You might think it’s running, but it’s not.
It’s not running.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love running, and running is great and super important to me.
And I can’t wait to run the NYC Marathon later this year with da boizzzz.
But there was something even more important, and in a way more symbolic for me that I felt like I really started to master in 2017.
And that was working out. Lifting weights, to be specific.
Because running is like this internal thing. It’s more of a meditative thing, almost a spiritual thing. Running is sort of like, religious, you know.
It’s about self-induced suffering. It’s low-key voluntary torture. Running is self-deprecating.
That’s where the high comes from at the end.
Because life is suffering, you know.
And running is extra suffering.
And so every time I do it I just feel so good afterwards. It’s like you’re living extra.
And so running almost becomes this thing of instant gratification.
Ah shit, I need a boost. Time to go for a run.
I have a big meeting tomorrow. Time to go for a run.
I’m feeling kinda bummed today. Time to go for a run.
Running became this antidote for pretty much of all of life’s ails.
And so running is amazing.
But again, it’s this sort of internal thing.
And running isn’t who I am.
I’m not a runner.
I’ve never been a runner.
I’ve always been more of a sprinter.
It’s how my mind and body naturally works.
So running, for me, is about mastering that which I suck at.
That has been truly rewarding, for sure.
And so long those lines, weightlifting is more in line with my natural proclivities, both psychological and emotional and physical.
If running is self-deprecating, lifting is a bit more egotistical.
If running is internal, lifting is a little more external.
It’s yin and yang.
Working on my weakness is great. It provides for me a better platform. But working on a strength is, in a sense, greater. I become more of who I really am.
Because really, that’s who I’ve always been.
In tennis, I wasn’t the guy who could grind you out. I was the guy with the huge serve and the huge forehand. I’ve always had natural power if I was sometimes lacking in grit and consistency.
And so with weightlifting, I felt like, as I grew into my frame, that I also grew into myself.
In truth, with weightlifting, I felt like I became a man.
Or at least started to finally look like one.
It’s funny because in the early days when I first started lifting seriously last year, one of my biggest fears was actually that I would get too big. So silly.
I would complain to Sean about it.
(Sean is my friend who is basically my weightlifting sensei. We played tennis together growing up, but I was a few years old than him. So I was like the kewl older hotshot tennis player. “WOW Alec you hit the ball so hard,” Sean would swoon, eyes glistening. That was back then, though. These days, Sean owns me at tennis and is way more buff than me. As Michael Scott would say, “Well, well well, how the turntables…”)
And I’d be like, “OMG Sean, I’m getting way too big man. Maybe we should switch things up a little bit? Go for higher reps or something? I can’t keep growing like this man, it’s crazy.”
“I can’t buy a new wardrobe AGAIN.”
(I had recently switched from M to L.)
And Sean would just sort of chuckle at me.
“Don’t worry,” he would say, half-consoling me. “You’re not gonna get too big.”
“What a newb,” he would think, quietly to himself.
And, of course, Sean was right.
Soon after that, I sort of hit a wall, size-wise, even though I kept getting stronger with my lifts.
It’s like a hit some sort of natural peak.
Sure, I could and was still grow, but those gains were hard fought.
I might increase my strength 10%. And yet, I’d only put on maybe 1% of muscle size/weight.
(And this sort of seems to be the typical story. Everyone seems to have some sort of genetic ceiling. And the only way to really get past that is Mexican supplements or just years and years and years of consistent work. Of course, there are also genetic freaks out there who just grow and grow.)
The way I sort of think about my personal body journey now is basically like—before I started lifting, I pretty much had the body of a child.
And then as I started to reach and get closer to my natural genetic peak, it felt like I had finally developed the body of a man.
I mean, after all, the primary difference, physically, between a boy and a man is mostly down to testosterone.
And the development of muscle and the proceeding filling up of your frame is more or less the physical embodiment of what testosterone is all about.
And I mean that was just me. How I felt and how I looked.
But then people just started looking at me differently, treating me differently.
Look, this was nice.
This was really nice.
I really liked it. Lol.
And so that sort of further fueled the file.
But it also just made me feel even more differently about myself. It’s like in mind and spirit, I was evolving into a new person.
I was still the same person. But a little bigger. A little more self-assured. That little extra bit of twinkle in my eye.
It was all pretty intoxicating.
But it’s also a material impact like. Because I see myself as more of a man, my behavior starts to chase that self-image. It becomes something I have to live up to and strive for. (While, of course, still maintaining a sense of childlike whimsy and wonder, don’t worry.)
Anyway that initial woozy vibe has sort of worn off a little bit. Just because, we as humans get used to the new thing so quickly once the honeymoon period is over.
But there is a feeling that just stays with you.
Like having a college degree.
Even if your current job doesn’t even take advantage.
You just feel good having it.
Like, yeah man, I got it.
Wsup guys, I have the body of a man.
And yet all of that is still a little superficial.
It’s a little vain.
(But look, I’m a little superficial and I’m a little vain. So shoot me. I just wanna be beautiful.)
That’s OK though because that’s not even the best part of the weightlifting journey.
The best part was just like, becoming one with my body. Every little part of it.
