Monday, April 9, 2012

Warrior Training: Pushups!

Along with running, pushups might be the most commonly known exercise in modern-day America. It is an exercise that crosses lines of age, gender, ethnicity, strength, and experience. This is a problem, especially for warriors, because it is so easy to dismiss something that is common and well-known. We want our workouts to be filled with top secret strategies to gain superhuman strength and speed. We want to train on peaks of mountains in the hidden monastery of an ancient warrior order. Especially if you are paying money for training, you want an instructor to reveal profound wisdom that you would never have reached on your own. At first look, pushups do not fall into any of these categories. That makes pushups an easy thing to avoid or ignore.

Pushups, however, might be one of the top 3 strength exercises you should be doing as a warrior. Everyone who has ever suffered a gym class or personal training session can probably list off pushup merits; you do not need equipment, it gives full upper body training, with proper posture it trains abdominal and posterior muscles, etc. Professional trainers and coaches, even athletes, are better suited to discussing these benefits. I want to talk about the most important reason, in my opinion, that Warriors should be incorporating pushups into their routines. It has very little to do with the physical benefits of pushups, although there are many. This is an ideological endorsement of the pushup.

Pushups can be done virtually anywhere at virtually all times of the day. Pushups also lend themselves to concrete goals. When you take these two facts together, you have an exercise that is the perfect entry level activity for Warriors to start embodying their ideal every minute of their lives.

As a quick disclaimer, I have not mastered this. I engage in all sorts of lazy and time wasting activity (computer games being the most egregious offender). But I am getting better and try to improve.

Let us quickly break this down into a few points.
  1. Embodying the Warrior idealTo truly call oneself a "Warrior" today, at least by this philosophy, you must be striving to embody the ideal at any given time. We are not just warriors when we are training, or writing on our topic, or preventing a robbery. We are warriors even when we are talking with friends, walking down the street, or getting ready for bed. Yes, being a warrior is defined by the moments where it is MOST important (e.g. when you are saving a friend from being attacked by muggers, but it is also defined when it is LEAST important (e.g. when you are just brushing your teeth). It is not an occupation or career; there are no breaks or vacations from an ideal. It is a method of living, and living happens at all moments of the day.
  2. Pushups lend themselves to concrete goalsThis doesn't need too much elaboration. You can do pushups either for repetitions ("reps") or timed intervals. If you want to improve your pushups, you either try and increase your reps (going from 50 in a row to 60), or increase your interval (doing nonstop pushups for 1 minute and then upping the time to 2 minutes). Concrete goals are easy to keep track of. The intangible goals are arguably more important, but for someone like me who is just embarking upon the warrior path, it is helpful to have something a bit more substantial. Warriors seek personal improvement, and pushups are an element of personal improvement that you can easily track.
  3.  Pushups can be done virtually anywhere at virtually all times of the day
    Just woke up in the morning? Do some pushups on the bedroom floor. Slow day at the office? Do some pushups in the hallway or your office. Out for a walk in the park? Drop down and give yourself 20. It is critical to remember that this is NOT about showing off. In fact, in all of the above examples you should be alone. Being a warrior is not performing for an audience. That's a hard thing to grasp, given the potential 'coolness factor' of the ideal, but it is an important one. The fact that pushups can be done anywhere is important not because you want to show off, but because it teaches you to look for ways that you can train no matter where you are. It builds the habit of constant embodiment of a principle. 
When we consider these three points together, we can see how pushups are important for aspiring warriors. To become a warrior is to embody the warrior ideal in all circumstances and at all moments. Pushups give you an activity that introduces you to the warrior way of thinking and acting. Set some goals and reach those goals; pushups are an exercise that really allow you to do this. Try and achieve your goals at all times of the day, no matter where you are. It is easy to make excuses about training and personal improvement. I do it all the time. Pushups give you a crash course in how warriors have to think about betterment, training, and every day living. This makes them an ideal exercise at all stages of the warrior journey.  

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