For many, the idea of “peaceful practices” does not include burpees, handstands and Olympic-style weightlifting. But for Olympic Weightlifter Elizabeth Wipff and CrossFitter RE Lewis, these are exercises that lead directly to inner peace and wellbeing.
I recently hosted a jubilant conversation between Wipff and Lewis about the top ways power-generating exercises lead directly to calming down and peacing out. Read on for their insights! Then, if meditation, self-massage or slow breathing fail when seeking inner peace, get thee to a barbell! (or maybe even before then…)
Peaceful Power – Point #1: Being a well-rounded human being is what makes you a peaceful human being.
Elizabeth Wipff (EW): In order to be a fully formed, neurobiologically balanced person, you need variety. We are made to be complete humans with a fully energetic psychodynamic set of experiences. Humans are meant to move at all paces and in all manners. We are meant to run fast and lift heavy and jump on things and throw things. We’re also made to sit quietly and contemplate and be easy and restful and peaceful. The peace comes in the fact that you’re balanced.
RE Lewis (RL): [When it comes to more power-generating styles of exercise] A lot of people say “I do this, I don’t do that”–but why? Why one and not the other? Oftentimes it’s a stigma that has been carried–the same reason why strength people don’t do yoga “oh no, that’s flimsy dimsy stuff” they say. I don’t see that. I see it as conscious movement practice on both sides of the roam–no matter what you’re doing.
Peaceful Power – Point #2: Conscious movement is conscious movement. Period.
EW: I started CrossFit six weeks after I did a 10-day Vipassana retreat. So I did the most rigorous meditation retreat I personally possibly could (or want to) do, and six weeks later I was doing CrossFit. And I don’t see them as different.
Lifting and moving in an “aggressive” way requires a great deal of mindfulness, attention and a moment-to-moment focus that isn’t that much different than meditation or executing a complex yoga pose.
There is something meditative about one more breath, one more breath, one more breath… But there’s also something really meditative about one more rep, one more rep, one more rep. And when you add complex movement into that, it requires all of your brain space. So it can be mentally restful. And that brings peace.
RE: Yeah, I actually don’t really see much a difference between the different practices–yoga, Yoga Tune Up®, CrossFit, strength training–it’s all conscious movement if you want it to be. Or unconscious if you want it to be. It can be complete slop and shit, or done with complete and utter care to your body in a mindful practice way.
Peaceful Power – Point #3: The focus involved in power exercises calms your mind.
RL: The intense concentration to hit the bullseye for a person with a bow and arrow is the same mentality as someone who is doing an Olympic lift, because you have to become one with that bow–become one with that bar. Oftentimes you will see Olympic lifters that will get down and kiss their bar after they PR. It is the great respect to the bar, like saying “I thank you, I love you for being here today with me on this journey,” it is harmony.
EW: I am a masters weightlifter. I have medaled in national and international meets as a weightlifter. The relationship I have with that object (the bar) is one that hones my focus and helps me overcome fear. I can get so snarled up in my own thoughts/fears/doubts, that putting weight on a barbell and pushing myself to lift it actually creates a sense of peace because it quiets the noise and the doubt.
RL: Yeah, let’s say we’re talking about hard cardio for 10-20 minutes: I don’t get the luxury to think of anything else… the only thing that I can think about is what I’m doing in that moment. There is beauty in having ten minutes of the shit-storm not piled up and swirling around my brain. It allows me to be quiet for ten minutes. To get that inner quiet you don’t have to be just sitting there quietly staring at a frickin’ rose. You can be jumping, running, flipping around, doing burpees, doing pull-ups, having a good time.
Peaceful Power – Point #4: Burning off energy helps your body down-regulate and rest.
RE: I was diagnosed young with RMD (rhythmic movement disorder). So high stress makes me shake and rock at night. The more I do throughout the day, the more my body releases its internal tension, the less stress I have and the better my body sleeps at night.
You know how you can tell by a baby’s cry whether he’s wet or he’s hungry? My wife can tell by my crabbiness whether I need to eat food or “go down to the basement and squat.” She will basically tell me to go downstairs and get away from her. Then I’ll go downstairs, get some reps in, then feel all good. Then I come back up and give her a big happy “Hi!” and she says “I think squatting is your Snickers bar.” It’s true. My body craves it.
Power exercises for peace are for everyone!
We at Tune Up Fitness hope you’ve gained some new ways to think about inner peace after hearing R.E. and Elizabeth’s perspective on power-generating practices. Remember: none of us are all one thing. We each contain multitudes. We wish you a very happy new year, and hope you find many inspired ways to move and play in years to come…
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Feature image: Tune Up Fitness® teacher Elizabeth Wipff
Author/Interviewer: Ariel Kiley