by Dave Tate T-Nation
Training is a part of who I am. In fact, I almost saw the weight room as the cause of keeping me from dealing with the things I avoided and, in some ways, this may have been true. What I was to learn, however, was that the gym was not an escape from things, but actually an entrance into the world of reality as I knew it.
It was the place where I could find inspiration and motivation, where I have had to deal with some of life's biggest challenges. And where I have had some of my best training workouts, business ideas, and negotiations. In the weight room, I have forged powerful friendships, held therapy sessions, and made some outstanding breakthroughs toward achieving my goals.
To me, and to many others around the world, the weight room is not just a place to train, but rather a Zen-like temple – a place of symbolically higher ground where we bring our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. A place where we commit to grueling personal discipline and the continual challenge to improve ourselves: five more pounds on the bar, one more rep, another pound of muscle mass, another pound less body fat, more self-understanding. If we're serious, it is a way of life.
The weight room is a place where the trials never end. It is the place where we test ourselves continuously. We struggle to reach one goal and, as soon as we reach it, there is another and more difficult one to meet.
And just like in the hard-knuckle realm of mathematics, the numbers don't lie. If your training goal is to bench 350 lbs., 345 or 349 won't cut it. There is only one right answer: 350. In the weight room, we learn the right from the wrong, the good from the bad.
It is a place where, in our determination to better ourselves, we learn control and self-realization. As in much of life, things might not always go our way, but in the weight room we train to try to shape the outcome of our goals as best we can.
In our programs and routines, we try to discover the right way to train, to "turn the eye inward" and deepen our understanding of what we're doing. We emphasize daily practice and a focused concentration on the task at hand, that we may try to achieve perfection. This means shutting out negative or extraneous thoughts and controlling all that you need to.
As with any difficult challenge, there will be sacrifices, disappointments, anxieties and frustrations, and most likely injuries. But these trials, if we survive, make us all stronger and better individuals. What we learn in the weight room will prepare us for the body blows that life throws at us.
During my life's most serious crisis, I went to the gym to train, and I learned more about myself in that one day than in any other time in my life. I was alone, and in doing one movement after another, my intensity of emotions kept building inside, ranging from extreme anger to abject fear.
I can't tell you how I trained or the weight I used, but I can tell you I worked so hard that I had tears streaming down my face. This was not crying, but they were tears of rage, fear and finally, tears of happiness.