Integral Cross Training
A funny thing happens after a parent dies, especially when you feel it happened much, much too soon: you become Type-A with your hair on fire. Well, maybe not you, but in my case it was a nice reminder that death is very real and you have no idea how much you value your health until you lose it. My mother, throughout her chemo treatments, said to me, “I miss working out so, so much.” So since she has died, I’ve been applying much of those “I’d like to do that someday” sentiments in my life, and this includes my workouts.
Training for me began as a necessity for sport: I needed to get bigger for varsity basketball. As I moved past that stage of life, I began to train purely for gross body development: bigger, stronger, more attractive to the ladies. I had a very small understanding of how much deeper training could be taken, as being wrapped up in the hormonal insanity that is being in your early 20′s doesn’t usually allow for these understandings to be anything more than superficial. This was about the armor and how attractive I could make it. I grew up a bit, realized that the joy of training was about how I felt in the process and shortly after. How can I make that part deeper and richer?
I’ve spoken of Ken Wilber and Integral Life Practice (ILP) briefly; this includes, among other things, recognizing that there are at least 3 bodies to our physical being: gross, subtle, and causal. More importantly, all can be trained and help improve the training of each other (i.e. a meditator who takes up weight training improves in both faster than one just doing only one or the other). With this in mind, my training looks a bit like this:
- Gross: Weight Training 3 days a week
- Subtle: Qigong/super joints/mobility work 1 or 2 times per week.
- Causal: Meditation at a zendo 1 time per week and binaural beat meditation at home 3 to 5 times a week.
The specifics of each portion are as follows:
- Weights are the bread and butter of what I do, though the workouts have taken on a more meditative element. Part of this lies in my training style currently, which is pure “Doggcrapp” or “DC” training. The training requires intense focus, taking each muscle to concentric failure before taking 10 to 15 deep belly breathes, and repeating the process 2 more times. What has happened as a result of the meditation I’m also doing is that this breathing practice allows for an opening up… I’m able to rest in awareness, much more than I had ever been able to in past training efforts. The whole process seems less dire, in spite of what I feel is a more purposeful effort. While not exactly the protocol prescribed by Shawn Phillips in his “Focus Intensity Training,” or “F.I.T.”, it is trending in that direction.
- Qigong/Super Joints/mobility work is a more recent addition. I like the Qigong for the flowing movements and the emphasis on body control, though the mobility work I perform prior to training functions in a similar manner. You don’t need to have it approved by a lineage master to reap the benefits.
- I’ve added 1 hour per week of zazen at my local zendo (Ordinary Mind) in addition to 15 to 30 minutes of meditation at home 3 to 5 times a week. I use binaural beats (specifically, Soundmind) to help access brain states faster, leading to a subjectively better meditation experience. As noted above the meditation practice has helped my training, allowing me to become better at both the “attack” and “release” portion of my training. It also gives me something else to focus on throughout the week, so I don’t put as much identity in just my strength training.
This might sound a little woo-woo for some people, but it might not be all that foreign. In the past I had used visualization prior to my workout to help focus my effort; I also stressed the mind-muscle connection, so as not to think about lifting as just schlepping weight around. Put in that context, the additional practices are merely expansions of things I were already doing.
So, how do you cross train? What are you doing that has indirectly improved your training?