“There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength”
How Training Killed The Coward and Built a Warrior
1985 – Irvine Meadows, Orange County California – Back before I discovered training
Tall, thin, nervous and angry. Mostly nervous.
Queensryche, the opening band, hits the stage. The headliner, AC/DC, a band I’ve been cranking since I was probably 10 years old, is up next. Soon Angus Young is gonna come out in his Australian school boy uniform and rock this place like a frenzied animal
Me and my buddy Bryan crawl in the dark through the three foot high weeds covering the hill that took us an hour to get to the top of, just outside the amphitheater.
There’s probably 15 or 20 other rockers up here on the hill hiding in packs of twos, threes and fours. Casing the 10 foot high barbed-wire fence and the men guarding it with their massive flashlights that 2nd as night sticks
Unlike prison, where the job of the guards is to keep you in, here their job is to keep you out
Our job as rockers without tickets is to run when none of them are looking, throw our jean jackets on top of the barbed wire fence and crawl over it
The guards are best spotted by the shine coming from their flashlights. They are everywhere.
Finally, the coast looks clear so we make a run for it
We run through the weeds, scale the fence and hop over it down onto the grounds of the stadium… the energy is loud and intense
We’re in, but we’re not in the clear yet
We hide in some bushes laying at the bottom of the fence we just jumped. All that’s left is probably a twenty yard dash down an embankment before we’re home free and can blend in with the crowd. There are guards all over this place, but so are the cantankerous headbangers keeping em’ busy with their constant shenanigans
Hopefully all the mayhem will keep the guards so distracted they won’t notice us high tailing it down the embankment and into the ocean of leather, hair and pot smoke
We look around, waiting for just the right moment
Bryan says “It looks good” and bolts for it… running from the brush straight into the crowd
For some reason I don’t, it’s like I become paralyzed. Damn am I nervous.
Bryan makes it. Before you know it he’s just one more head of long hair surrounded by 10,000 other heads of long hair.
My heart is pumping faster than I can stand, I gotta do this, it’s now or never.
Suddenly a big ass guard with his big ass flashlight grabs me by the arm
“Gotcha ya little piece of shit!”
He threatens me with arrest and escorts to the front parking lot. A sea of Mustangs, Camaros, pick-up trucks and broken glass. Their cars wait outside while the heads bang
My buddy, is inside. I am in the fucking parking lot.
There’s no way I can sneak back in now, you gotta make your way up the hill while it’s still light out and before the guards get on duty, then hide in the weeds until dark before finally making a run for the fence.
Ain’t no way I’m getting in now
Bryan is in there somewhere with 10,000 other rockers banging his head along with Angus to Dirty Deeds
I’m out here
I pace around the parking lot waiting for the show to end so I can walk home with Bryan while he tells me how great the show was.
The whole time knowing I got caught cause I acted like a little pussy and froze instead of running down the embankment and into the crowd.
Bryan ran, I froze. He rocked out, I was kicked out
Things were like that for me back then
I always seemed to be more nervous than my buddies. Maybe it was my conscious from my good upbringing fucking with me
We’d get into all kinds of trouble, I’d been raising hell for as long as I could stand on two-feet, but for some reason I always seemed to worry about the consequences and they didn’t
It’s like they were fully living and I wasn’t
Six and half feet tall and a buck thirty… nothing but bones
I lived on a steady diet of Cookies and Cream Ice Cream , Cool Ranch Doritos and Mountain Dew
Afraid of girls, cops and big mother fuckers who could kick my ass.
Full of nerves, fears, insecurities, racing thoughts and uncertainty. A constant feeling of impending doom followed me everywhere I went.
To make myself feel better that night I bought two concert shirts, I wore one and and tied the other around my neck cuz I didn’t want to carry it
Alone I walked up and down the rows of the empty parking and took in the smell of beer, piss and teenage angst
I could hear AC/DC jamming out hard and the crowd loosing their shit more than a few times to the awesome rock that was being created right before their very ears
I thought about what a pussy and loser I was… I should have ran with Bryan… Why didn’t I?
My life sucked and it seemed like this was just the way it was for me
At that moment I felt someone grab the shirt that was around my neck and pull me to the ground
I fell flat on my ass and some older long hair dude, ripped the shirt from my neck and says, “You want it, then take it from me”
He had a few friends with him and one of them goes “Yeah get up and take it back you fucking pussy”
I just sat there on my ass, covered in gravel and small pieces of broken glass… I didn’t fight for what was rightfully mine
I didn’t wanna get destroyed by this guy
I didn’t wanna deal with the pain and embarrassment
What I didn’t know at the time was that the toll this took on my self-esteem was more painful than any ass kicking I could have received that night
My Dad taught me to always stand up for myself, to never back down and to fight back no matter how big the other guy was
You always fought back. End of story.
My dad would be so ashamed of me if he knew about this, he would think I was a coward.
After the show I didn’t tell Bryan about what happened. In fact, I didn’t mention it to anyone, I was too ashamed
It was best just to leave it there on the asphalt that night
Fast forward to 1988.
My girlfriend of two years dumps me. I am lonely and broken.
I hated my job. Smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. My friends were losers. The only comforting thought was the bag of weed I had in my pocket.
