Tuesday, September 22, 2009

6 Things Weight Lifting has Taught Me about Creativity & Life

Yesterday, I mentioned in my post about being 40, heading back to being a dancer, and becoming stronger than I have ever been.

Part of my weekly regimen includes three days of pretty intense arm weights. I thought that eventually I would get bored by the weights and stop. I figured they were just a way to trim my arms a bit until the dancing really trimmed my whole self.

(Note: I'm not talking that scary vein-popping kind of weight lifting! Yuck!)

But...and this totally wigs me out...it turns out that I enjoy lifting weights. I can be having a massively crap day, and the second I begrudgingly lift that first set of weights, it all changes.

Get this...I often find myself smiling after a couple of lifts and especially when I feel that first trickle of sweat. I mean, it's like there's something wrong with me! Who the hell smiles over lifting weights?!

And who would have thought that I would learn so much about life and creativity and this body in general from lifting weights? But I have. I have learned more from this stationary, supposedly vapid activity in two months than I learned from Yoga in the first year.

I have learned things in a direct, experience-it-in-my-body kind of way. There is nothing nebulous or abstract about this activity, and yet, what I have learned applies to all of life. Here I will apply it directly to my/your creative life.

1. Persistence Pays Off. You can only do two of those lifts today? Then just do two. But keep doing two, and I guarantee that next week, you will be doing four, and the following week, eight, and so on.

Extrapolation for Creative Life: Write one sentence today and another tomorrow and another the next day. Keep writing one sentence and soon you will have a book. Keep writing one sentence and someday you will go onto writing two and you won't even notice.

2. Process Leads to Product. Lifting weights three days a week gives you muscles. Period. I admit, this surprised me a bit. I didn't expect the muscles. I don't know why...

Extrapolation for Creative Life: This is not popular to say. We're supposed to be all noble and shit and say that it's the process that matters. Even though process does matter, aren't we also hoping it leads to product if we are totally honest with ourselves? I mean, we don't expect people in business to focus only on process. Why are artists expected to martyr themselves to their work and starve? No more of that. Expect muscles!

3. Breathing Properly Matters. If you breathe properly while lifting weights, you will actually feel your muscles doing more. If you reverse breathe, you will feel a bit...flaccid.

Extrapolation for Creative Life: This is about using your energy most effectively and efficiently. It's the whole "don't piss around" thing. Don't give away your energy to projects that don't build you up.

4. Proper Posture Protects You from Pain. Obvious, right? But do it wrong and you will pull something. Do it wrong and you won't be lifting for a couple of weeks.

Extrapolation for Creative Life: Again, this is about energy. We all have a million ideas but there are ideas that shine far brighter than the rest. There are also ideas that "fit" us better, that we have the skills to execute well. This is not about picking what is easy. This is about picking what is right.

5. You Can Do Way More than You Think. There is a trick I've learned in weight lifting: If I count, I stop where I thought I would. If I think, "I will do 16," then that is how many I do. But if I don't count, if I just say "1" over and over, I end up doing far more. I end up surprising myself.

On one of Ravi Singh and Ana Brett's Kundalini Yoga DVD's, he says "Do one more forever..." and I used to (yes, I am telling the truth) give him the finger when he said this. It was a tough exercise and that would just make me scowl.

Now I totally get it. I can do one more forever!

Extrapolation for Creative Life: One sentence and then another. (Yep, we're back to that.) You can always give just a tiny bit more. Your stamina will be pushed and expanded. This is also how ideas breed new ideas. If we stand still, not get creative on a regular basis, the Muse, I think, gets tired of us and moves on. The Muse, our Creativity, the Universe...they all like movement.

6. Once You Start, You'll Keep Going. There are days when I do not want to do a thing. I can barely lift my butt off the couch. But I turn on my music and start regardless and guess what? I never stop. I think, "Well, I could just do 15 minutes" to fool myself into beginning, and I never just do 15 minutes.

Extrapolation for Creative Life: This is a great trick for writers. "I will write for 5 minutes." It will turn into more, I promise. It's about Turning Up to the Page or the Canvas or the Piano...It's about Turning Up, because though you are tired or having a bad day, you know your Priorities and you are committed to this life.

What about you? Has Yoga, Dance, Bicycling...Football(!?) taught you anything useful about life and creativity?

(Photo & Text Copyright: Christine C. Reed, blisschick.net, 2009)


Emma said...

Oh, this is a cool post. Very unusual and creative! =)

I have found that being more aware of my body through any physical practice helps me with all kinds of stuff. The "do one more" thing comes up a lot in Kundalini and has helped me with stuff like...carrying the laundry down the sidewalk (the washer's in another location). That may sound silly, but I learned through yoga that I can do way more than I think I can. This is an awesome lesson to learn.

I need to apply the "write one sentence" thing to my drawing. It's so easy to do nothing, but I know if I get started it will grow and grow...

Jill said...

As a yogi, I used to scoff at the people who lifted weights at the gym. Now, 6 months into it, I get it. You get it, too. It helps so much! We are the same age, and I so appreciate your willingness to speak about life in your 40's. Pump on!

Carmen said...

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!!!

City Girl said...

I love this post. I am adding it to my list of things that inspire me to work out (which, as you saw from my post last week, is always an uphill struggle).

Heather Plett said...

I had a really powerful spiritual experience once - while sitting on a leg press machine. Tears started flowing as it occured to me what it means when the body is referred to as a temple in the Bible. I hadn't been treating it much like a temple before that and exercise was making me feel so worshipful.

It must have looked a little odd to the other gym patrons when tears started flowing down my cheeks. :-)

differenceayearmakes said...

From lifting weights I learned:

That I'm much stronger then I thought

That I could do things I never thought I was capable of

In other words it opened me up to POSSIBILITIES

I think it is Dr. Miriam Webster in her Tufts trials with women of all ages lifting weights, Strong Women Stay Young, proved that women who lift weights feel better about themselves, try more new things and feel more powerful and took on tougher challenges - regardless of age! Whether they were 28 or 80 weights improved strength, and bone density by the way.

Linnea said...

Weightlifting taught me the desire to get it right. Not so I could be more perfect than the person next to me, but because when I nailed the form I felt powerful, strong, beautiful -- even in no makeup with disheveled hair in a ponytail.

I'd forgotten how much I used to love it. The weights in the storage cabinet are grateful you helped me remember. So am I.

(I've never given Ravi the finger, but I have said, "In a pig's, umm, eye" before.)

JFKlaver said...

Forget the talking—I'm headed for the weights!

karmacoy said...

I love this post too! You are so very creative!! And strong!!