Every training session is a daily devotional, a life lesson, learned through the course of physical labor and the challenges that places on the mind. Reading a life lesson is something you may remember if it resonates with you at the time. Hearing the lesson from someone who has lived it in their own words may touch on deeper emotions. Nothing however, creates a visceral response that becomes a part of the fabric of who you are like actually living the lesson. When you go through the process of setting aside time to train then making it to that workout, rain or shine, regardless of how tired you are and then giving that training session your full commitment you have lived your own proverb. Every training session teaches you something about yourself if you tune in to the frequency. That lesson makes you a better man or woman, a better father or mother, a better friend, a better athlete, and just better in every way.
I started doing push-ups and sit-ups every morning before school when I was in the 2nd grade. You might think that by now I never have to make myself train. You would be wrong. After all these years I still have a love/hate relationship with training. A part of me will always hate the physical agony and sacrifice. That makes me human and I fully embrace the part of myself that tries to rationalize why I shouldn’t while creating doubt about why I should. That devil’s advocate is the shadow self.
Through all the years of physical training the lesson is that its really mental training and the workout is only a side effect. The body provides the stimulus to challenge the mind. It is the weakness and self doubt from which strength and self-confidence grow. The challenge of training is what brings out the other part of me, the beast that absolutely loves breaking through the wall of physical agony and sacrifice to earn the rewards on the other side. The beast is the real self, the return to my primal roots, and my personal connection to ancestors that survived through self-mastery.
Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher taught that knowing oneself was the path to enlightenment. Through my own experiences in gyms and garages on stadium steps and up levees in Louisiana summers, I can confidently say that there is no better way to know oneself than to push yourself to the point that a physical challenge becomes entirely mental. Mental mastery through the process of physical struggle (training) is a metaphor for life to act out daily. To paraphrase an old coaching cliché, “train hard so life is easy by comparison.” That doesn’t mean every training session is the Apocalypse. There are days like that, but the transformation comes from the cumulative affects of a lifestyle devoted to personal evolution through physical training.
Humans evolved through physical struggle and adaptation when to be or not to be was a question of survival, not social convention, entertainment or aesthetics. Somewhere inside you is the real self, the primal connection to your ancestors that survived by being the strongest, fastest, smartest, and most resilient. It’s a beautiful beast with the potential for world-class athleticism and a superhuman will. Tap into it!
Some people view the term beast with a negative connotation, particularly women who think it refers to something too masculine. The beast is neither masculine nor feminine; it is simply the best part of you on display. I call it a beautiful beast because aesthetically there is nothing more inspiring than beautiful movement, kalos sthenos. It conjures images of the grace of Olympic gymnasts performing, the power of Usain Bolt uncoiling and exploding down the track effortlessly and the breathtaking coordination of skill and athleticism of a properly executed Olympic lift. I also refer to it as beautiful because it is poetically beautiful to witness the personal transformation people make when they start connecting with the best part of themselves.
Embracing the part of you that loves the challenge has so many rewards beyond physical change. The transformation is so much more than that. You walk taller because you have built more self-esteem, not because your back is stronger (well that too I guess). You embrace challenges outside of the gym with a new enthusiasm because you have confidence in yourself to commit. That feeling of strength coursing through your veins isn’t muscular, it’s the growth of the real self, evolving and getting stronger inside you.
Now you have to ask yourself. How well do you really know yourself? Do you have confidence in how you will react to pressure and adversity? Are you tapping in to the best part of yourself, the beautiful beast?
I’m sure many of you have great answers to these questions. Share your comments on experiences you’ve had training that were transformative or maybe times when you can tell you are tapping into the beast. What you share could be very inspiring to others. For selfish reasons I want to read them because I’m sure I’ll be inspired.