Friday, July 9, 2010

Why am I doing this?

Most of my Fridays have a common work-out that I decided to try out several months ago. It consists of three exercises:

1. A close-grip, thick towel pull-up with my CLC backpack
2. Ring dips, placing the rings a little more than shoulder-width apart

I'd do two supersets of each and then...

3. 16 kg Kettlebell snatches (I had some knee pain for a while so I substituted 2 minute wall chairs)

A while back when I was doing this workout, I finished up, looked in the mirror (admission: I'm a narcissist and I've been that way since I was three years old), expecting to be satisfied with the way my body looked with my muscles so heavily pumped up. Instead, a question appeared in my mind...

If everyone I met looked like me[muscular, powerful, attractive, etc], would I still want to do this?

The thought continued to manifest itself. If everyone on Earth could do 20-30 of these pretty difficult pull-up variations in a workout, would I still care to do them? Was I too infatuated with the desire to be different? If I wasn't different (better?) than anyone else, would I even bother doing all of this work? I'd like to say that I immediately answered with a resounding NO, as quickly as this line of self-questioning entered my mind but I didn't. I knew lying to myself in this important moment of self examination would be foolish. Those thoughts have been swirling around in my head all day today, before I braved the thick, humid air of my basement gym to start doing this workout again.

Desires. Pride. Enlightenment. Self-improvement. Insecurity. What's driving why we do what we do here? Do we allow weak emotions driven by an ego operating in a distorted sense of self dictate why we go to a gym? Our body will only be able to be able to feed these emotions for so long. Eventually, it will break down under the stress of trying to satisfy these weakening emotions. When it does, then what?

We can use our bodies as a learning tool for our minds. I'm sure we've all talked ourselves into believing that we can't do something and, not surprisingly, our bodies don't, even when we know that it was possible all along. Emotions have powerful controls over our muscles. There is research that strongly supports this. It's times like these where we realize that good strength training is a great form of meditation. It becomes an art of feeding positive forces into your life.

The body can be a powerful window into the mind, particularly in how we choose to present it. We all know of a bad picture that showed up years ago of a famous bodybuilder. He looked flaccid and weak, hardly the famously muscular body that we all practically worshiped and wanted for ourselves. That body was likely the result of an unyielding ego pushing to make the biggest, strongest and impressive body that the world had ever seen. A sculpture of narrow-minded pride and desire. Maybe the time came when that body just couldn't support what the ego thought it should be. Then, it was time to disregard the body and let time do its worst.

The body and mind are a lot like a married couple. They need each other but they bicker and have to be forced to work together even when they don't want to anymore. What they should be doing when it comes time to work out is force themselves together and find a way to make it work for the improvement of both. That's what I remembered as I stood in the middle of that room in my basement as I pushed through the pain that my body felt. That's what a good workout is really made of, not by what pleases me as I look in the mirror. That's what should be motivating me to do what I'm doing.

1 comment:

Todd said...

I really find this true as well. When I let my body become weak, my thoughts gradually become defeatist and weak. I think the mental benefits are the true treasure you get from strength training. Persistence and discipline are necessary to survive in this world, and strength training is a wonderful way to increase them. The physical benefits are cherry on the cake.