Fire It Up! (or To Failure - Part 2)
Updated: Mar 22, 2018
There's another verbal tool that my ageless trainer at the gym has used on me numerous times. Aside from, training my muscles "to Failure"- a phrase for which I've found much use in my daily life beyond training. He's got another catch phrase which seems equally as universal outside the gym as well as in. In fact, I've heard him use it from way across the room on other clients many times- me sweating it out on the sadistic abdominal slide machine wringing another few crunches from my sweaty, trembling torso, already feeling as though we've hit "To Failure" about two sets ago. Some other weary brave soul will be leg lifting or bench pressing or squatting or balancing on the ball some fifty yards away from me. Michael's urgent baritone will float over the incessant pulsing club mix to land in my ears with precisely these three familiar key syllables:
"Fire it up!"
He says. "Fire it up!" To my fellow sufferer on the other side of the gym. Fire it up! To me and my aching belly muscles. Fire it up, Holly! Fire. It. Up.
Fire It Up is usually the phrase which emanates from Michael's mouth right at the moment when you ( more precisely- me), the suffering gym client, have thought you've reached your end.
You're done with this set.
You're done with this machine.
You're done for today.
You might be done with this whole "work out" thing forever, because in this particular moment you're starting to entertain the notion that you might actually be done breathing. Or at the very least you're done having your breakfast safely locked INSIDE your stomach.
Done. You think. DONE! I'M DONE!! And that's when --"Fire It Up!" makes its move. And it's weird, because it's an awfully powerful tool. I can't quite put my finger on it, but when Michael barks the FIU, whatever food that was making its way up my esophagus to splurt itself out on my spandex pants settles right back into my gut. My lungs which a split second ago were unable to process any more of that essential oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange, suddenly remember how to accordian themselves back to life. And my muscles find some small violently shaky ability to do one... more...two....more...--- ..may...be...even..T-H-R-E-E MORE repetitions.
And then I really know what "To Failure" feels like. And you know what? It feels-- AWESOME. Because I did it! Because I fired it up beyond a place where I thought I could. I lit a cauldron from some deep inner place from beneath the bottom of my belly and from there I gathered strength to keep going.
Now. There's some obvious broader life uses for this Fire It Up beyond lifting and stretching and pulling dull grey weighted contraptions over and over again with my muscles. It seems almost didactic to further explain. And yet- somehow- the simple physical act of having my body Fire It Up from somewhere when I thought there simply was no fuel left is so incredibly empowering. It informs the mind. Beyond all those self help books talking about finding your Inner Fire. Or beyond even listening to the most powerful speaker- your favorite band- or reading bone splitting gorgeous poetry.
It feels oddly more like when I'm singing a song, and it's going really well. Because that song suddenly becomes something that's inside and outside of me at the same time while I realize that as singer and human and creator, I am merely a channel or a vehicle for the song itself to be birthed. Because its not mine and I'm not it and we don't belong to each other, we're just intertwined for a moment. That's life force. Life force firing it up!
Recently I've noticed this young woman who's now diligently at work every time I saunter in to the gym. She- like me- is always in the pit with the boys. There's no dewy half hour on the stationary bike for this girl. No few easy bicep pulls on the machines in the corner. No- she's in the middle of it. Pushing it HARD. Heavy weights. Precise motions. Barbells. Spotters. It's impossible not to notice her-- she's beautiful and naturally blonde and beyond toned that seems otherworldly to me. I finally asked Michael, after hearing him bark a few "Fire It Ups" her direction last week, What is she training for? She must be training for something specific...
"Yep. Miss World Fitness- 2014." He said.
"Ah--" I squeaked out. "Well- thank GOD. Because if she wasn't I was just gonna go home and have to shoot myself in the head." Because I come in here feeling pretty decent about my damn middle-aged self lately. About the 10 pounds less that I now weigh. About the slightly more toned triceps and abdominals and backs of the thighs. I feel a little bit closer to that 20-something body I remember taking so much for granted back in the swing of the psychedelic-hazed 90's. So, then to emerge into my place of Re-Awakening Spirit and to witness this creature of perfection, can sometimes be a bit of a downer. When what you want to do is gaze rather approvingly at your own reflection in the endless walls of gym mirrors and not see her 20 feet away from you - 6 reps longer, 50 pounds harder, immovable heart shaped ass better, making your small improvements appear crushingly invisible.