It’s like in my 20s, having left home and graduated from college and entered the real world, I just started becoming hyperaware of myself. And slowly but surely, I started to, through that hyperawareness, come to understand who I really was.
Now, weightlifting in my 30s, I’m starting to develop that same sort of awareness and connection with my body. You just become hyperaware of your body. You start to understand every little part of it so much better. You understand your body’s needs better. Its ability. Its potential.
You start to understand all the nuances of your physiology, and you start to learn how to learn how to get the most out of your body.
Because if you’re getting the most out of your body, then likewise, you now have the platform to get the most out of your mind.
The thing with weightlifting is that it’s not really about lifting weights.
It’s about living a good life.
Because that’s where you grow. That’s where you progress.
Because growth and progress happens when you sleep. When you eat. When you pewp.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, then your hard work is basically wasted.
If you’re not eating right, then your hard work is basically wasted.
If you’re not pewping, then you should call your doctor.
And so as I got more and more into weightlifting, I got more and more into optimizing my growth and progress.
That meant sleeping better, eating better, and pewping at the same time every morning. (Ie right after my first half cup of coffee.)
Which is sort of crazy because for a guy who never really had a regimented lifestyle the first 30 years of his life, I’m suddenly living like I’m in military boot camp. And I’m doing it voluntarily. With no drill sergeant!
And really, that perhaps is the greatest gift that weightlifting has provided me, the motivation to show up and optimize everything else.
Because for the bulk of my 20s, I essentially optimized for maximum work and maximum fun. That’s a tough equation to balance. And so what gets deducted is always sleeping enough and eating right. (And if you’re not sleeping regularly and eating consistently, then forget about pewping good.)
By optimizing for weightlifting, all of that gets flipped on its head.
For instance, did you know that the majority of your testosterone is produced during 7 and 8 hours of sleep? So if you’re sleeping like 6 hours a night, you basically have the testosterone levels of a 40- or 50-year old.
I mean, that’s the crazy sort of stuff you start to think about when you get into weightlifting.
And so in a lot of ways, weightlifting is providing me not just the gift of strength but of health.
Because it’s not about lifting heavy things and looking good. That’s derivative of simply just existing good.
Anyway, we don’t have to get into all the health benefits of exercise.
Cuz that’s sort of obvious.
(Like, did you know that regular exercise completely alters you microbiome, ie your gut bacteria, ie your “second brain.” Yeah, read that in the NYTimes the other day.)
All of which is to say that I feel really great.
Like the best ever.
But it’s not that fun if I’m doing this by myself so as is typical, I’m rallying the troops.
My mom joined a little over a month ago. Since she got back from China a couple weeks ago, she’s hit the gym EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Like, she hasn’t missed a single day.
She does a one hour class.
Then hits the sauna.
And you know, she loves it. She’s into it now. And it’s satisfying not just because it’s literally satisfying, but also just the satisfaction of the commitment. Building that streak. You see that pep in her step now. You can feel it in her spirit.
And I have to give my mom credit.
She’s provided me a lot of persuasive leverage with my friends.
Dude, she is OLD and she has TERMINAL CANCER.
What’s your excuse???
Anyway, that’s also why I am very happy to share that this month—Sammy and Walter and Nina are all starting/re-starting their gym journeys!
(Sammy and Walter are also part of the marathon crew.)
(Nina is my newb sister.)
(And Sammy and Walter are literally signing up tomorrow. [I’ve already started hitting the gym with Nina during the holidays.])
It’s gonna be a good year, guys.
PS Also, elsewhere in health and wellness, I started meditating again thanks to some nice chats with my friend Mike. Mike has been meditating a lot. We had a nice phone chats last night.
PPS This is basically a humblebrag disguised as a life lesson.
So when I started lifting, I came up with these long term sort of strength goals for bench press, squat, and deadlift, which are my primary lifts along with overhead/military press.
Those are basically the standard lifts when it comes to powerlifting.
Anyway, I didn’t really have any way to really gauge my goals. Like what’s realistic or not. I just came up with a totally arbitrary goal.
I was like, I want to hit 225 for bench, 315 for squat, and 405 for deadlift.
Those numbers are totally arbitrary.
I picked them for their aesthetics.
225 lbs is 2 plates on each side of a barbell.
315 lbs is 3 plates on each side.
And 405 lbs is 4.
I just thought it looked kewl.
I pretty much set this goal back in June when I first switched from Crunch to Gold’s Gym to start taking my training a little more seriously. (They call the Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach “The Mecca.” That’s where Arnold and all those other guys used to train. Well, some of them still do.)
Anyway, a funny thing about goal-setting.
I literally hit all 3 of those goals in one week, pretty much.
Last week, I hit my first set on bench press for 225 lbs.
Friday, I squatted 315 for 2. Another first.
And yesterday, for the first time, I deadlifted 405 lbs.
Which is sort of crazy that it all happened in the same week because, again, those numbers were arbitrary!
Which could be a coincidence or it could just say something about the importance of goal-setting.
Like, consciously or not, I essentially paced myself so that I was able to reach all my goals at around the same time.
Like, if one lift was falling behind, I started to focus on it more maybe. And so everything kept up w/this internal pace.
I say maybe because I never really thought about it. I just kept working the program, kept trying to progress week after week.