We all have our reasons for training. The health benefits. How lifting weights effectively helps us look better, gives us more confidence, and more energy to live a more effective and happier life. The benefits are endless. But what about training simply for the joy of training?
There’s no arguing the fact that people who love what they do perform better at it than those who don’t love it but do it anyways. The enjoyment of the task results in harder, more passionate practice. It results in MORE practice because it doesn’t seem like practice, where the person who doesn’t love what they do has to force themselves to do it.
The same goes for weight training and working out. Those of us that do it out of necessity, or because we feel like we have to, won’t get near the results as someone who genuinely loves working out. Someone who loves the pain that occurs in the last few reps before failure will get in much better shape than someone who avoids it and hates it.
It’s not rocket science. But how do we love something like weight training?
The Great Escape
Throughout my life I’ve always had an escape – you probably have too. A place where we go to get away from the hustle and bustle. A place of calm, serenity, and sometimes physical pain where our mind can release itself of the clutter that builds up daily.
When I played basketball in high school, that was my escape. I’d take my ball and dribble for hours. Running the streets, just me, my ball, and the repetitive sound of the rubber wrapped in leather sphere hitting the pavement over and over again. I’d dribble until my finger tips would bleed. I’d shoot until my elbow gave way.
No matter what was going on in my life; the rigours of school, social life as a late teen, or the fear and uncertainty of what the future may hold in my early twenties, basketball was my refuge. The place I could go to relieve stress and fear. Just me and the purity of a jumpshot swishing into the chain-link fence on the playground.
If I needed to clear my mind, I’d head to my highschool gym – where I had the keys. The ball echoing with each dribble. Sweat dripping down my face, falling off my body like the worries I’d leave behind while I was on the court.
After basketball, boxing became my refuge and my great escape.
Picture Robert DeNiro dancing in the ring, leopard-print robe draped on his chiseled physique, with white smoke surrounding the ring as he shaddowboxes. He – of course – isn’t he, but Jake LaMotta. The method actor transforming himself into the great middleweight. The music playing along with the brilliance of black and white film giving the rawness a film about the Raging Bull demands. “Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana”, makes every slow motion punch, bounce, and slip, poetic.
The intro to Raging Bull is what I brought with me everytime I’d shaddowbox before sparring. I’d slip my headphones on before a morning run, and go through that same routine. Eyes closed. Alone. At peace.
Boxing was the place where I went to disappear. Even though I was surrounded by dozens of other fighters, I was alone. If only for a moment, I was taken to a place of pure focus. The moment is all that existed. No thoughts of future greatness or past mistakes. Just the present. No unpaid bills, school debt, or relationship woes, just my wrapped knuckles, head bobbing from side to side focused on an opponent that didn’t exist.
The runs at the crack of dawn, shaddowboxing as I’d run along the dyke near my parents home. Facing the east, the sun rising, music playing in my headphones, I was in a movie. I was Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, Muhammad Ali in Ali, or Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me. I was Rocky Balboa.
A great escape isn’t a place where we forget. It’s a place where we are so in tune with the present, that it absorbs us. I never pushed myself harder than when I was training for something greater; for greatness. I’d run lines for hours on that basketball court before class. Taking the 45-minute bus ride at 5:30 am in pursuit of a dream.
When I fought, I’d run hills with a weighted vest. I ran those hills faster with 45 lbs packed on to my skinny frame faster than I could run them today, because I wanted them more.
With boxing a couple of years behind me, and having not picked up a basketball in what seems like eons, I still need an escape.
In a life where my work is my passion project and what I love to do. To write is in part an escape. But I still need something physical.
As I walk into the gym later today, I walk with memories of pain, of struggle, of moments when nothing existed but me and my mission, even though I could be in the middle of a ring, sparring with an opponent, coach yelling instructions from the ropes, dozens of other fighers working on their craft, I was alone in a moment that seemed to be endless.
If I am to walk into the gym without these memories, without trying to once again find that moment in time when time seemed to be a myth, my workouts would fail. I would fail. I’d go through the motions of a training session that lacked passion.
It would be like a great painter not connecting with what he’s painting. There would be no passion and emotion, no “life” and no pain in his work. When I train without these memories. When I workout without the emotions that I had when I was fighting or playing basketball, I fail. And my guess is you do too.
The Gym As An Escape
In order to be Legendary, a workout can’t be merely a sequence of events that are done with moderate intensity and minimal emotion.
The gym, if you are to create your dream body, or even to make the most out of your time there, must be a refuge. It must be a place where you take all of your frustrations, all of your anger, stress, and pain, and release it. Give it back to the world through physical pain.
Enjoy the pain of each set. Know that THIS is you getting better, stronger, more athletic.
When I go to the gym – headphones or not – I don’t talk to anyone. I don’t look up unless I’m looking at a clock. This is my time. The part of my day where I’m not only alone amongst dozens, but the time I can devote to something purely physical and feel the high of a great workout.
Your Great Escape
If you want to get the most out of your workout, take from this article what you want, and look at your workout like your escape from the stresses and uncertainty that can be life. Enjoy everything about the workout. Lose yourself in it.
Go into the workout with the intention of making it a great one. Focus on every rep. Have your mind in your muscle as you lift. Never fall short on a set unless that set calls for it.
The endorphins we release after an intense workout act like a drug, but not one that brings us up then sends us crashing down. A drug that makes us happier and more energetic. A drug that makes the pain that preceded it an enjoyable sacrifice.
Train for health, looks, and performance, but try training just for the enjoyment of lifting heavy weights for as many reps as we can, to create as much pain as we can.
The more you love this escape, the better your results will be.