A week ago I cried. A senseless act 40 miles from my house took the life of 49 people. My home is a beach town that most families from Orlando use as their weekend retreat. Central Florida is the United States’ collective backyard. It is the place we all go to play, relax, to escape our jobs and stress, to enjoy beautiful weather and beaches.
The local news has been saturated with footage of not only the violence but with pictures and stories of the people, that for no good reason, are no longer with us. I have friends who could have been one of those faces on TV and feel grateful that they were not.
As with many of us who lift, I was bullied as a child. When I was old enough, I turned to weights to become bigger, stronger and faster. It was my solution to control the hate and anger directed my way and to not be a victim.
This has now given me over thirty years of weight training, with rarely a break, and for good reason. When you want to get good at something so demanding and difficult, you must develop a deep passion. This passion, when invested correctly, has dividends that you will reap, that you could not have known about before you started. Weight training has become not only my discipline but my teacher, therapist, and love.
So as I have done before in many times of stress or uncertainty, I looked inward during my training this week as a way to process the world around me and hopefully come to a clearer perspective. When you train for as long as I have, just picking up the weight sets off a series of chemicals in my brain that begin to instantly provide comfort and clarity. The decades of heavy lifting have hardened my bones, toughened my tendons and made my muscles dense. I use the vehicle of the body to help sharpen my mind and emotions.
I no longer attempt to lift heavy. That is a young man’s game or maybe older men with a few less miles on them. I now focus on perfect form and see each rep as a zen garden that I create and immediately try and replicate until I am exhausted and lose ability to perform them ideally. In that time the noise of the world becomes quiet and distant and outside distractions disappear.
This has become trainings greatest gift; the absence of hate, pain or lies. The execution of a perfect jerk or tire flip requires the athlete to leave the noise of the world and enter a special part of the brain that exists only under a specific state of being. Developed by evolutionary processes that increased our ability to survive under life or death situations it can now be used to deal with circumstances when you are overwhelmed. To understand the power of this process and to apply it to your life will forever change you. It is why you see the same people day in and day out for years at hardcore gyms. Some of them no longer compete but push harder than those seeking the medals and adulation of the crowd.
As this new week begins, life has started to become conventional here again. Programming is back to normal on television and radio. My Twitter and Facebook have returned to the usual pictures of families, friends and political bickering. There has been no additional need to see if my friends have checked in as safe. I found no solutions to my questions about the senseless violence but I did find refuge from being reminded about it.
As the families of these people deal with their emotions in the coming weeks and years I hope some of them can find solace somehow. Often in these situations people turn to alcohol or drugs (recreational or prescription) to find escape from the pain. I wrote this in hopes that people who are having trouble coping with what their lives have given them might somehow stumble across it and try and find the peace that is found through exercise. It can heal like no other process and help to cope like nothing else.
We are America’s playground. We are Orlando strong.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.