Pick up a heavy thing and carry it. This is good advice. Trust me on this point if no other.
In a world in which the prevailing fitness modalities dictate that we attempt to kill ourselves with burpees and medicine balls or spend endless hours on the elliptical hamster-wheel praying secretly for the sweet solace of an untimely and fatal cardiac event or meteor strike, it is easy to forget what the point is, what our goals are, and how to achieve them.
Life, in general, is often like that: confusing. We busy ourselves in our day to day lives with the banality of existence while fretting, or fantasizing, about the future and longing for, or regretting, the past. There is no blame or judgment here. This is normal. And I am certainly a person who often finds himself doing exactly the above, all of it - minus the elliptical because it makes one look ridiculous, prancing pony.
In my most recent bout of confusion as to the point of it all, nothing has helped me come back into the present more than meditation, sitting still and concentrating on the physical act of breathing. Accordingly, I’ve embraced the simplicity of picking up a heavy thing and carrying it in my physical training. And I cannot figure out why I didn’t do either with greater vigor sooner. But I try not to think of that lest I start getting trapped in a cycle of regret.
It is nearly impossible when moving under a heavy load to do anything but concentrate on where you are going and how soon you will get there. This focus is a welcome relief from the tedium of counting reps and sets or staring at a clock hoping seconds tick by faster. With heavy carries, one’s entire body becomes stronger as a result and the metabolic demand makes the heart rate and breath quicken.
Do I still occasionally go nuts with burpees-over-the-box or long, pizza-erasing sessions in my running shoes? Sure. Are my barbell callouses as big as ever? Sure. These aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. Adding heavy carries into your normal routine will not derail it unless you are carrying large tubs of chocolate icing which you plan on eating immediately upon reaching your destination.
If you ask a personal trainer what kind of workouts you should do, their first question will probably, and should, be, “What are your goals?” Some want to lower their blood pressure. Some want to be able to do 21-15-9 reps of two movements in under a certain amount of time. Some just want to look good in tight pants. My main fitness goal is to train to be strong and resilient so I’m ready for what challenges life throws at me. The meditation thing relates to the same: simplicity… Zen, if you will.
Changing gears, I finished Anathem by Neal Stephenson and finally got around to seeing the new Blade Runner. Regarding Anathem, it is one of those books that is heady enough to compel me to put it down halfway through and read some other stuff (The Big Sleep by Chandler, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and Neil Gaiman’s collection of Norse mythology – not that you needed/wanted this information) prior to picking it up again. Like most of Stephenson’s work it was brilliant, very long and dealt with no small amount of math and science and their relation to existential concepts, much like I’m clumsily attempting with the simple act of carrying heavy shit and the un-simple question of the meaning of life. In brief, Anathem was the kind of thing I could not write with a gun to my head but none the less appreciate. I felt a little smarter after I read it.
This book review also sums up my Blade Runner 2049 feelings perfectly. It is brilliant, long and tackles some very serious issues of existence and morality. Though, I felt compelled to watch Dumb and Dumber for balance afterwards lest I go insane pondering the technological singularity and what exactly constitutes a living, autonomous organism.