In life we often find ourselves traveling a road which takes us in a direction that was once obvious and fitting, but in time becomes no longer consistent with our personal growth and changing values. So we choose a new road, one which we see leading us in a better direction or into the next phase of our life. Somewhere down that road, we may realize we’re back on the original road we turned off of. Either consciously or subconsciously we’ve circled back only to find that we’re headed in that same direction which we had exited for all the right reasons.
As it relates to my relationship with strength training, several times since my mid-40s, I have chosen to leave one road in favor of the road which makes more sense for the next phase of my life. It usually doesn’t take long though, for me to end up back on the road I left; the road of bigger, stronger, leaner. That was the right road for the younger me, but no longer.
At least 3 times in the last 10 years I have said enough is enough in the pursuit of more; more strength, more mass, more lean. I well understand the limits of age; that the human body will only get so strong, so muscular, so lean. So I choose a new road; the road of the elegant plateau. The elegant plateau is a direction where if I don’t get any stronger, any more muscular, or any leaner, I’m ok with it. That if I can just maintain what I have as I grow older, that is progress enough.
This Time I Mean It…
Nearly 10 years after I first told myself enough is enough, I found myself on the road to bigger, stronger, leaner yet again. Daily in my strength workouts I note in my journal how challenging or not a movement is. If it’s not too challenging, and the form is intact, I note to increase the weight for the next workout. In some exercises I’m actually using more weight in proper form than ever. That this progress is doable is feeding me ego. It is also stifling the very purpose for my workouts.
This pursuit of increased poundages is not breaking my body down excessively. It isn’t hurting me. It isn’t stressful. It’s simply a departure from a philosophical tenet; that I just don’t need more of anything. In all other aspects of my life I pursue less or just enough, yet when it comes to my workouts, I have been pursuing more. I’m done.
I am once again committing to the road of the elegant plateau – and this time I mean it. Simply stated, I will no longer pursue more strength, more muscle mass, or a leaner physique. The condition I maintain today, is also the site of my next month. If I can maintain this condition ongoing, I’m ahead of the game.
I look ok in a form fitted shirt – even when it’s tucked in. I push reasonable weights in proper form. I can run as fast as needed if being chased by Frankenstein. I’m as lean as I’m going to get. For all of this, I have few aches and much confidence. I work out first and foremost to enjoy it.
Bodybuilding light, or Buddhabuilding as I like to think of it, is based on the structure of traditional bodybuilding for larger purposes, but with a little less intensity, a little less volume, and a more moderate load. It is still concerned with strength, size, and aesthetics so far as maintaining them goes. However, it carries with it more utility in the areas of functional strength, balance, flexibility, sustainability, and the best aspect of all, a transformative, meditative state during the workout that just isn’t there when I’m in pursuit of more.
Buddhabuilding also incorporates balance and stretching movements in-between sets. That is, if I’m doing 3 sets of incline bench presses, in-between sets I’ll either hold a stretching posture for 30 seconds or perform a balance exercise for 30 seconds, then on to the next set with more balance or stretching in-between the sets which follow.
The weights used with a given strength exercise are by no means light. They are challenging, yet achievable, and lend themselves to a meditative state as I am better able to concentrate on the muscles involved. This is where a connection takes place between my mind and my body that just isn’t there when the weights are heavier.
The Soundtrack & The Result…
One of the better aspects of Buddhabuilding to me is the soundtrack. I gave up listening to music while exercising years ago. These days it’s books on philosophy, religion, and cultural evolution which lead me through my games with gravity, efficiently building body and mind simultaneously, one hour at a time. I had a great run at Buddhabuilding from 2005-2011 when I got greedy again and wanted more. It’s time to get back to being me.
Liking my workouts – loving them has been the methadone of my existence for years. It’s where time stands still for me. I find that when I’m pursuing bigger, stronger, leaner, the physical results may be glorious, but that timeless state that sooths my soul is elusive. When the weights are more moderate, the concentration is higher, and my mind is similarly stimulated, the result is a transformative workout, and that result is much more needed in my life than larger triceps. Be well… rc
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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Jason Falkner. Enjoy!