Tuesday, 13 August 2013

My aging rock icon and his views on working out

Photo by: http://www.slidebite.com/Maura Lanahan
Henry Rollins describes himself in his spoken word performances as an "aging rock icon".  I describe him as my "rock star boyfriend" (even though he is no longer a rock star and he is in no way my boyfriend).  The Nerd understands, and approves.  Hank is no threat to the Nerd. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Rollins, he was a singer with Black Flag, and then with the Rollins Band.  He is also a gifted writer, speaker, radio host, and humanitarian.  Back in 2003 he began touring with the USO and visiting military hospitals to cheer injured - sometimes heartbreakingly injured - veterans.  His stories about some of his visits to hospitals are some of the most moving stories of the human spirit I have ever heard.  Many of Rollins' spoken word performances are available on CD or streaming on the internet.  If you haven't heard Rollins perform, I commend him to you. 

I became exposed to Henry Rollins through the Nerd, who took me to one of Rollins' spoken word shows at Convocation Hall.  Rollins came on stage in a black t-shirt and grey slacks, took a sip of water, wrapped the mic cord around his hand a few times, and he was off.  He didn't stop speaking for more than an hour or so, and I was captivated, on the edge of my seat for the entire time.  Rollins was high energy, well spoken, extremely well read and informed, and his charisma - - well, he did not inherit the "rock star boyfriend" label from nowhere, I tell you what.

I have since seen several of Rollins shows (the most memorable being the one with the Nerd and his mother at Ohio State University), and although Rollins' stories vary, the messages are usually the same.  Be interested in the world.  Be a better person.  Help people.  Be informed.  Be passionate.  Don't take yourself so seriously.  Don't be a dick. 

One of his stories that really resonated with me years ago was his story about The Iron.  I will not do it justice with my paraphrasing, trust me, so you should read it yourself at <www.oldtimestrongman.com/strength-articles/iron-henry-rollins>.  Go read it now.  I'll wait.

The Iron is Rollins' story of how he first began working out, under the not-so-gentle tutelage of his advisor, Mr. Pepperman.  Mr. Pepperman told Rollins to buy weights and what to do with them.  Rollins was to work out with his weight and get stronger, and occasionally Mr. Pepperman would punch Rollins in the solar plexus, just to see how he was progressing: "When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere."

The long and the short of it is that Rollins eventually shrugged off a punch with a laugh, and along the way learned many valuable lessons about himself, and about perseverance, and about weight lifting.  As Rollins says, much more eloquently than I: "It wasn't until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can't be as bad as that workout."

In a nutshell, everything worth doing comes with a certain amount of suffering.  It takes work.  You're not going to want to do it at times.  But you should - - it will center you and keep you grounded.  And strength leads to confidence which leads to the strength to do wonderful things - - for yourself, and for other people.

I try to live up to Rollins' message.   I push myself to be stronger, to be more disciplined, to be a better person.  I try and push myself to do more each week.  When I feel like staying in bed and skipping a workout (like this morning), I think about Rollins and how he would kick my ass for even entertaining the thought of missing a workout.  There is, after all, no growth through comfort: "When the Iron doesn't want to come off the mat, it's the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn't teach you anything."  I want to be taught.  I want to learn.  I want to grow, and to be strong.

"Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds."  Ain't that the truth.

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