Take the Red Pill: What the Matrix Can Teach Us About Training
The Matrix is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is enjoyable to watch. It is complex in meaning but simple in delivery. It leaves me wanting more. In all these respects, it feels like good coaching should feel. Recently, some quotations from the movie got me thinking about how they relate to lifting. (I was going to say how they relate to life - but lifting is life, right?)
I’ve taken ten of my favorite quotations from the movie and laid them out with some commentary below. The commentary is not necessarily based on the context of the words in the movie, nor are my thoughts particularly in line with what the movie suggests or intends. My explanations are simply a stream of consciousness derived from that quotation - a perspective on what The Matrix can teach us about our lifting.
1. Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
This is about the choice between a difficult path and blissful ignorance. You can make clear parallels between the red pill and a tough undertaking, such as embarking on a difficult squat program. You know it will be hard work, and that it will likely take you to some dark places, but remain steadfast in the knowledge that it will be worth it.
Alternatively, you could take the path of least resistance, the blue pill, and never know. We are faced with these choices daily. Working on our weaknesses, eating more vegetables, doing our mobility work - these are all things we can either grab by the horns and attack wholeheartedly (is there any other way?), or ignore and live in a state of supposedly blissful denial.
Ironically, in this discussion about magic pills, there are no magic pills to help you, contrary to what many “professionals” and marketeers would have you believe.
2. Morpheus: The matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. … That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.
There is a huge irony in the fact that lifting heavy stuff was a way of life for our ancestors, and is inherently part of who we are. The irony lies in the fact that this is anything but a default way of life for most people now. Most of the crap marketed at the general population is concerned with making life easy - and people lazy. Hard physical exercise is well and truly out of fashion.
The truth is that functional training and heavy lifting is still the alternate reality. Fight the good fight. Maintain your position in the face of a constant barrage of mainstream garbage.
3. Trinity: I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing ... why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You're looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
When we have specific training questions to be answered, we often reach for the Internet. Fair enough - these days the World Wide Web is an accessible resource with a virtually never-ending supply of information. But it’s easy to get carried away with this search for answers - so much so that you may not even have a question you are looking for the answer to. This is not aimed at people who browse quality articles with an open mind. This is talking about people (and I know a few like this) who spend night after night looking for ‘it.’
I have two truths for you:
- There is no ‘it’ - “There is no spoon.”
- Even if you stumble upon a light in the distance, there is more to it than just finding ‘it’ or knowing it exists. You must walk the path yourself in search of it.
4. Morpheus: Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did, that there's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.
This site is full of incredible knowledge from some top class minds and world leading coaches. What makes them so good is that these people not only know the path, but have walked the path and are still continually putting one foot in front of the other on their own journeys.
You never have to follow a particular path - it’s your own journey. But these paths have been traveled by those who have made similar journeys before you. To truly make use of what you now know you must undertake the journey yourself, and walk those paths. Deepen the treads that others have worn in and use them to guide your own journey. Who knows, one day you might guide others down the paths you have walked.
5. Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
Keeping a free mind is important in what we do. The most obvious application of this quotation relates to your choice to embark on a journey of strength. Though if you are reading this, I am going to assume you have already walked through that door.
So let’s look at another perspective on this. Free your mind to learning from those who have something to teach. Leave all your baggage at the door. Leave your ego at the door. Choose to talk through it with an open mind and heart - only then will you find out what being the other side of that door is truly like.
6. Cypher: I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here. “Why oh why didn't I take the blue pill?”
Once you have made a difficult decision, be it a tough training program or difficult diet, stick with your decision. We all have our moments of doubt. See your decisions through with conviction. Work hard to attain results. You know you have made the right decision - the difficult one that gets results. Stop changing programs every few weeks because they do not instantly provide you with answers. Have no regrets. I can honestly say that I have no regrets in life. Not a single one. Every single decision I have made was just that - my decision. The combination of these have molded me into who I am today, and taken me to where I am today.
7. Agent Brown: Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.
The answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask. Speak with your coaches. Question assumptions. Ask questions that are important and relevant to you. Comment on articles with a view to engaging in conversation with the authors. The first step is to actually ask questions. Only by asking questions will you get better at asking questions.
8. Morpheus: You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.
The first thing I think of with these words is pre-lift state of mind. Training yourself to free your mind is a skill, and needs to be practiced with good technique just like any other skill. Seek to enhance your mind-muscle connection through visualization. Learn to use your breathing to improve your focus, concentration, and take your performance to another level.
This also applies to belief in your goals and the strategies you have chosen to get you there. Perform each workout, each set, and each rep with best intent and positive belief, and they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
9. Mouse: To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.
You are The One. You hold the truth within your own world. Trust your instincts. Do what your body tells you to do. This is far more valuable than following what others do, or even what others tell you to do. Do what you were born to do. Live your own life.
10. Morpheus: [to Neo who is choosing the red pill] Remember...all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.
The truth is out there. The world is yours to decipher, the questions are yours to ask, and the choices are yours to make.
Take the Red Pill.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.