weight room was hot that day as I sat on the bench cooling down
from a hard workout. Beads of sweat formed on my skin and
dripped to the floor. My clothes were soaked and my hands
were caked with chalk and sweat, giving them a damp plaster-like
appearance. My hair was drenched and matted as I wiped my
chalky fingers through the tangles. The flies were out en
masse that day and they showed their disrespect by landing at
will on my drenched skin, eyes and mouth.
I remember looking around the room,
which was empty except for the barbells and basic gym equipment.
The building was old, yet this room had retained its vitality,
a result I'm sure, of the reflected energy of those who entered.
To me, there was always something spiritual or ritualistic that
took place as I passed through the door marked "Weight Room".
I began to reflect on the years
(adolescent, competitive and post-competitive) that I had spent
training my body with bars and plates of steel. At times,
the rattle of those plates had been like music to me. Even
now, their subtle clinks and clanks can jolt my adrenals.
I can remember when I traveled;
I would always ask if the town had a gym or weight room.
Sometimes, I wouldn't go anywhere if it meant missing a training
session. I'm still amazed at how this obsession had, in
fact, become like a prison to me and I had no desire to break
The weight room. How many
problems, crises and vendettas had I conquered while dreaming
along? The clank of the plates served me well, as I knew
the answer was (and is), to keep training.
That silent weight room never
gave me answers, but it allowed me to come up with my own. The
barbells were never considerate of my feelings, only my actions,
as they were dead weight that required a certain amount of focused
concentration to move them. That room allowed me to be ME.
I could scream and curse (and did), be rude and punch at
things, my own mindless abandon broke inhibitions that allowed
me to gain strength - mental and physical - that I would never
have tapped any other way.
That echoless pit was also a place
of refuge and repose for me. I could have silence, I could
dream, I could confess. It was there that I learned to face
myself, pass judgment and draw conclusions. I learned how
to push myself to exhaustion, flick a little switch, muster strength,
and keep going. I learned self-discipline through each rep,
set, day, month and year.
These days I train in the morning.
I don't compete anymore, but I still go to that room regularly.
It's quieter now, but the heat, sweat and chalk are still there.
I look forward to the conversations with myself. I know
the walls don't answer me, but the atmosphere of the room does.
It tells me I am exactly where I want to be and doing, at that
time, exactly what I want to do. Here, inner strength becomes
my magic power and my mind is my only friend. The end result
is clarity of thought, and answers.
Is this psychotherapy? I'm
not sure; I look around the weight room, at barbells, squat stands,
power racks and platforms. All are crucifixes to me, encased
in dim silence. I look at my hands. As always, they
are calloused, bathed in sweat and caked with chalk. I know
now that this is my religion.