Learn And Burn… (Dances With Dogma)

I recently relocated my fitness training studio. I was lucky, I had help. Weight lifting stuff is really heavy. The move went well, and was completed ahead of schedule. I am blessed to have had such strong and diligent helpers – who also own trailers.

When all was set up on the other side – when the machines were put in place, the weights were stacked, and the cardio equipment was aligned, one of my helpers asked me if,

“during your alone time in you gym, do you ever crank up Metallica and really put your weightroom to use?”

A question which immediately evoked memories of my youth; the sounds of clanging weights intermingled with David Lee Roth screeching from deep within his tight pants, while my puffy-armed friends and I lifted weights much heavier than we had earned, in the dungeon gym of our youth. My surprising answer to that question made me smile a secret smile, as I smelled a hint of my maturity on my own breath.

Nope. No Metallica. No loud music. No disco. No metal.

“No music at all when I workout.” I explained.

Not even on heaviest squat day, during my hardest, most challenging cardio sessions, or on my longest runs do I listen to music anymore.

I gave up music and exercise a few years back when I realized I wanted to read more, but being self-employed, found that I could not allow myself time to read. The soundtrack of my workouts these days is the narrator.

I am a selfish man with a profoundly selfish agenda; improving me. In that sense, I am no different than many other gym rats who seek to improve themselves aesthetically by exercising for hours each week. But I am even more self-centered than that; I seek to improve myself on the inside too – I am also a book rat. Since exercise is what I teach, what little free time I have must be devoted to exercise and not to reading – that I might walk the walk.

Enter modernity and the i-Pod; books on i-Tunes, and Podcasts. I came to realize that my lack of reading time could once again be found if I were willing to accept it as listening time instead – hearing books while I exercise. Mind and body working together on different agendas simultaneously? An ambidextrous mission of the complete me.

I was apprehensive about this at first, that my workouts might suffer for a lack of rhythm in the air, and my efforts in the gym might yield fewer returns. I immediately learned that just the opposite occurs; meaningful occupation of my brain during the course of challenging exercise has increased my exercise intensity. As well, the exercise seems to increase my ability to discern and retain the information heard.

My Personal Soundtrack

I’m a Cohen, which means I create plenty of fiction in my head. The only books which captivate me these days are books of non-fiction. While working out I listen to books on history, philosophy, government, concepts, ideas, and I especially favor books on religion; that they may help me better understand and adapt in a rapidly changing world.

During the course of the last recent years workouts I have listened (often repeatedly) to the Tao Te Ching, the Confucian Analects, many excerpts of the Bible, the Qur’an, as well as other religious text from our human spiritual past. I have listened to many important books on the history of mankind as well, great empires, not-so-great empires, governments, movements, ideas, concepts, and critical thinkers from Epicurus to Tom Payne, and from every era of man.

I am grateful that I have spent these recent years learning as I have been moving – broadening my mind, as I broaden my shoulders. It is not just books which lead me through my workouts. There are Podcasts too, of radio programs such as, Speaking Of Faith, Fresh Air, and others which offer me information which I find beneficial in our evolving social structure. Listening to Lincoln’s speeches, the great sermons of Billy Graham, the imposition of Akhenaten, and even episodes of Car Talk, have helped ground me when I have most needed it.

There are those hardcore fitness enthusiasts who will read this and scoff, insisting that intense exercise must be done to loud, fast-paced music – that workout intensity and workout integrity will suffer without it. In my workouts, which can be pretty intense, that has not been the case. It has been a good fit for me to invest in the learning of ideas, faiths, and the rituals of others, as I observe the my own ritual; the ritual of movement – religiously.

If God, god, any deity, historic figure, idea, or concept is present in my workout, there’s no cheating a set of squats, no slacking off on the run, forgoing of a planned stretch or posture. These inspiring figures, places, and ideas are the best workout partners I have ever known, and have inspired me to push harder and smarter, both in and out of the gym, than ever before.

In the end, if Jesus, Muhammad, Diogenes, Darwin, Humanism, Hinduism, Charity, or any Dances With Dogma are involved in my workout, it is sure to be a great workout – inside and out. Be well. rc




8 responses

  1. Those are wonderful ideas, Roy! As you, I stopped listening to music when working out, whether running or strength training, years ago. I can recall a time while in college, that I consistently finished writing papers in the early AM hours. My best friend and I then cranked up the music in the rec hall and played table tennis until we calmed down enough from the caffeine buzz to get a little sleep! Interestingly, I got A’s on my papers, and made it to the quarter finals in table tennis at my Big Ten universities tournament 🙂

  2. Really interesting post! I say whatever works for you.. we are all different & come from different places. Who is to say that one is better than the other. It has to work for you!

    Me… it is music! 🙂 During cardio, I listen & watch the TV’s but sometimes in the HIIT or faster modes, I don’t even see the TV or hear what song played! 🙂

  3. The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.
    Chinese Proverb aka The Big Wall People

  4. Glad you posted a link to this post.
    What I listen to when running or working out is a mix of all kinds of music, podcasts, sometimes audiobooks and often NPR. Our local stations do not run Speaking of Faith programs so Krista Tippett was a total unknown to me. What a discovery! I downloaded hours of her podcasts onto my phone. Thanks.

  5. Pingback: Saving Private Cohen… « Roy Cohen's Contemplative Fitness

  6. Pingback: Hear Here: A Tale Of Jaw Cardio | Contemplative Fitness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s