Going to the Gym in the Dark
It’s five in the morning and we’re on our way to the gym. This happens six days a week, rain or shine, Christmas, Fourth of July, your birthday. I hate it. Everybody does. We’d all rather be home in bed catching those lazybones Z’s. Why do it then? For me, it’s not because I imagine I’m going to be the next Mr. Universe.
It’s about the mental game.
Yes, the fitness and health aspects are important, even indispensable, to this ritual. But what this predawn expedition is really about for me is the Inner Game. I am preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the day’s work that will start for real in a couple of hours.
When you work out physically, you are doing four things that are superb rehearsals for creative work.
You’re doing something you don’t like.
You’re doing something that resists you.
You’re doing something that hurts.
You’re doing something you’re afraid of.
In the gym or on the track or the trail, we experience everyday moments of real physical fear. A weight we don’t think we can handle. A hill we’re not sure we can climb. Watch the faces of men and women at Gold’s or CrossFit or any other serious venue. See them going deep within, psyching themselves up to anticipate the level of effort and intensity they’re going to have to summon.
I’m not saying that Spartan-like physical training is the ticket for every artist or entrepreneur. You have to be a little crazy to sign up for this for any reason. But SOME form of self-discipline, some regimen that requires mental focus, some practice that involves visceral adversity can be a great way to kick-start the working day.
What you and I do as writers and dancers and actors and filmmakers is furious, serious stuff. You can’t do it coming straight off the couch. Can you run? Can you swim? Can you climb?
That’s the artist’s way. That’s the mindset of the professional, the warrior, the independent operator.