As I was reading Ray’s post, Conditioning Sucks, I kept thinking how I disagree. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gym. I could be there for hours. When I was seriously bodybuilding leg day often took 2 – 3 hours. I was preparing to write a counterpost in praise of a good workout when I read this sentence:
I wish I had the drive and love of weight training and conditioning my wife has. She could go to the gym for hours every day and love it.
And that’s true — if I won the lottery I would spend a good 3 – 4 hours a day at the gym, just seeing what my body can actually do. So I’ve been thinking — why do I love it so much, why does Ray hate it so much? Is it just a matter of taste? You say poh-ta-to, I say po-tah-to. You know, that sort of thing.
I don’t think so, or at least I don’t think that’s the full story. I think part of the story is our attitudes towards strength. I was not athletic as a child or young adult, I actually never did anything physical until my mid 20′s. Seeing myself as strong jazzes me in profound ways. Ray grew up as a big strong guy. Seeing himself as strong doesn’t hold the same power for him as it does for me. So, that’s part of it.
But the other part of it is that no one ever taught him how to properly utilize a weight room. Ray has occasionally come to the gym with me to lift, and I’m always surprised that he doesn’t know more about weights than he does. He played football and basketball in high school, and so I assumed that he would have lifted as a teen. I mean, everyone knows football players spend a lot of time lifting, right?
Well, sort of. He tells me that coaches assumed that the boys knew what they were doing and didn’t really teach them how to use the weights. They just sort of put the boys in the weight room and told them to lift whatever they felt like.
That’s not the best strategy. In fact that’s not much of a strategy at all. A weight room without instruction is just a weight room. But once you know what you’re doing walking into a weight room is walking into presses, rows, deadlifts. It’s walking into bellied hamstrings, beautiful V shaped backs, tapered waists, and defined arms.
For me, a weight room is a mecca. It’s Lenda Murray and Frank Zane. For Ray, it’s a smelly room with weights in it.
It’s like reading. With instruction about how to read a book is a story, it’s insight, it’s thought provoking questions. Without instruction a book is just a bunch of squiggles on a page.
The same is true in Judo and BJJ — the more techniques you know, the more familiar you are with it them, the more enjoyable the class is, the better your training will be. The deeper you get into something, the more you practice it the more you see its nuance, meaning and beauty. AND the deeper you go into something, the more you enjoy it.
Moreover, Ray is right when he says part of being really good at Judo and BJJ is being well conditioned. It’s really important to be able to execute your techniques with precision, speed and accuracy. But strength counts. And wind counts. They just do. And there’s no better place to work on strength and wind than the gym.