The Cold Fire

Picture a guy stepping up to a barbell in a crowded gym. He’s doing a 1RM, a one rep maximum effort lift. He wants to deadlift as much weight as he possibly can for one rep. He’s got a weight on the bar that he’s never lifted before. It’s close to, but just beyond, his established 1RM. He walks up to the platform, stamps his foot, pounds his (possibly bare) chest, grunts, grabs the bar, completes the lift. He’s got a new PR, a personal record. He can say without doubt that he’s getting stronger, he’s just recorded data to back it up, his training is justified, his life choices have meaning, his actions have propelled him one increment closer to his goal. This is a big moment and he’s, very correctly, elated. He slams the bar down, shouts, pulls a face, eyes wide, neck bulging, maybe high fives his buddy, maybe picks up the nearest gym chick and carries her off into the sunset to pass on his numerically verified virility.

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Iron Silence

Generally speaking, I don’t listen to music when I’m at the gym. I only listen to music in my headphones if the background music in the gym is distracting and I can’t do anything to change it. This isn’t to say that I don’t like music, because that’s definitely not the case. I am myself a musician and songwriter, proficient with multiple instruments, and I relish the opportunity to lose myself in the magic of sound. But when I lift weights I don’t listen to music at all if I can help it. 


The reason for this may be counterintuitive, but it makes perfect sense to me. I only ever listen to music I like, and music I like makes me feel good. But I don’t want to feel good when I’m lifting weights or grappling or hitting the bag. I don’t want to feel happy or optimistic or anything that might be perceived as positive. When I’m with the iron, I want to feel anger. Anger is a powerful energy that can be incredibly useful when purposefully channeled. When I’m working out, I want to feel every disappointment, every annoyance, every depressing thought that my “Thrall Mind” has ever used to weigh me down and hold me back. The Thrall Mind is the driver of the force of internal resistance which retards your progress and darkens your spirit. He is your dark twin who wishes nothing for you but stagnation and a dull grey mediocrity. This feeling can be emotionally conflicting and, if you’re like me, this emotional conflict leads to anger which can be channeled into purposeful energy. 

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