Energizing My Workouts
Since my last post where I talked about combining my yoga and weightlifting practices, I have been actively studying Cyndi Dale's book Energy Work For The Everyday To Elite Athlete. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably remember that my publisher sent me this book with a really sweet note. That note wished me well on my current bodybuilding journey and also suggested that Cyndi's work might come in handy along the way.
Boy was he right!
This book, more than other resource I am currently using, has been instrumental in helping me balance and merge my two practices. Maybe it's her focus on how the subtle energies affect sports performance or maybe it's her down-to-earth approach to talking about the topic in real world language; I don't know. What I do know is that the way Cyndi addresses the topic by appealing to both modern Western science and the subtle sciences of Eastern practices, like yoga or Traditional Chinese Medicine, really does make for a compelling argument.
In one of my social media posts, I promised to share some of my successes applying the philosophies, techniques, and practices detailed within this book. That way you could see for yourself just how amazing the material within its pages was without having to take my word for it. So, let's start that now by talking about the two types of energy. This concept of two types of energy really is foundational to the rest of her book.
By the way, I think it's important that I say this before we dive too deeply into my discussion of Cyndi's work. I don't know Cyndi personally, and though my publisher sent Cyndi's book to me as a gift, I am not getting any financial benefit from talking about this material. The only benefit that I get out of reading and talking about this book is the same one that you, my dear reader, can achieve: the improvement of my physical performance in the gym by combining subtle energy with physical effort. So with that said, let's begin:
Two Types of Energy
In order to fully understand Cyndi's point, I want you to do me a favor. Take a moment and remember a time that you felt energized, even excited to hit the weights. Maybe you were driving to the gym with the windows down, and you just couldn't wait to get to your destination. As you walked through the doors, the front desk person greeted you with a smile. Maybe they even asked what body part you were working on that day. Your warm up was wonderful, and you got every piece of equipment right when you needed it. (I don't know about you, but I love days when the gym is empty and I can get every piece of equipment right when I need it.) Remember your performance that day. Were you were able to lift more than your last time doing those same exercises? Did it feel like the whole world aligned to make your workout a success?
Now imagine another time when you just wanted to sit home on the couch and you had to force yourself to get up and go to the gym. Did it feel like a futile effort to even get the proper nutrition into your body before leaving the house? Did you feel sluggish going to your car? What was the ride to the gym like? How about your interactions with other people in the gym when you got there? Did you have to wait for the equipment you wanted? How was your performance once you got that equipment?
If those two experiences were drastically different for you, then you already have an intuitive understanding of what Cyndi is getting at here, but let's make the implicit explicit. There are two types of energy: physical energy and subtle energy. Both of these types of energies are important to success in the gym … and in life.
Now, most people only ever think in terms of physical energy. Cyndi defines this type of energy as "the ability to perform work." People either feel like they have the drive to do an activity or they don't. Few gym-goers ever realize that there is a lot more than just the "ability to perform work" going on in their level of motivation. They rarely ask why they have that ability or the desire to do something in one moment or fail to have it in another. Cyndi's book answers that question quite expertly. She also gives her reader real-world exercises to overcome the times when the energy isn't there.
Her answer rests with the subtle energy, so let's look at that for a moment. In truth, her answer really is very grounded and down-to-earth. To introduce her reader to the concept of subtle energy, she talks about the already common practices within athletic competitions of focusing on one's mental game or emotional responses to situations. A coach shouting "Get your head in the game!" to a player immediately comes to my mind. She talks about how athletes react to negativity and ways that they can calm themselves during those stressful times to get back in control of their game. These are all factors that mainstream sports professionals talk about regularly but don't fully understand, so it makes sense that we would start there.
Relationship Between Physical & Subtle Energies
What I loved most about applying Cyndi's concepts of physical and subtle energies to my own workouts was how easily one type of energy flowed into another. When I wasn't feeling the physical "juice" to get-up-and-go, turning to the subtle energies helped me to generate the necessary power to keep to my workout schedule. (As a yoga teacher, I really appreciated her amazing breathing exercise at the end of Chapter 1. It really works to pump those subtle energies when you're feeling sluggish.) When my subtle energies felt like they were waning, focusing on the physical mechanics, like proper nutrition or simply moving the body when I didn't feel like it, helped to get me motivated. Cyndi's dualistic approach really has made a difference in my own approach to working out, and I'm excited to explore this topic further in line with my own yoga background as my bodybuilding journey progresses.