Lonely, depressed, nervous and mad at the world… I needed something.
For years my escape had been the music, the metal, but it wasn’t doing the job anymore, now I needed it just to maintain
I needed something bigger that could stop the screaming in my head and get rid of the angst that was with me 24/7
I needed balls.
I needed to destroy the coward who lived inside of me.
Prove to the world I wasn’t just some pussy you could just tread on
Little did I know how my life was about to be forever changed by one simple discovery.
We had an old weight set in our garage that my dad and brother used to use. I started going out to the garage and lifting every chance I got
That garage was my sanctuary. Problems didn’t exist in that garage. It was just me and the iron.
I pushed, I pulled, I squatted and curled
The weights were way too heavy and my form was scary, but I had something to prove and fuck you if you stood in my way
I still have injuries today from those sessions in the garage.
I set out to destroy my former self and become something greater
It was the only thing in my life at the time that was positive. The only place where I had goals. Where I progressed. Where I could look the future in the eye and see possibilities.
The magazines said do ‘Bicep 21’s’… so I did ‘Bicep 21’s’
The magazines said eat everything I could see, and then eat some more, so I ate.
The magazines said to buy ‘Boron’, and put it under my tongue and it would get me huge, so I bought Boron and put it under my tongue.
I quit cigarettes, flicking my last one right out the garage door
Dropping the cigs I picked up heavier and heavier weights
Next I joined a health club. Then a World Gym, full of hardcore body builders and powerlifters with big bellies and bald heads
Training was the only positive thing in my life.
At first, the change was too much for me and went straight to my head.
I became a bully, I went from hunted to hunter. I wanted to let the world know not to fuck with me, so I would fuck with it first.
I hurt people who didn’t deserve to be hurt.
Then one day I came close to getting my ass kicked by a dude much smaller than me. It was embarrassing… but it humbled me and taught me not to be a bully, to be cool to people, so from then on I was cool
When I was 24 and went to jail for selling weed, I sensed that because of my time spent under the bar, people probably wouldn’t mess with me. The iron had forged me into a weapon.
There were no weights in the jail so I trained in my cell.. pushups, body-weight rows with the top bunk, step-ups and curls with a jumpsuit full of books. I ran laps around the yard.
When I got out of jail, I became more focused on my training than ever.
I simply cannot, and do not, wanna imagine life without training
I carry my TRX straps around in my truck wherever I go
Whenever I move to a new place, the first thing I do is find the closest gym and join it
When I can’t get to the gym and lift, I bust out a quick body-weight workout or run some stairs
The gym is my church
Training is my brother
It’s been my constant ally for almost 25 years
Good times and bad. Girl, no girl. Money, no money.
The training is always there
It’s my portal that takes me from of the pressures of the day and into a new reality
A new me
Training is my Tao
My drug of choice
For the first half of my life I always felt bad… nervous… off.
Training makes me feel good
A few days without out it my body cringes and screams at me “Fuck you Chris, fucking train mother fucker!”
It opens the pressure valve and releases the demons
It takes me out of my story, my life and my problems.
It puts me into the moment. A single point of focus. One rep at a time. One set at a time.
I’m never more alive, more ready to take on the world, than when I’m training.
Out of the cage and free to roam and exist
Bigger, stronger and leaner than yesterday
To NOT be like people who don’t train
I look at the elderly who don’t workout… they’re slouched and brittle. I don’t want that to happen to me
I see old people who’ve been training for years. They’re spritely. They stand up straight. They smile. They look like they just got laid. They are able to outrun death one more day
I train to get rid of stress, anger and anxiety.
To look better, feel better and escape the any bullshit that may be holding me back
To rise above mediocrity, complacency and stagnation
To reinvent, redefine and give myself a do-over
To move in the direction of something greater
I train to carve out a better existence than the one I had
A better life for those I love
At 42 and a father of four I do it to live longer and stronger
To be a better example for my children
To protect my daughters and serve my family
When my girls are older and boys start coming around… I want these boys to know that my girls are not to be fucked with
You treat my daughters with respect
I train because it makes me crave nutrient dense fuel for my system
I train because I want the piece of shit who’s looking for someone to mug or rob, to take one look at me and think “FUCK THAT, I’m robbing some other dude”
I train because I love the act, being at war with the iron and becoming one with it.
To hate it and to love it
I love what it does for me and how it makes me feel.
It gives me a fresh perspective and positive outlook.
It resets the entire system. Brings it to life
Training has taught me the value of sacrifice, hard work and discipline
It took a scared little boy and made him a man among men
It’s about being better today than I was yesterday and being better tomorrow than I am today.
I train because I hope to one day run into that fucker who took stole my AC/DC shirt. I wanna look him in the eyes and ask “Do you remember me?”
And then tell him that I forgive him
Training has made me a better man today
It gave me strength, confidence and a sense of purpose when I had nothing to live for. And now I am indebted to it. The only way to pay it back is by training the rest of my life.
Training destroyed the coward and made me a warrior
“Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.
I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.
Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.
The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.
The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.”
Henry Rollins – from the legendary essay The Iron
I’d love to hear about why YOU train in the comments down below
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