We have discussed the beautiful, the uplifting, the joyous. We’ve discussed the serious, the intense, the passionate. We’ve discussed the innocent, the enraptured, the triumphant.
We have turned a blind eye to the darkness, the deeper recesses hiding beneath the surface that serve as motivating factors…
We have ignored rage.
“All big lifts come from a dark place….”
In my hours away from the gym, when searching for motivation, I reach for the uplifting—I try to find that which makes me yearn to be a better man and work harder. But when I walk through those doors and into my sanctuary, it’s a different story. When I place a cold steel bar across my back, there is nothing “uplifting” of which to speak. There is only hundreds of pounds trying to bring me down, trying to smash me through the floor, trying to pulverize my bones and shred my tendons, trying to break me, with only my spirit to fight back against it. And it is in those moments I tap into the darker parts– the violence, the rage, the fury and fire.
I find my eyes, and see what’s in them. I used to ignore my eyes while lifting weights, trying to avoid looking in the mirror, because it scared me. It scared me to see a violence inside that was within my grasp, that I could unleash and call upon as needed. It scared me to see a wrath that lay deep in my soul, that I could manually transfer through my limbs, into the fibers of my muscles, to make a bar explode upwards, outwards, in any direction my will reached. It scared me to see the animal that was me.
This rage does not have a specific object. It is not violence directed towards another person, or even an inanimate object. It is a general state of staring down your goal, the obstruction that lies between you and greatness, and knowing you can demolish it, destroy it, rend it in half and rip it apart. It is knowing there is a demonic fury underneath the surface that is at your command, if and as needed. It is a warning to the world to not step in your way. It is survival instinct unleashed, that part within us that we are supposed to have evolved past, risen above, grown too enlightened to acknowledge—but that is still within us, try as we might to deny it.
I think I know you.
You spent a lot of time full of hate,
A hate that was pure as sunshine,
A hate that saw for miles,
A hate that kept you up at night,
A hate that filled your every waking moment,
A hate that carried you for a long time.
And strength is something you know a bit about
Because you had to be strong to keep yourself alive.Henry Rollins, “I Know You”
In the heat of battle, no great warrior thinks of puppy dogs and rainbows. When a soldier hits the field, he does not hum “Kumbaya” underneath his helmet and war paint. No great athlete, no great soldier, no great man or woman, woke up every day of his or her life and put one foot in front of the other with a Pollyanna grin on his or her face.
In place of that grin was a burning fire, a brimstone—an inner violence and rage, a dissatisfaction with the current state, a refusal to accept things as they are and fight instead for things as they could be and ought to be—it was propulsion and combustion and exhaustion and Armageddon, that forced these individuals down a path towards triumph.
Life is a series of pairs—positive and negative, joy and pain, life and death. Without the negative, there would be no positive; without the pain, we could not experience joy; without the prospect of death, there would be nothing to live for, nothing to fight for, no reason to move at all. We tap into one stage to propel us to the next. We face an obstacle in order to destroy it, which then sets the stage allowing us to face the next obstacle.
Do not enter my sanctuary with a grin. This is a sacred place where you may—where you must—access your rage, your violence, your anger. You must find that discomfort within and use it as fuel. You must grab the steel bar with the intention of tearing it in half. You must feel the bar digging into your callused hands, and realize that it is a war between that bar and your flesh. You must determine yourself to win. Your passivity will be waiting for you at the door, if you want it back. Within these walls, we invite those dark corners to be embraced, and we allow that rage to come to the surface.
-David A. Johnston
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.