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)