The Zen Of Training

In my life, I’ve tried a lot of training modalities for various reasons. I’ve done Tae Bo, I’ve done fitness videos where you sit on a stupid ball and do various lifts with lightweight dumbbells, I’ve done types of yoga, kettlebells, bodybuilding lifts, odd objects, and plenty of others.

However, it’s only in lifting weights that I have found a certain zen-like quality that exists nowhere else in the world for me.

My week was kind of jacked up, so instead of training on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, I had to shift gears a bit to get all my training in. That meant lifting on Saturday.

Which is fine.

Anyway, I’m lifting weights this week and my brain is on all kinds of things. Family things, work things, various other odds and ends that bounce in my brain, and I get under the bar for a set of heavy squats.

I take a deep breath and brace my abdominals, then press the weight up and step back. I need to do 4-6 reps according to the program, but I know I need to do 6. I’m tired of lifting this weight, and that means I need to hit 6 reps so I can increase the weight.

But then I start to lower the weight. I start thinking about my knees, my hips, my torso position, all of that. Then I start asking myself, “Am I low enough?”

When I am, I reverse the process and raise back up.

When I got my six reps done, I re-rack the weight and get out from under the bar. I go and sit down for a bit and rest, and try to remember what I was thinking of before, and it’s gone.

Now, my mind finds something else to ponder quickly enough. It’s just how my brain works.

However, the process starts over again on the next set.

You see, my mind is almost always in motion. This sounds great, but it’s not. I don’t have a lot of control over it. If I’m not writing, then it mostly does what it wants to do. I have almost no ability to shut it off, which can be a pain in the butt.

But when I’m lifting, I’m able to do something I can’t do any other time in my life. I’m living in the moment.

There are few studies that look at the effects of exercise on the brain, and most that do seem to focus on aerobic activities rather than anaerobic ones like lifting weights. However, such studies aren’t unheard of.

But there doesn’t seem to be a lot that look at the brainwaves as one is lifting weights. My own hypothesis is that under a heavy load, the brainwaves look similar to someone in a meditative state.

You see, I’ve tried to meditate. The only time I was really successful was when I was doing yoga-like breathing. It’s not as easy as it looks, which shouldn’t be surprising since it looks hella easy. You just sit there and do and think nothing.

But again, my brain is rather uncooperative. The breathing exercises allowed me to focus on something other than whatever my brain wanted to think about, but it took time.

Getting under a weight, though? That’s when things are different.

It happens almost instantly. That’s probably a good thing since lifting weight can get you hurt if you don’t want pay close attention to what you’re doing. Ask me how I know.

I can speculate until the cows come home as to why it works, but frankly, I don’t care.

All I need to know is that it does. When I lift, I shut up the noise inside my head as my brain–a brain that suffers from ADHD–gets snuffed out in an instant and I can do something I can’t any other time.

I’m interested to know if anyone else has this experience when they lift, or if it’s just me.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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