I’ve just completed the 12 week strength training program that I wrote about in a previous blog.
What have I gained?
Well, my health and well-being have dramatically improved. For the last few winters (admittedly in draughty houses in two freakishly cold English winters) I’ve had a long succession of bad colds: last year I counted four. This autumn, I had a slow lingering proto-cold: a sore throat each morning, and a sniffly, low-energy state most days. This went on for a couple of months, until I took Shawn Philip’s first piece of dietary advise: cut out wheat and dairy.
I’ve heard of this for years, people abstaining from wheat and dairy for health reasons. I could never see the evidence to justify the considerable inconvenience of cutting out or altering half of the meals I normally eat. Wheat and dairy are everywhere!
But within two weeks of removing them from my diet, my sniffly cold had gone. I’ve had a couple of mini colds in the last three months, but they usually came after what Shawn calls the weekly “day away” where you can eat whatever you want. And these too would usually be gone within a day or two.
The other consequence of my new diet, and doubtless the training too, was that, to my amazement, I lost several inches round my waist!
I am a pretty skinny guy. For most of my life my waist has measured about 32 inches. But after about about two months of the strength training program, jeans that previously I could hardly get into were literally falling off me.
And am I buff? Well, let’s qualify this. I began the program with hardly any muscle at all. Now, I have a good deal more, but since there was not much there in the first place, I still look pretty skinny. I guess you could say I now look “wiry”. Not much of an improvement, I know, and to be honest, I mean really, embarrassingly honest, I realise that I’m a bit disappointed. I realise now that I was harbouring quiet little fantasies of looking stunningly buff at the end of this program. Maybe I didn’t go for it as intensely as I could… or maybe in those quiet fantasies I was expecting too much. As I said, I reckon I made significant progress along the road to buffness, but I was starting from a very, very low base!
And, seriously… that wasn’t the main attraction. What really excited me was the thought of more well being, more energy and strength and, perhaps most of all, a way of bringing spirit and body together in a new and more conscious way.
That last I’ve certainly achieved, but not in the way I had expected to. I had some sessions that were very heart-connected in which I would feel a lot of emotional sensitivity as I worked the weights. It was pleasurable, to really open my heart, become really sensitive and allow the energy to flow into my body. That was nice, kind of what I’d been attempting to experience. Yet, after a few weeks these sessions became less frequent, and less intense. I started to become a bit disheartened. Maybe I wasn’t going to find the kind of inspiration and enjoyment in the training that I was hoping for?
And then in the last few weeks I found something new. I got into a space wherein I would work out hard, with a deep and strong connection to my body. Almost as if I just let my body become really intense, like an animal, in the face of the physical challenge I was presenting it with. It wasn’t so much like inviting my body into the realm of the spiritual. Rather it was inviting my spirit into the realm of the physical; the realm of power, blood and sinew, animal intensity and fierceness.
There are times in the week when I need this so badly, and I’ve rarely known what to do with myself at such times. Now I do. The stories I tell begin to take on a kind of blood-and-guts intensity now, and I believe this is all part of that same movement: an embrace of all that is earthly.
I know there’s strength there: a slowly growing outer strength, and a slowly growing inner strength too. My main motivation in doing this training was to strengthen myself as a channel, a container, that my soul’s work might flow more powerfully through me and into the world. My body is stronger now, that’s good. But more importantly, I’ve found a way to embrace and allow more of my fierceness and animal strength. That has its own stories to tell.