The Times They are a Changin’

Gray Cook's Movement—now out in paperback!

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Again? It’s Saturday, I’m preparing material for the newsletter and I’m reluctant to write about my latest health and fitness breakthroughs because something, anything, might occur to totally evaporate, disintegrate, shred or otherwise diminish the power, the magic, the grandness of my words… yawn.

Weather has become adversarial. There are hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis and heat waves and droughts. There are floods and fires, mayhem and power outages. Lives have been lost, families displace, dwellings and possessions wiped out and swept away.

Wars rage, countries topple, peoples threaten peoples, banks falter, economies sink and the corrupt politicians deceive.

This country, the land of the free, is the target of evil. What’s in your sneakers, what’s in your underwear, what’s in your truck, what’s in your heart and head?

It’s Wednesday and 9-11-2011 has come and gone, but not without hearts bared and eyes peeled… not without abiding astonishment and anger, anguish and anxiety. Life goes on and on, by God, and in honor of that truth, let’s return to a day gone by and resurrect an old newsletter.
It’s April ’03; we’re kids; the title is “Down the Road and on My Mind.” It’s long. I must have had more time. It goes a lot like this:

It’s been a long day on the job and you feel pummeled. Not everything went as planned -- come to think of it, nothing went as planned -- and you grope for hope. You check your attitude as you buckle your seat belt, refusing to submit to the trivialities of the workday. You remind yourself that your strength of character is reflected in your behavior under minor stress, good days are around the bend and things could be a lot worse -- the routines of the mind to assist in your transition from rattled to relaxed.

The key slides into the ignition and cranks over the engine with a zoom signaling that part one of the day is over, no small feat. You feel free for a moment, the tether that binds you given slack by the forward lurch of your vehicle, your private space that moves you to your next task site or playground, objective or challenge. These small interludes provide time to collect your thoughts, visualize your day, converse with yourself and otherwise glean the chaff from the wheat.

What’s your plan, where are you headed and what’s on your mind as the first mile rolls away? I’m expecting a large number of folks across the fields and fences and cities are headed home to couch, fridge and TV. Good to kick off the shoes and let the hair down. Some need to take a deep breath and wrestle a second job or a long list of unending chores. A moist handful, of course, moves quickly and without obstruction to strategically placed watering holes. Whatever it takes, I guess, to move the pieces across the board.

But wait a minute. There exists a rare breed unaccounted for in the above collection of characters. In a certain place where the sun shines and the air is fresh, the navigator of his or her vehicle steers clear of the traffic and heads to the gym. Thoughts are on grander things: life, love and the pursuit of happiness, or, as interpreted on another level, discipline, patience and the pursuit of pain. Whatever it takes to improve the worth of life.

You know this singular sort whose habits do not resemble those of his neighbor. His countenance glows, his gait is sure and determination marks his actions.

The rare breed is you.

And the time and place you spend before entering the gym, be it on Main Street or in the garage, are rare as well. As the gym is a refuge and an area for productive work, so is the mind in preparation of a solid, bold and mighty workout. A powerful workout is established in one’s head before entering the inner sanctum of the gym’s walls.

Compromise, sacrifice, long-suffering and discomfort, no one said the task was easy and no one knows but the one who performs it. The groundwork begins in the mind, is effected in the body, transferred to the gym floor and finally to the iron where it is consummated by the fortitude, courage and heart of the pursuer.

That doesn’t mean we don’t love it -- even when we hate it we love it. How can you hate that which is so wonderful and beneficial and, more often than not, fun and fulfilling?

"Self-centeredness and self-gratification are the great deceivers," a ragged sage once said, "and we are easily deceived." We reach for pleasure and relief and grasp neglect and ruin instead.

I believe in giving each dimension of our life its due attention. We are wise not to be dominated by any one area of our life to the neglect of another. Easily said but great effort and discipline must be applied to achieve the balance. Secretly, I’ve been known to fail and not on rare occasions.

But, some healthy workout forethought is smart. Anticipating your training with a brief yet energetic review of its benefits -- health and strength, the afterglow, the mental and physical purge, the admirable steps toward achieving goals, the personal investment in goodness and right -- and a positive overview of your exercise scheme is all you need to fill your mind. Fill the mind with these magnificent thoughts and there is no room for the twin enemy, doubt and apathy.

Of course, the well-organized, efficient and successful person makes sure his energy and muscle-building stores are supplied in advance. Sufficient food and water must be part of the simple plan. That clear plastic bottle topped with cool water and a protein drink in time make the difference in superior mind and body performance. So simple, so smart, so effective.

Stopping by the gym on the way home for a quickie is admirable -- in this day and age it is remarkable. But to be effective and long-lasting, a workout must be more or it will become less. As you must not let training and thinking about it dominate your life, so is it unwise to squeeze it in like a wedge of lemon in a cup of lukewarm tea. Review the list of your priorities and you’ll recall that healthy, hardy exercise is near the top.

The gym is down the road and on my mind.

I rely heavily on the unseen work of the subconscious. These training sessions often turn out to be some of the best. I’m drawn to the iron by desire, not obligation. I don’t have to lift, I want to. There’s no pressure, no rush, no ground lost, no ground to make up, just the playground where time floats rather than flies. And so it goes with physical preparation and mental psyche. They happen.

What do you want to do, what stirs you, what would you like to perfect or investigate, create or devise? The field is open and letting the workout evolve is a relief and can be most instructive. Sufficient spontaneity is needed to provide freedom in your training without allowing it to become random and loose and unproductive in the long term. Here you may wallow in your favorite exercise combinations, try a personal best, switch to high repetitions for pump and burn and the experience, or you might exact a dumbbell movement to work that part of your deltoid no standard exercise ever has. A little creativity and thinking on one’s feet goes a long way to add to one’s self-esteem and training maturity.

To sum it up in four words or less before the winter sets in: Lift and shut up!

The Bomb


Gray Cook's Movement—now out in paperback!


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