Strength Training, Fasting, and Emotional Labour
by Matt Marshall on 2017-07-18 | License Permalink
It’s that time of year when I get really reflective around my strength training. I’ve been going through somewhat of a slump for the last few months; this has manifested as only performing one work set per training session, instead of my customary two or three. There’s a whole bundle of reasons for this I could pin it to: poor sleep hygiene, Summer (I’m a winter creature), poor diet, boredom with my routine, etc. I’ve also noticed that, as a trend, the more emotional effort I expend on playing around with crafting/making/materials/whatever, the less energy I’ve had for physical training. It doesn’t quite make sense, physically. I only really craft on the days that I’m not training, yet when looked at through an emotional lense it becomes a lot clearer what’s happening. One need only look at my Web habits over the last year or so to notice the change in focus. Where once I spent all of my free time lapping up information around physiology and being inspired by the feats of performance from my Strength idols; those idols are now replaced with a pantheon of craftsfolk, makers, and hackers as I immerse myself in a world of people making stuff.
Up until this week, I’ve been concerned with this. I adore strength training, and it greatly upsets me when I cannot perform how I know I should be performing if not just for the emotional bankruptcy I’m undergoing. I also adore playing with materials (I hesitate to use the words ‘crafting’ or ‘making’ as I feel they’re very loaded), and the joy that these things bring me is on par with that of calisthenics. In fact, on the surface, they’re arguably occupying the same slot in my brain – forcing me to operate on physical, mental, and emotional levels. The intersection of those parts of my being, when activated, very clearly brings me the most joy I receive in my life wherever it appears. I was concerned up until the other day, when I was re-reading some Marxist philosophy and was duly reminded how Labour is the life essence (Marx says species essence) of humankind, and that it takes Labour to perform any task; including recreational activities. I then began reflecting on how I was expending my time, what activities I was engaging in.
I personally have a finite amount of energy for things which can hold my attention or to which I can invest myself emotionally. This is not just on the micro, ‘things I can do today’ scale; but on the larger ‘this is what my life comprises of at the moment’ scale. Everything from Strength Training, to making stuff, to my romantic relationships, to which books I want to read, to which tv shows I’m watching currently seem to draw from the same well. Like any water cycle, the energy from this well eventually returns but like how we’re running out of water globally, I feel that I’m drawing too much out of the well at a rate that means it’s often dry when I need to invest some time into something – like my training. One can only do so much, pay attention to so much. This is without getting into how this same well is being robbed by advertisers demanding attention everywhere I look (trying to stop myself from getting sidetracked into a rant).
Another key issue that I feel I’ve been having is that my diet isn’t really working for me at the minute. It’s a lot better than it’s been historically – my bean chili thing has done wonders for my fibre intake and my wallet, and my morning eggs are wonderful too. The issue is that they sit in context alongside the ill and weary part of my diet that drags me down. The evening. I’m always prepared for breakfast, and I’m pretty solid and making sure I’m sorted for lunch, but the evening meal has always been risky for me. The evening is a dangerous time for my gut, as it’s a time where my willpower is at a low from the day’s strains. It’s a time when I’m tempted by takeaways (mostly I manage to resist) or the shortcut of just stuffing a pizza in the oven. It’s the time when I’m tempted to snack. It’s the time when, where once I had plans to spend the evening doing something, I spend my efforts consuming media. When I eat terrible food, my gut becomes inflamed and if I have training the next morning, I’m not operating with strength in that part of my being. Maybe I haven’t slept well due to poor food and media consumption providing the wrong forms of stimulation. In short – I feel that my evenings are the weak links in the chain between the instances of my Labour that hold together my life. It’s where it all goes wrong.
And it’s where I’m going to put things right.
For me, the solution is Fasting. This time, on two fronts. Two concurrent Fasts, dealing with two different facets of my poor consumption habits. First, the Dietary Fast. This will deal with the weak link of consuming poor nutrition at the end of the day. It’ll take the form of an Intermittent Fast; wherein I consume my daily calories within a given time frame, and then fast the rest of the day. Usually this is achieved by ‘skipping’ a meal at the beginning of the day, and breaking the fast after a training session. Since I train early morning, I will be taking the opposite approach, and skipping the third meal of the day. If I give myself a fairly standard 8-hour eating window, this effectively means I am fasting from around 1400 to 0600 the next day.
The second Fast is a media one. At first, it’s simply going to include all forms of video and web content in the evening. No TV and no Movies except on a night where I’m with my partner and it forms part of our bonding. This leaves me free to read or listen to podcasts whilst working on some crafty type project. This is the Fast I’m most excited about, if I’m being honest.
I’m out of time now and need to start my work day. I’ll go into the details of each Fast in separate posts. For now, I’ll briefly outline what I want to achieve from their execution. At the core, I wish to rebalance my well of emotional Labour by removing things that demand my attention, as well as tinker with my gut’s health to improve the digestion of food and transfer of energy into my neuromuscular system. By removing the ability for certain forms of input at a recurring time period I’ve identified as ‘at risk’, I’m also disallowing the harmful habits I’ve formed from gaining further purchase on my destiny. Maybe in time my needs will change, and I will have left my poor habits so far in the dust that I’m no longer at risk for them – but until then, Fasting is my way of cutting out the rot I feel has set into my daily existence.