The Weight Room as Dojo
Ever since I first discovered bodybuilding in 1992, I’ve been amazed at how lifting weights truly grounds me. It’s kind of similar to what my friends say about yoga or meditation: it brings me a sense of clarity and peace.
Enter only when you’re ready. Lifting weights is hard work, and doing it properly requires focus and discipline. Anything less, and at best you’ll have a lousy workout. At worst, you’ll thoroughly embarrass yourself or die. Enter the dojo only when you are 100 percent ready to give it your all—including your mental concentration.
Leave the Blackberry behind. The dojo is no place for texting.
Be in flow. During a hard, effective set, I feel a certain unawareness of the activity around me. Musicians, actors and athletes call it being in the “zone.” Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Croatian born psychologist and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience defines being “in flow” using the following characteristics:
- Concentration and focus: a high degree of concentration with a limited field of attention (you will have the opportunity to focus, and to delve deeply into it).
- A loss of self-consciousness.
- A distorted sense of time: (your subjective experience of time is altered).
- Direct and immediate feedback (success and failure in the course of the activity are apparent, so that your behavior can be adjusted as needed).
- The activity is neither too easy nor too difficult (challenge and ability level are balanced).
- A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
- The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there’s an effortlessness of action.
- You become absorbed in the activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself.
Do it for the sake of. When you’re in the gym, remember: this is all for you, so make the time in the dojo your own. You’re not there to impress your trainer, your spouse, or other gym goers. Do it because you choose to.
Clean up after yourself. After a workout, dojo trainees conduct a ritual cleaning of the space. This reinforces the fact that aside from the obvious hygenic benefits, the dojo are supposed to be supported and managed by the students themselves, not the instructors. So pick up that spray bottle and wipe down your equipment. It’s just good karma.