home is not safe.  My heart hardly gets a good workout; I consider that more exercise for the soul.  Now, I already have a pretty healthy diet.  I’m a strict vegetarian and I’m very careful about making balanced meals.  Sometimes I slip.  We have a “lazy vegetarian” night once a week which usually results in Quorn “chicken” patties.  We sometimes have french fries if we go out to eat and there aren’t any better sides.  I have an occasional soda (although it’s usually of the sort you’d find at the health food store…  But sugar is sugar…).  While my diet is pretty good, the lack of consistent exercise has resulted in my being out of shape.  I realize that, as I age, my metabolism is slowing.  I need to do more.  How can I motivate myself to exercise?

Probably the way I motivate myself to do most things – I start to associate it with my spiritual path.  Druidism is not just something I do eight times a year – it’s how I live my life.  Thus if I start to see exercise as an extension of my path, I will be more inclined to embrace it and exert a certain amount of discipline.  I must approach exercise as a ritual.

I’m not sure if the Druids of old had any sort of exercise program, but they came from an agricultural and warrior society.  The stories are full of labor, battle, and strength.  As with probably all pre-industrial cultures, exercise wasn’t usually something you had to plan out – it just happened!  All the same, Druids were known for being the intellectuals.  There’s some evidence of them going to battle, but did they labor?  Did they practice warrior skills regularly?  Who knows…  But I recently read Brain Rules by molecular biologist John Medina.  A whole chapter is dedicated to the importance of exercise and the impact it has on our brains. There’s research that shows exercise actually improves our memories and problem solving skills.  Knowing that the ancient Druids had to memorize lengthy histories and mythologies, it seems modern Druids like myself, who are so used to dog-earing books and relying on Google searches, could benefit from the mental boost of exercise.

The modern Druidic virtues don’t specifically say anything about health, but it’s arguably part of moderation.  The demands of grad school in addition to all other facets of my life meant that it was really easy for me to make excuses.  As a result, I became a bit of a couch potato!  My lazing about has far outweighed my scant efforts at exercise!  Where’s the balance there?  The Thirteen Goals of the Witch, while not something everyone follows, is more explicit: “Exercise the body.”  Those who adhere to these goals argue that the body is sacred to the God and Goddess.  To exercise is to honor their gift and them.  Although Celtic mythology isn’t very specific about where we, let alone our bodies, came from, considering myself as a priestess to specific deities means I should be as healthy as possible to continue to honor them and aid my tribe.  I want to live a long, healthy life!  I want to be that crone with long white/grey hair who still takes nature walks and dances around the fire.  I want a sharp brain that is still learning, and I want nimble fingers to sew and spin with.  I have to take care of myself now to get there.

With all this in mind, I hope you will indulge me as I occasionally share updates in my efforts to exercise and improve my health.  Starting today, my husband and I began the Couch to 5K running program.  Most of my blog entries will therefore revolve around running.  Some subjects I plan to tackle will be natural cures for runner’s rash, herbal drinks to boost energy or restock electrolytes, runners’ high, running as meditation, prayers before running, a “healthy me” altar,  and even mythology featuring running or other forms of exercise.  I also hope to have some interviews or guest blogs by other Druids or Pagans who exercise and feel it’s a part of their path.   I will try to keep them on the shorter side because this isn’t meant to be a fitness blog.  Everything will be from a Druidic or general Pagan standpoint.  So next Thursday, look for another Druid on the Run!

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

15 thoughts on “Druid on the Run: Exercise is Druidic?

  1. The Couch to 5K program is an excellent one. Both my husband and I have used it, and we both ran 2 5K races the last two years. One of the runs we did, the Weight Watchers one, has been cancelled, so we’re looking for another one to replace it with.

    After some pretty clear communication from my patron, Hermes (the Swift!), I am gearing up to do a half-marathon. It’s not one of those things that’ll happen overnight; first the 5Ks, then up to a 7K, then a 10K, then the half-marathon. It’s going to take a few years, but when a god asks for something that hurts no one and breaks no laws, I generally do what I can go give it to them.


    1. I’m so glad you replied and that you have good things to say about the program! My husband and I would both love to run the Boilermaker, a marathon in Utica, NY, one day. Perhaps you would be interested in guest blogging about your experiences, particularly with Hermes and running?

  2. I’m with you on this. I used to be a fanatical runner and a total gym-rat, but the years since I finished grad school and a running-related injury have wrecked my habits and added thirty pounds to my small frame. (I used to be underweight, though — those gym-rat habits were not completely healthy.)

    It’s funny, though — I was planning on working through the Couch to 5K program myself! Good to know I have a Druidic work-out buddy out there. 🙂

    1. I will definitely check that out! I didn’t know what fitocracy was but when I told my husband what you said he told me he already has an account! Sounds neat!

  3. I think one could argue the validity of exercise as a Druidic and even largely Celtic practice. I forget where I heard it but I read some book where men were mocking an older warrior for having to release his belt to the point at which he had to drill another hole in it. Supposedly it was the ultimate sign that a man had gone to seed if he let his belt out.

    1. That makes a lot of sense! Actually, I’m now recalling something from early Irish law about a women being able to divorce a man for being too obese.

      1. I wonder if there was a similar prohibition for women. I’ve got an old book on Ancient Irish Marriage Law. I’ve read it like six times now. Very interesting stuff.

  4. The ancient Celts valued strength, skill and display, which would be hard without good health.

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