So thank god she's working her guts out for SOMETHING. Something actual and specific and real.
Funny thing is- once I found that out about her, rather than making me feel worse about myself, the opposite thing happened. She became yet another source of gym inspiration. As I started to quietly pay a bit more attention to her workout, and to Michael's coaching of her, I realized that there wasn't actually THAT much of a difference between us. Well-- at least not on paper.
She too is constantly being reminded to Fire It Up! ( Of course, she has more opportunity to hear that seeing as she's there three times a DAY for a few HOURS at a time.) She also scrunches her adorable freckle-sprayed nose up into a crazy inverted slinky V when, like me, she's close To Failure on her leg lifts. She is also concentrating like the world depended on it when balancing 75 pounds on her back while doing set after set of perfect leg squats. (I do quite imperfect squats with no barbells balanced atop my not-so perfectly toned shoulders, just for the record.)
In other words, though, I've seen her a lot lately, and, like me- this girl has purpose and goals and this girl SWEATS for them.
As some of my readership may know, I am about to birth a new album out into the world. An album that has taken me the better part of two years to get close to finished. This record is certainly not the end-all, be-all....it is not anywhere near the "Pretenders-like" set of songs I tout it as, for promotional PR purposes. But I am proud of it. It is a band record, with a clean, early 80's sound and it has kick-ass drums and bass lines and my voice, alongside the usual soulful tonality, sounds sassy and angry here and there. To date, I don't think I've been able to successfully accomplish that very alive, thriving piece of my personality in any of my previous recordings. Plus, I produced this one. Alongside my two engineers who each recorded and mixed about half of the material- I helmed this ship. A first for the Holly.
So it's a big deal for me.
And I'm now desperately in need of a little portable Michael on my shoulder at many points in my day outside of the gym. I need a consistent "Fire It UP!" in my ear over and over. A reminder that at those (too frequent) times I feel I've hit sort of rock bottom in terms of having no energy to promote....no mo' mojo to keep doing the parts of record making that I so don't love, namely the promoting of the thing... that's when I need my Michael.
That's when I need my sweaty torso to just screw courage to the sticking point and tell my brain how to make that fucking phone call to the club booker. Rehearse that song one more time. Call that guitar player again. Schedule that rehearsal. Compose that mass email to send to all your fans... Edit that web page.
And by the way, we're out of toilet paper and you better put the potatoes in NOW or dinner won't be until 8:30 and you have to make Back To School Night and don't forget Truman needs to finish that last worksheet for tutoring and the dogs still have to get walked and and..)
My new mantra. It is true that in the grand scheme of things- in the Big Picture, as it were....my therapist is constantly reminding me there's nothing to do. There's nowhere to go. Meaning, stop driving yourself crazy with the consistent neurotic voice saying you're never doing enough or being enough blah blah.
But. Some things ARE actually worth doing. Even if they're not huge things like starting companies and launching charities and birthing babies and changing the world. Maybe these little things that bring us To Failure.... that challenge the very notion of our own capacity and what we're capable of...THESE are the things that are worth doing. To whatever end. God knows I am NEVER EVER going to be running for anything like Miss World Fitness 2014. Nor am I ever going to run for the Senate, most likely. I'd be shocked if I made it to some sort of local PTA position....
But what I will continue to strive to do- as I try over and over again to Fire It Up from the deepest core of myself- is to challenge my own sense of the possible. Maybe right now I don't exactly believe I could ever be as influential as the likes of the greats like Chrissie Hynde, or Cyndi Lauper, or Martha or Patti or Annie or any of the powerful rock divas of my era. But then again, what do I know? A few months ago, I couldn't conceive of being anywhere near a size 6 again.
And I've only just begun to bench press.
Fire it up, Hol. Let's GO-