if i am being honest with myself, working out was never really about anything physical. sure, it was a physical means, but to a psychological end. i wanted to be different, different from what i was. i wanted to feel strong – to feel in control. i didn’t want to feel afraid.
i recognized that i only had a shred of control, that i would never be able to avoid the uncomfortable, but i could – possibly – train myself to adapt to it. it starts small, hitting the gym, finding those movements or paces that drag, that just seem to cost more than they should… the habit blossoms, we begin to find usefulness in our gaps, fixate on the things we are bad at as opposed to our strengths.
working out taught me, it trained me to not shy away from what is uncomfortable. i learned that the things i was bad at are generally the things that will teach me the most. i learned that not liking something didn’t make it untrue, and the only truly useless information is that which i ignored. the essential here, the lesson – is that fear is not the enemy. weakness is not the enemy. criticism is not the enemy. in fact, there is no enemy. there is only us, and our place on this journey. sure, when we started it we needed something to fight against, something simple and clear. it was hard enough to just show up so we stuck to what we were good at, shut out critics because we couldn’t lift that particular weight, not yet anyway. as we grow we learn to accept the complexities in life, the costs and benefits of certain choices. we learn about the subtleties, the relationships, the difference between the symbol and the source.
the weight on the bar isn’t just a reflection of my muscles, but of my attention to detail. my understanding, my willingness to look at myself as i truly am. to try and understand my weaknesses, to understand how sleep and stress and diet and all every little insignificant choice effects performance. that weight is a reflection of my willingness to learn. to search out smarter people and critical advice. it is a reflection of my ability to formulate and execute a plan. training like this is just that – it is training. it is learning how to live, how to approach and understand. learning the difference between hurt and injured, between an attack and a critique. not to overstate things, but when approached correctly this training changes you fundamentally. it strips us down and provides us with the tools to rebuild ourselves as whatever we choose. into whatever we are willing to be.
when we train, we build. we craft our automatic behavior. moment by moment and piece by piece. we become the choices that we make. over and over. we practice. we train ourselves to lean in to the uncomfortable, to probe, to pick, to ask uncomfortable questions. the gym is just the beginning, it is a framework. a process and a mechanism. it is a way, a practice, a door.
and it is only the beginning.