Sisyphus smiling

TRAINING– Powerlifting gives me purpose. To become stronger than I was yesterday. Gravity doesn’t change. It will remain constant today and tomorrow. I either get stronger or I improve my technique… But gravity never changes. This journey is about overcoming obstacles. I’ve had my fair share of injuries and setbacks. I’ve pushed that boulder up the mountain to only have it roll back down again as soon as I hit an injury. But my character never wavers…it builds. You’ve all been there before. This is my journey and even when I make it to the top of my mountain that mountain will only gain more height and I must push this heavy boulder further…climb higher. The key  to realize is that I enjoy pushing that boulder up this wretched unforgiving mountain…that weight on my shoulders..I don’t wish that this rock were to get lighter..I wish to endure more…..it gives my training purpose.
“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Sisyphus by Titian, 1549

Sisyphus by Titian, 1549 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normally, I have a Bulgarian mentality when it comes to training. I like to lift heavy and lift often. High frequency and high intensity. In the last year I have learned to be more patient and to bring down the intensity. This is due to injuries.

Maintaining a positive mindset

We all go through rough patches in our lives,it’s normal and it’s to be expected. When I am, I try to be as focused as I can  when I am at work. This is important because being preoccupied with thoughts other than the task at hand can get me or my partner seriously hurt or killed. This is an issue that I took seriously and decided to look for ways to stay on point when I spend a shift at the fire house. I found that keeping a positive mindset is a way to to handle this.

The key during any physical event, and this includes weight-training, is to put oneself in the moment to the highest possible degree. To do this, one must not be preoccupied with what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow. These things are irrelevant to the task at hand.

By maintaining a positive mindset, it is easier to switch off and immerse oneself in the training experience. Focusing on negative aspects of life will only serve to dilute the present and, resultantly, impede training performance.

Ways to enhance positive thinking include, dissociating with negative people and refraining from negative pursuits such as sedentariness, excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking.Positive visualization and goal-setting are also important variables when seeking to improve ones mind-set.

 

However, it has to be said that thinking about one’s workout or what they do for a living 24-hours-per-day is probably not conducive to developing a positive mindset. This could, instead, lead to burn-out and disillusionment.

So keep in mind to give yourself a break and take some down time. Try out new things that can refresh your mind so that when you come back to what you need to do you have new found energy.

Thinking about how I think makes me think that I think too much.

For some reason I always think of good ideas and come up with insights at the most inopportune moments. For example ; I woke up in the middle of the night with a tune in my head. I realized I must have been dreaming it and woke up and all the notes were on the tip of my brain. I knew it wouldn’t last long so I grabbed my guitar and tried to play it right away. But, what I played didn’t come out quite right. As I struggled to find the right starting note and  tempo I began to forget the swirling pattern of music that seemed like a symphony. As I struggled, the complex arrangement quickly degraded to a 3 chord romp that I could have easily come up with at a better time. As the last remnants of the mysterious dream music disappeared I gave up and went back to sleep. Why couldn’t this music from another plane have popped into my head while I was actually playing the guitar at a reasonable hour? How come when I sit down to actually write a song absolutely nothing comes to mind and I have to labor to put together a few notes?

Music Note Bokeh

This is the song that my dream brain wrote, notice how the notes are running very hard but are not going anywhere.

Sometimes our minds work a little funny. Some tasks require massive concentration and focus but other tasks should be handled with an empty mind and almost a relaxed thought process.I will just say that it probably depends on you and what the task is that decides which is best. What I realized about the dream music that woke me up and inspired me to write a song in the middle of the night was that its creation came from a different mental state. I was asleep, obviously I wasn’t in a pragmatic or practical thinking mode. I guess in some way my brain was operating in free spin mode. It was just whirling away and pouring on the full creative juices. As I began to wake up my brain abruptly shifted gears and went into a less creative state. Since this is the default position for my brain I guess that’s why I am a fireman and not a rock star.

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But wait. I am a fairly creative guy, or lets just say highly imaginative. I like writing my own songs because it actually relaxes my mind. It’s a way of using an abstract thought process,something I don’t get to do often as I am always thinking more in linear terms. My problem is that I just can’t write anything that is good enough. I’m not being down on myself here I’m being honest. But some of the basic musical arrangements I like to call original songs are fun to play. So as a hobby it works for me. I know for one thing, I never actually practice enough. Not like the pros. Some professional musicians practice 12 hours or more a day! Thinking in these lines I started to realize why practice makes perfect and what practice really does for the mind.

Besides the imprint of memory that practice achieves there is also the alteration of ones mental state. This altered mental state is actually the relaxed thought process and not the one where your focused with intense concentration. By practicing something over and over and over again it becomes second nature like breathing. No one thinks about breathing they just breath. In fact there was a study done on olympic sharp shooters that showed the test subjects in a very relaxed state when they were zeroing in on their target and taking the shot. Just think about that for a second. Their heart and breathing rates slow down as well as their brain activity. Even their facial muscles relax. This is during the peak of pressure to perform with everyone watching them yet they are as relaxed as when we watch a movie.

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Thinking about how I think makes me think that I think too much.

Practice developes our second nature thought process and these skills pop off with ease as the audience is amazed with the mastery at which the task was performed. Athletes call this being “in the zone”.  In interviews after the “big” game athletes have said that they were not even thinking, just reacting or doing. When a musician performs on stage they are able to interact with the audience and look up and smile while they deftly play away hitting notes with precision.

