Whoever said "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" must have been talking about sexual abstinence, because he (I'm sure it was a he, somebody like St. Augustine*) sure wasn't talking about exercise. When it comes to working out, in my experience it's just the other way around: the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.
My body wants to work out, and waits for it with the heartbreaking patient eagerness of a dog waiting to go for a walk. And when its "master"-mind wants to do anything but -- sit on its butt and blog, for instance -- it subsides with the same crestfallen but unblaming resignation, puts its head on its paws and heaves a sigh.
For forty-eight hours after even an abbreviated karate workout, I feel great. But if I don't work out every other day, I start to feel stale and icky. I don't mean psychologically guilty or worried about being fat or any of that crap. I mean I start to feel physically toxic. I guess I'm addicted to the chemistry of exercise, and this is withdrawal. After three or four days in which I haven't managed to find time to work out, everything hurts. The knee joints that I've abused for decades by doing karate, the tendinitis in my upper forearms from lifting and hauling the wheelchair and Jacques -- everything hurts. The endorphins are at a low ebb.
And then I work out (as I'm about to do -- just gotta finish this post, check my family's blogs, etc.), and it's like being released from a tiny jail, from chains of pain, from a straitjacket made of my own muscles. And I go, what a jerk! Why do I let it get this far?
Because the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak. It's strange, because the flesh and the spirit are actually allies. Once the body is kick-started by the spirit's discipline, nothing serves spiritual clarity and serenity more than a workout. So what's up?
I suspect the real culprit here, the one who literally comes between flesh and spirit, is the soul (you have to read James Hillman to know that "soul" and "spirit" are not the same) -- that sullen, heavy-lidded saboteur who so loves everything that's bad for you, because it has other priorities than virtue, health, and salvation -- and also because it loves the drama of damnation and redemption, and you have to be damned before you can be saved.
Off I go to get saved again.
*Oops, it was Jesus, in Matthew 26:41. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."