The tale of Harry Potter provides many important real world lessons. The stories illustrate the importance of friendship, courage, taking a stand for what you believe in even when faced with immense challenges, intelligence and wit, and the power of remembering and honoring lost loved ones, among many other amazing takeaways. One in particular, that will be highlighted here, comes from Harry’s battle with the dreadful Dementors, watchdogs of the wizard prison Azkaban.
Dementors, which in Harry’s third year of Hogwarts are policing the grounds of the school, are miserable creatures, which exist to drain joy and happiness from their environment, recalling for a person the worst they have ever felt. These devilish guards particularly effect individuals with serious hardships in their past. Harry, who, to say the least, has some tough life experiences by this time in his limited years, is highly influenced by these creatures and must learn to fight them off with the one spell capable of casting away Dementors, a Patronus charm. Now, conjuring a Patronus initially proves much easier on paper for young Mr. Potter, as it can be quite tough to focus on producing a spell when a Grim Reaper look-a-like is sapping all the joy and happiness from your world and threatening to suck your soul from you! The key to an effective Patronus is thinking hard about a seriously happy memory and focusing on it when the doom of a Dementor seems most ominous. It is in this manner that Harry learns to fight off the nasty Dementors, by relaxation and postivity.
What on earth does any of this have to do with training?! Finding a relaxation thought or practice is crucial to battling workout Dementors! Workout Dementors are those exercises, training sessions, or even simply brief moments where the brain becomes strained and rattled or the mind begins to rev its RPMs into the red. Training can be mentally exhausting at times and can certainly wear out the emotions! What the training Patronus serves as is a reminder to come back into the moment, take a step back, and a way to keep you grounded and ready to embrace the challenges ahead that will provide opportunities to get better, stronger, and healthier.
One example of a workout Dementor, and a training Patronus used to battle it from my own training is the overhead press. I am not a great presser of objects of over my head, particularly one arm at a time and especially Kettlebells. Recently, while doing my final rep of my last set of single arm kettlebell overhead presses, I found myself in one of those reps that just seem to drag on FOREVER, kind of like a History of Magic class with Professor Binns (if you haven’t read Harry Potter then this reference will be completely lost on you. Upon finishing this article you might consider buying all seven of the books, taking some vacation time from work, and barricading yourself on your couch with a thermos of coffee and reading until all of the books have been finished. Trust me it’ll be worth the time spent. But I digress). My grip on the bell was vice like, my core was engaged, I was squeezing my glutes properly, and that damn kettlebell was just not moving past the sticking point. I was pushing so intensely that I was even starting to shake. In this moment I was starting to get up into the red. However, what saved this rep was my Patronus, which for me is a focus on a full exhale, which helps me feel grounded and present in the moment. I let out a short exhale, felt myself come back from the high threshold-ness I was approaching, and was able to lockout the press. Dementor defeated, and I was able to move on to some Goblet Squats of Fire.
Maybe your workout Patronus is really a big cup of…
Now a workout Patronus doesn’t have to be anything as profound as Harry Potter’s happiest memory, but it does have to be a way to refocus and re-center. This thought or practice serves as a reminder of the moment you’re currently in and a quick relaxation technique. For me, it’s a consideration of how I’m exhaling. Additionally, when I was playing baseball and rugby in college I found that a great way to ground myself and refocus was to take ten seconds and look at either the leaves of a tree or a flag blowing in the wind. Other possible Patronuses (Patroni?...This sounds like a pastrami/pepperoni hybrid, which could be fantastic) could include a word or phrase that keeps you motivated, a friend or family member who brings you joy, or a place that has always held fond memories. Essentially, it’s a productive and positive experience that allows you to quickly and effectively reframe your thinking, calm your mind, and bring you into a place where you can face workout Dementors!