Nothing Behind Me. Everything Ahead Of Me.

When I was 14 or 15 years old, reading “A Catcher In The Rye” and “On The Road” was considered a rite of passage for young boys on the verge of adulthood.

Along with listening to Bob Dylan and Springsteen and Joni Mitchell or reading Huxley or Orwell or Burroughs, this rite was not encouraged because these artists filled my young mind with ideas and ideas were dangerous and not as high a priority as learning algebra.

Holden Caufield and Sal Paradise (the main characters/narrators of “Catcher” and OTR, respectively, for those of you who are uninitiated) represented optimism and adventure and possibility and when your life is relegated to yellow school bus rides, cafeteria lunch breaks, disinterested girls and the hope that you could finish homework in time for an hour of television before bed, a bit of danger was a welcomed concept.

As part of my enduring midlife crisis I have cautiously revisited these books to see if they would hold up and to my delight they have. I was worried that my cynical mind would take over and I wouldn’t find them as breathtaking and dreamy, but that was not the case. I guess this is the true mark of enduring genius and why you can look at a Michelangelo sculpture or listen to Beethoven and still be knocked on your ass centuries after their creation.

I think the true benefit of revisiting this literature is that it is a way for me to connect to my true self and – in a plot twist you could see coming from a mile away – is also what I value most about training.

There is a somewhat famous saying in the strength and conditioning world that training doesn’t build character, it simply reveals it.

I’m not entirely convinced that is true. There are plenty of people with incredible moral character who would emotionally fold like a pool-side lounge chair if challenged by a heavy back squat. This does not make them people of questionable character.

However, I do believe that the primal, instinctual nature of strength training, running, jumping and pushing are, maybe save for psychedelic drugs (which are hard for me to speak to as I have no expertise or personal experience), the best ways to connect to who you truly are.

I do think now, as much as ever, this is a really important concept. We are bombarded with a lot of heavy bullshit on the regular, and I haven’t found anything to help strip that away as effectively as loading your skeleton with weight or forcing your lungs and heart to pump hard. It is my drug of choice.

Certainly meditation and painting and writing can also help strip the ego and connect you to your true self. But why I find training so powerful for this, and again this is my opinion, is the belief that everything starts with your body and this allows physical activity to be an easy thing to access.

At least it is for me.

I don’t know if teenagers today are as captivated by literature as I was. No judgment here. I think every generation and individual needs to find the things that light them on fire.

But I am very grateful to Salinger and Kerouac (and so many others) for helping me figure out and continuing to remind me of who I am.

Along with the barbell, they’ve been amazing teachers.