Contrast training is a form of resistance training that uses alternating heavy and light loads to increase muscular power. In this type of training you perform a strength exercise and then do a power move similar to that strength movement. You should aim to increase power through your training program by focusing on increasing force and velocity.
In art there’s a term called chiaroscuro.
Our high school art teacher taught us that when you create a piece of art, you have to make the dark shades very dark and the light shades very light. Sure you’ll have shades of grey, but the contrast between the very dark and the very light is what creates drama. And you’ll find beauty in that drama.
More Dark and Light Drama
Musical composers used this same idea instinctively. Chopin’s nocturne in E minor Op. 72 no. 1 begins with the light then creeps into darker shades until you feel like your soul is going to rip out of your body. And it can make you weep. If you are alone. With wine.
You’ll hear lots of contrasts in modern music too, if it’s not shitty.
The concept of contrast carries over into our favorite foods, and every cook knows that a great meal will have a complexity of flavors and textures. Pizza for instance has the savory umami flavors of meat and cheese, but it’s contrasted with the bright acidity of tomato sauce and other veggies or spices. That contrast is what keeps us eating. Otherwise, we’d get tired of just the flavor of tomato sauce. As for texture, there’s contrast in that too. People add toppings to their fro-yo because fro-yo is soft. Adding crunch creates contrast.
We love chiaroscuro. We love contrast. It makes art more intriguing. It makes food more appetizing. It makes music more enjoyable. And I believe it’s what makes us love our lives.
It’s the Yin and the Yang
You’ll find the contrast in almost every aspect of life. Think about how you spend your time. There’s a healthy amount of stress, work, and passion; but those can only be enjoyed if there’s an equal amount of rest, pleasure, and play. One complements the other. Work is just as good for us as rest is, in their proper proportions.
We’re at our best when we achieve equal parts of these. If excess stress leaks into the time that we need for pleasure, we’re not as happy as we could be. If excess rest leaks into the time we need for productivity, then we’ll become equally as unhappy. We need that contrast. And we need the right ratio of it to make our lives beautiful.
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What’s Exercise? Yin or Yang? Dark or Light?
Do you ever wonder about folks who don’t work out consistently, or at all?
Those who don’t exercise usually see it as a form of work, and they’ve already got a lot on their plate work and stress-wise. If exercise feels like one more task they have to add to that side of the paradigm, it’ll never happen consistently.
Does this sound familiar to you? If so, start seeing fitness as the contrast to your work. Think of it as a pleasure rather than a stressor. Yes, it’ll challenge you, but there are plenty of stress-relieving activities that contain challenges: video games, hunting, cooking, dancing, playing a musical instrument, debating your family, creating art, etc. Pleasurable things aren’t necessarily those that are done in a semi-vegetative state (TV-watching). You don’t have to be entertained.
If you struggle with making time for exercise, think of it as the light to your dark. Do it first thing in the morning so that nobody has the chance to steal that time from you. If you’re successful at this, then you’ll get better at taking on, and even enjoying, the stressful parts of life even more. You’ll become better at your job because of it.
The Yin and Yang of Fitness
If you do work out consistently, but have a hard time staying motivated, then maybe the exercise you’re doing is not as pleasurable as it could be. Make sure to contrast your heavy weight training and high intensity work with leisurely walks, yoga, or easy runs. Create contrast in the exercise you do in order to keep doing it.
Your life is your art. It’s your symphony. It’s your canvas. And it’s your plate. Pile it high with pleasurable, yet challenging, things because those are what complement your work and your performance.
And remember, the best kind of drama has nothing to do with jealousy, self-pity, or stirring up dissension. The best drama is the chiaroscuro you create in your life to make it interesting, complex, and beautiful.
Create contrast. Put some nuts in your fro-yo and some exercise in your workday. Doing so will make you happier with both.