Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heart’s on fire

Monday 30th August – Monday Session Week 8 – Kettlebells and Sandbags

“There are about 60,000 thoughts that go through your head every single day.”

As soon as this guy opened his mouth I thought ‘this session is getting the "Bullshit" tag on my blog’.

“And 40,000 of those thoughts are about the past. Now, who here can control the past?” There were the usual non-commital mumbles of agreement. “Crazy isn’t it?”

This week’s session was advertised to us to be about kettlebells and sandbags. But our instructor, an ex-army Lieutenant Colonel whom I shall call LT, informed us that what he does with his sessions is actually train the mind. Because, after all, we’re the only ones who can control what happens to ourselves, and the way we do that is through the mind. And we have so many negative thoughts (40,000 is a lot!) that the we need to keep the mind in tip-top condition to fight these thoughts.

And apparently the way to do that is to move shit around.

This was weight training with a slight difference. I think the basic idea of this training, army instructor and all, was to make us feel like Rocky in Rocky IV. If you remember Rocky IV, Rocky was sent off to Soviet Russia to fight Ivan Drago. Drago, played by Dolph Lungdren, was training in a high tech facility, getting all the best science, equipment, training and performance enhancing Brigitte Nielsens that the commies had to offer. In the meantime Rocky was outside in the snow dragging around trees:

I've got to admit, that thing he does at 3:00 is pretty impressive

I think hauling sandbags and converted cannonballs around was supposed to put us in mind of a simpler time: a time before spandex, dance remixes of AC/DC and spin classes. A time when people would bake their own bread, tell each other stories and haul sandbags and converted cannonballs around.

LT told us that we should picture our mind like a news ticker which displays all our thoughts, and when a positive one comes along we should pause the ticker, grab onto it, and keep it for as long as we can before the next negative thought came along. “And they will come,” he said. I reckon he must have been on to something cos I was certainly noticing a lot of negative thoughts coming along.

The exercises themselves were arranged in various stations. We lifted things, swung things, and moved shit around. We also did pushups and step ups. Like I say, real old school stuff. He told us to start at the station we would hate the most, so that we could get it out of the way. That was a simple choice for me, and I headed straight to the pushups station. I was quite surprised there wasn’t a queue. We went around to all 8 stations with a few minutes at each (I’m honestly not sure how many, maybe two minutes, maybe three). Then we had a break where he gave us a pep talk, and we did some “fun” activity which involved dragging someone, as if they were a wounded soldier, up and down the square. Then we went back for a second, but very abbreviated cycle of the stations again (40 seconds per cycle). During the actual workout he was saying things like “push out those negative thoughts” but he also said “get angry, if that’s what helps you get the job done!” I wanted to ask him if he thought anger was negative, but decided that that in itself might be considered negative, and besides, it involved talking, which I find hard when I’m hauling shit around.

In the pep talk, LT told us that the Buddhists call the mind the “mad monkey”. (I was happy to see him pull out some pseudo eastern crap. I am surprised it’s taken this long into the 12 week program, to be honest.) In the middle of the workout he asked us who here had thought about a past event, replayed it in our minds, but played it out with a different ending. People put up their hand. He then asked, presumably rhetorically, “how crazy is that? We can’t change the past, and yet we always think about the past, and try to make it different.”

Now maybe it’s just my fancy university edumacation, but I happen to think that the past has a lot of valuable information in it. We call it learning. When we replay a past event, and fiddle with the particulars of it, we are playing a big game of “what if”. And games of “what if” feed directly into games of “next time I will”. But no, it’s the Mad Monkey in us, trying to mess with our heads, or at least fling poo at us.


Needless to say I’ve created a second bullshit tag just for LT.


  1. LT speaks almost as much bullshit as me

  2. I remember the day i finally decided to leave the karate school i was at. The instructor told us that "the human body contains enough electricity to power a small city", with eyebrows waggling as if we should all realise just how much electricity was running through us and just how badass robocop we could be....

    then he parlayed that through (and i kid not) a Winston Churchill story into a misquotation of the bible, the moral of which was apparently "You should take care of yourself and leave others to do the same."... at which point he looked at me for some kind of affirmation and said "is that right sir?". I raised an eyebrow, went "um.... that's not... yup." Finished the class, went home and didn't go back. But a mad monkey would have made it all so much more understandable.

  3. Even Rocky had a montage!

    You should have asked him if "At least I'm not a wanker like this guy" was a positive or negative thought.

  4. Funniest post yet.Laugh out load stuff. (I'd use an acronym here, but I'm not net savvy enough to know if L.O.L is "Laugh Out Load" or "Lots Of Love").

    Not that there's anything wrong it.

  5. F'n hell ...

    Fair enough to spell loud l.o.a.d once, but twice?

    I told you I was stressed !!