We have all been there before in our own right. We know how it feels and what it’s like. So when you think of something that you want to do well consider the amount of practice that has to go into it in order to reach this meditative state. Of course some people may have a natural talent for doing things and they may not need  a whole lot of practice but for the rest of us it’s the only way to go. Work hard at something, put in the extra hours and stay consistant. It may take months it may take years or it may take your whole lifetime but eventually you will be performing at the highest level. Those watching you will be amazed and wish they can possess such skill and think you are working very hard and all the while you will be thinking what you should have for dinner.

The Warrior Philosophy

I started Life Hardcore after reading the Warrior Philosophy or Code. Anyone who follows this philosophy is absolutely hardcore in my book.

It’s the very philosophy I try to incorporate into my life. I say try because I’m human and sometimes I make mistakes. To develop these attributes over time I need to constantly remind myself of them and rehearse them as often as possible.

By doing this you become very aware of yourself and guess what……you have to be honest with yourself. That’s something that can be very hard to do. Life is about experiencing the journey and sharing in its brilliance , I choose to dig deep  and feel the raw energy that comes from being a man and a human.

Being a firefighter doesn’t really make me a warrior. Lifting weights doesn’t either. But following this philosophy may one day make me a true warrior and one step closer to 100% Hardcore-a-tude.Oh and btw….following this philosophy is guaranteed to add 10 lbs. to your deadlift.

Warrior PhilosophyThroughout history there have been many philosophies developed to regulate the behaviour of those within society deemed warriors. The more well known of these philosophies are the codes of Chivalry from Europe and Bushido from Japan.  Many have been influenced by the social mores of the culture in which these warriors lived. Through most, though, run a common core of attributes that define how a warrior is expected to live his/her life.

The Way of the Modern Warrior follows these attributes :

COURAGE __ The warrior faces his or her fears. There are many things we are afraid of; fear of failure, fear of looking a fool, fear of getting hurt. Well, that is natural- but, the warrior has to learn to acknowledge that he/she is feeling fear because that is all it is, a feeling. Recognise where the feeling is coming from and why and then it is possible to overcome the fear. We can then face the challenges of life and do those things we would wish to.

HONESTY __ The warrior is honest in all he/she does. Honest with others and, most importantly, honest with his/herself. In dealing with others always do so in the spirit of truth – the idea of things as they truly are- as there is no value in fooling others (yes, the little white lie is still acceptable in the right circumstances, which leads us to the next attribute).

COMPASSION __ The warrior has an open heart. He/she helps others at every opportunity. The warrior considers the idea of hurting others needlessly abominable.

COURTESY __ The warrior has respect for others. In his/her dealings with people the warrior exhibits politeness and regard for others. This applies to all the warrior comes in contact with; whether friend, enemy or stranger.

SINCERITY __ The warrior is sincere in all he/she does and says. He/she will endeavour to keep any promise given. Any act that the warrior says he/she will do, will be done. Speaking and doing are the same action.

LOYALTY __ The warrior is intensely loyal to those in  his/her care. The warrior remains true to those that depend on him/her. The only exceptions being those that would cause the warrior to give up the next, and last, attribute.

HONOUR __ The warrior is always conscious of his/her honour. How a warrior behaves is a reflection of who he/she is. The other attributes are the actions that allow the warrior to have honour, it is the state that defines the warrior. No warrior would allow his/herself to be involved in anything that would bring dishonour on his/herself. 

What reflection can do for you.

One of the things that I love about working out is that it puts me in a state of, what I call, active meditation. This is not meditation where you sit with your legs crossed in a candlelit room as you hum to yourself. This is very different. Active meditation is the same as being” in the zone.”

Whenever you see someone who is “in the zone”, they have reached a point  of central focus where only the task at hand is recognized by their brain. All other thoughts are pushed out. I get this way when I train hard and push myself . It happens when  levels of concentration are at their highest.

This happens when I am mountain biking. Your cranking hard and focused on the trail ahead of you. Constantly on alert and processing information at high speed. You only see the trail ahead and your only thoughts are what line to follow. When you finally come to a stop it’s like you just came out of a time warp.

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The same goes for squatting or bench pressing. All thought and energy go toward lifting the weight. Your not thinking about other things in your life like your bills or your schoolwork or your girlfriend. All of that is flushed out. There is no multi-tasking going on. One pure single thought.

In between some grueling sets of squats you are resting up. You are getting ready for your next set. It may be 3 or 4 minutes where you are just standing there. First, breathing a little heavy. After a minute your breathing slows down. As your body prepares to hit it again you may find yourself in another form of meditation. You actually start to turn the concentration you had toward completing the lift inward toward yourself. You start to reflect upon yourself.

Again, there are no other thoughts occurring. It’s a pure thought process where you take stock of……..well, you. In other words you are not hearing a lot of “chatter” in your head. You are now priming yourself to complete the next task at hand.

If the guy next to you is thinking about ten different things going on in his life and none of them about the weight or the lift and you are focused on only the lift, you will do better than him. He is distracted , you are focused. He is allowing these distracting thoughts to not only sap away mental energy but also to break his concentration. You on the other hand are locked in and as your rest period ends and its time to get under the bar this self reflection begins to turn outward again toward the task at hand.