A complement is something that completes or perfects, where individual assets come together to be greater than the sum of their parts. This could be anything from great sports teams, your lunch, or even an outfit you’ve cultivated and put together over the last 6 months whilst grappling with whether or not you can really pull off the bowtie. The beauty of this is that those individual parts can be entirely different to one another, yet when put together, draw on each other’s strengths and bring out the best in each other creating an end product that lives and dies by all its parts working and moving as one. Instead of going with the obvious metaphor of pineapple on pizza, where two individual things brought together can truly change the world, following Netflix’s documentary “The Last Dance,” we’ll open with looking at the Chicago Bulls. It may not be the best analogy – with Michael Jordan’s truly machine-like relentless approach to victory and nothing less, perhaps he was destined to change the world in any circumstance. But, just look at that Bulls team and the individual elements they brought: the zen like Jackson, the chaos of Rodman, the often unsung Pippen, and of course, MJ. All uniquely different, yet perfectly aligned to one singular focus.
“I’ve always found ice and fire to be entirely relatable, especially when it comes to mindset and motivation.”
Now, let’s take these complementing aspects into contrasting states – where we look for apparent opposites to complement and strengthen one another once we define their common drive. When considering these counter balancing elements: light and dark, good and bad, scones or scones (English thing, I apologise), I’ve always found ice and fire to be entirely relatable, especially when it comes to mindset and motivation. They personify entirely unique and contradictory elements we harness in the pursuit of strengthening our minds and bodies; entirely different and yet once again so perfectly the same. They are at the core of everything, fuel. Fuel is what makes these markedly different approaches and mindsets work in unison: they share a fundamental truth. We are all so amazingly different, it’d be pretty crazy to think we all run on the same thing, right? There is no universal fuel, motivation or inner drive we need to call upon to guide us through the darker places and moments we will all eventually encounter. First, we need to find what works for us, but also learn to harness that which fuels us, understanding how to derive a “good,” from any situation. To go back to Michael Jordan, he would often create inner conflict, feeling slighted by naysayers, detractors and adversaries. He would harness the rage he felt born from a disrespect shown to him by his adversaries that may not even have occurred and turned it into fuel. In short – he could create his own motivation, drive, and will to pursue victory.
Mindset and fuel are two slightly different topics, but we’ll talk about both. The images synonymous with the mindset adopted in an approach to fitness generally fall into two categories:
The overly happy looking person who did their makeup pre workout, has apparently never had a bead of sweat on their body but definitely had time to coordinate that outfit.
“Motivation comes and goes, making it a terrible source of sustainable fuel.”
This person is usually seen on posters lifting a 1kg weight, using some form of machine or an incredibly low intensity elliptical walk. The message is nearly always the same – love yourself, be happy, smile through your workout, then pat yourself down with a towel and go grab an iced latte. In a more common scenario this kind of mindset can manifest itself in the form of box ticking and just getting things done. You go to workout or exercise to tick the box for the day. Perhaps you don’t really get out of your comfort zone, clock watch a little, hang out and socialise whilst getting in the 45 minutes and call it a day. There is so much to be said for intent and effort that aren’t tapped into with this approach leaving us missing out on the physical and psychological benefits they come with. That said – the happy exterior portrays a person that is happy to train and workout, which is without doubt the mentality that will sustain throughout. Doing something you genuinely want to do will always get done. If you’re convincing yourself to do something constantly – that takes a whole lot of motivation. Motivation comes and goes, making it a terrible source of sustainable fuel.
On the flipside we also have the….
I woke up in beast mode…. Bro. This generally jacked guy is 100% dedication, their mindset is weights. What are your hobbies? Squats. They embrace the hell out of lines like “chasing greatness,” where unfortunately the concept of greatness is normally a heavy deadlift PR. This mindset is marketed as eating rage for breakfast, scaring the grim reaper and bench pressing gorillas, always whilst keeping the anger turned up to 11. Are you even trying if you don’t look like you ate a poodle for a snack? Despite the focus on intensity that this approach brings – the volatile nature lacks the stoic control needed to truly harness that rage and chaos. One can find themselves consumed by their conflict – left to be consumed by their inner fire, rather than forged by it.
“Embed that long-term goal in your mind. Burn it into your soul….but most important: do something about it. Every day. Every day: Do something that moves you closer towards that goal – that keeps the goal in sight and in focus.”
– JOCKO WILLINK
Now these are clearly two extremes – the images of serene tranquility, and death metal induced 500kg presses. The problem is, for the majority, these two vastly different, yet incredibly apparent mindsets are entirely fabricated when sold as a lifestyle approach, yet missing the counter balancing properties of the other when put into practise. As fitness is primarily a product to be sold, the images related to it are often both unrealistic and inaccurate. I’ve never seen that happy-go-lucky cloud of smiles truly pushing themselves. Ok, I’ve never actually seen that person in general. I’m sure they exist, they must. If they don’t, then Bigfoot is almost certainly a lie. The angry hulk is almost always filled with entirely synthetic rage, which does nothing but add a layer of friction to their surroundings. I’d prefer Bigfoot. There has to be a balance.
With balance being part of our ethos, I’m guessing no one is surprised here when I champion that as the mindset for training. Apologies for my predictability there. Embrace whatever emotion is working for you. When things get hard and you’re getting by on grit and a stubborn refusal to quit – use whatever you can. Get angry, relax, get hyped, calm down. Just do what works, not what you think is best for show. Getting hot headed doesn’t work for everything. At all. I’ve found doing olympic lifting style training, when I get angry, it goes out the window. I get into arguments with inanimate objects and nothing goes to plan. There are also times I need that anger, that gritty mentality to get through a more gruelling session. Needs and musts.
“There is an overarching fundamental truth that once you find your why, you will bear any how.”
The same can be said for fuel. As I’ve said in the past, the recurring message, and likely the healthiest in many respects, is love yourself and be healthy because you respect your body. I’ve always looked at it as a little more complex. Obviously, we are fuelled by what we pursue, we are driven on by the dream of reaching our desired destination. What we use to get there is the variable. There is an overarching fundamental truth that once you find your why, you will bear any how; in that any saga is conquerable if your motivation for doing so is something you will chase relentlessly. Getting there is where you find your variable – your unique drive. You don’t have to be fueled by sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes, you need to dig deep, go to some darker places in your mind, and harness those feelings. There’s a quote that I find puts it perfectly. Coach Lennart Bergelin, when talking to Bjorn Borg, one of the greatest tennis players of all time about channeling his inner chaos told him:
“All that rage, the fear, the panic you might be feeling, load it into every stroke.”
Borg was often described as a machine due to his stoic exterior, cold as ice appearing entirely emotionless. Yet driven by emotions the outside world would never see. The inner chaos, like so many things can be to great effect. This line was delivered in a movie, but let’s just assume it happened for real too, it works better that way.
With mindset, and fuel – it’s all about finding what works for you.
With every journey, find the fuel to get you there, whatever form that takes.
To end where we started, in both fire and ice, those which fundamentally complement each other whilst being apparently entirely different. In an approach to fitness, struggle or adversity in general we must be both fire and ice. One must harness a stoic aggression, a controlled storm, harnessed fiery chaos balanced out with an icey stoic ability to remain unbroken. To be fire and ice means to both attack, and endure.
Be you in whatever form you need to be. Stand defiant. Embrace your chaos. Be Fire. Be Ice.
For The Pack,