Preface: Many of you know me as the producer and a host on SOFREP Radio, and on a recent episode with Alex Hollings talking his “Old Man Fitness” series I tapped into my philosophy on working out as a way to unplug and escape from the monotony of our day to day living routine. I can’t really take credit for these ideas, they’re not my own. My philosophy on fitness is drawn from many different things I’ve read or heard from various sources over the years. There’s really too many to even name, I take what I can use from people of all different walks of life, some of whom I’ve had the honor to interview. I feel I could write an entire book on this wisdom I’ve picked up from other great minds, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to stick to the more specific topic of mindfulness, or the mind-muscle connection. Enjoy!
It’s Friday night, and while others are out partying or relaxing, I’m genuinely excited to be done with the work week, and ready to get a great workout in at an emptier gym than usual. Some may assume that I have nothing better to do, but to the contrary, I’ve skipped out on plans to make this happen. Sure, I’ll make time to hang with some friends tomorrow at some point, but right now I need this and will enjoy this. People may wonder, how do you possibly enjoy this? They hate the gym, and see exercise almost as a necessary evil to stay looking decent, and for their overall long-term health. Well, I didn’t grow up an athlete, nor someone particularly driven, but through hard times in my life, different pearls of wisdom have entered my psyche trying to find some motivation in various memoirs, interviews, and spiritual teachings. One of the most crucial of these ideas that morphed me was mindfulness.
Before I get into what mindfulness and the mind-muscle connection actually mean to me, let me take you back into that Friday night and my routine. I think routines are integral, and habits whether good or bad are hard to break out of. Whether it’s that cigarette at noon during work, or triple-checking for grammatical mistakes before hitting the “send” button on that email, once you start doing something, it becomes second nature. Since I’m lifting this night, not doing cardio, I have a good meal consisting of a mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and once I’m done with that, grab the iced coffee from the fridge and start drinking that out of my shaker as I pack my gym clothes. I put on the same Asics I wear every time I exercise. Before I’m ready to go, I grab what’s left of my gallon of water I’ve been drinking throughout the day, put in my essential amino acids, make sure I have my iPod Nano and earbuds, and I’m ready to hit the road.
I start to feel the caffeine hit me and the intensity of the music I’m blasting as I drive, getting ready to be in the right mind state to make some progress, and most of all to truly enjoy my workout with laser-like focus and intensity. All of this is ritual, but here’s where the mindfulness element starts to come in. In the parking lot, I leave my cellphone in the car and prepare myself for as little to no distraction as humanly possible. Remember I said I brought my iPod Nano? Some of you may have read that thinking to yourselves, what an ancient piece of technology. It’s actually perfect for this. It keeps me plugged into my music as I drown the world out, and with no other distractions on that little device. As I prepare to lift, I am not focused on how much the person next to me is lifting. I’m not wondering what’s on TV. I am plugged solely into what muscles I am engaging as I exercise. I am slowly working the muscle and not focused on numbers or amounts of weight. I am going to failure, meaning doing the exercise until I can’t properly complete a set anymore, and making sure to truly feel the expanding and contraction of the muscle groups. As I continue to do this as completing different exercises, I enter what can only be described as a euphoric meditative state. I often won’t notice a friend trying to get my attention or even what the hell that song is I’m listening to. This is the awesome feeling I was getting at, and it is in that moment that demonstrates what I absolutely love about working out.