I don’t know where you are, but here in the USA this week is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving might have started out as a noble celebration of abundance, but as with most things in a land where Calvinist pilgrims tried to divine who was “elect” by the earthy accumulation of wealth, more is definitely more and we have turned the 3rd Thursday of November into a celebration of excess. That might sound like judgement, but as much as I promote self-aware moderation, I am proud hedonist. I love experience. I love throwing myself into a reckless indulgence of senses around a table with people I haven’t seen in 5 years. But unlike the Puritans, I hate shame. Every year, I have clients ask me what to do about Thanksgiving, and every year I give out the same sage advice that everyone hates: “Enjoy it.” At the end of the day, nutrition, training, food journals, lacrosse balls, and anything else we use to manipulate our bodies or our behavior are just tools. They are tools that we employ to express our values and how we see ourselves. We lift because we are people who lift. We eat the way we eat because we value our heath. And we train our bodies to use them in the acts that bring us the most joy. This point might be moot if you don’t enjoy Thanksgiving, but I sure as hell do. So mitigating the joy of that experience with guilt or shame is anathema to me. Eat well. Drink deeply. Fall asleep while someone you love runs their fingers through your hair. For tomorrow you have a mighty dragon to slay.
One Hard Thing
In Beowulf, the warriors feast before every great battle. You probably don’t have a dragon to slay, but you can give yourself a little literary lair and pretend that you do. Dan John has a little essay called, “One Hard Thing.” It’s a workout where you just do one ridiculously hard thing. In his example, it’s carrying a 185lb steel log while dragging an 85lb sled up a really long hill. Most workouts consist of doing a bunch of silly crap that doesn’t matter, resting, then doing it a bunch more times. One Hard Thing is just the opposite. It’s One. Hard. Thing. How hard? So hard that you can’t do it twice. So hard that you can’t do it again tomorrow, even though you’ll never forgot that you did it today. Or in this case, Friday. It could be a 12 mile hike, carrying the heaviest thing you can find as far as you can, or sprinting until your lungs breathe dragon fire. It’s not just a test of your will, your resilience, and your capacity for stupidity, it’s a reminder that you and your body can do truly great things, even without training for it. And a reminder to be thankful.
We live in deeds, not years: in thoughts, not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
- Philip James Bailey, Festus (1839)