Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tao Athlete

Only recently—as in the past six months or so—have I started paying attention to the bodybuilding coach Scott Abel. He's been around for a long time—I first became familiar with his name some 15 years ago when he had some articles about him (probably articles written by Greg Zulak) in MuscleMag International. And although I was somewhat familiar with his training concepts—I seem to recall that his "innervation training" was the first thing I heard about—I never really thought that he had anything revolutionary.

As with a lot of things in life, it turns out that I was dead wrong about him. Abel might just be the best bodybuilding coach out there. Now, when you first read his training programs, you probably won't think that—not until you understand all of the nuances and details that his programs entail; nuances and details that I am really just starting to grasp.

So, by all means, I would encourage anyone interested in bodybuilding to immerse yourself in studying—and then applying—his theories. (If you're into powerlifting, strongman, or other strength sports, then Abel might not necessarily be your cup of tea, but you should still study his techniques so that you can use the things of his that do apply to your strength sport.)

With all of that being said, the reasons above are not the reasons that I am doing this post. The reason is this: Abel is a very integral-minded bodybuilder—whether or not he even knows this himself. He seems to have a firm grasp of psychology—including some of the problematic psychological issues you will find among a large segment of bodybuilders—and philosophy. In the post below, he shows his grasp of that ever-illusive eastern philosophical idea known as the Tao.

I hope you enjoy what follows. I certainly did.

The Tao Athlete
by Scott Abel

I’ve taken some time out from writing my new book to address this months Blog topic about the Tao Athlete and the Tao in general. To give some background I will use myself as an example. I realized very early on in my bodybuilding pursuits that I was somehow different in the way I looked at bodybuilding than almost anyone I had come in contact with at that young age. For years I could never put my finger on it but I just knew that when I interacted with other bodybuilders, I just didn’t pursue bodybuilding in the same way or for the same reasons as my fellow competitors. That realization would follow me my whole career. It wasn’t until the last few years that I even became acquainted with the concept of the Tao athlete; and of course the Tao itself.

At one of my very first seminars I answered a question that would be most revealing over the next 20+ years. I was still in my 20’s and I was asked about motivation for a contest. I really had no prepared answer because I had been an athlete, even mentally my whole life, so the idea of being unmotivated or not motivated never actually occurred to me till that very moment. But my answer had some people shaking their heads. I said what motivates me is that my body is the house where my true self will reside for the rest of my life. Like any house, the more I like the surroundings and lack of clutter and the more clean and organized that environment, than the more likely I am to think more clearly and “be” a better me. That was my answer even way back then about motivation.

And the thing was, it was the truth.

Early on that is exactly how I felt about my training and workouts. Even then I had connected my spirit self with my athlete self. The Tao nature of that would become obvious over time. I was never comfortable identifying myself as a bodybuilder. My whole career, instead I saw myself as an athlete, who did bodybuilding. It was a difference that still exists today.

The Tao and the Tao nature is about the path, the fulfillment or filling you up from being on the path. It’s about YOUR path. It is unique. The Tao is about balance. It is beautiful in its context that it can be about pure devotion and commitment but at the same time not be about obsessive compulsive preoccupation with outcomes, or results or externals that take us off its path and away from balance. It is said even to discuss the Tao is to lose it. It’s kind of like trying to hold on to running water. It is a natural truth that you know only when you know it. Seek it and it cannot be found, live it, and you become just like that flowing water. There is no need to hold what you are part of, and what is part of you.

This is Tao, and at the same time, not Tao.

To read the entire post, go here.

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