In many cases, the iron sport can seem mundane. Lift things up and put them down. Even with the great variety in things you can do, from strongman, Olympic lifts, powerlifting, bodybuilding, bodyweight training, there’s a certain boundary that we find ourselves hastened to. Even running with the chance to travel through scenic routes can seem….too linear.
What to do? What about a craft/hobby that combines the physical exertion of lifting/running with analytical planning? That’s not all though. This craft lets you show off your creative and artistic sense.
What am I talking about?
Chronicles of Fitness aims to be more than just lifting the iron and running, or anything in the traditional sense of training our bodies. It aims to chronicle physical vigor through times past, present, and future; and blacksmithing is such a huge part of the vigorous life that it cannot be ignored.
When you first step into a blacksmith’s shop the aroma of burning coal, of hot steel, and roar of the fiery forge are there to greet you. It sends Goosebumps to see rows upon rows of tongs, hammers, chisels, and flanges that the blacksmith has created and used to make further creations.
C.O.F. had the chance to go to an actual blacksmith’s smithy (blacksmithing workshop) and experience a full day of blacksmithing. The most alluring thing was the fire. When you are in a smithy, you are constantly aware of the power of the fire that gives you the gift of transforming metal into your own creation. Stock pieces of rigid steel, a substance that the layman would think indestructible are morphed with the power of fire, at the blacksmith’s will.
It’s an empowering feeling.
The warmth and danger that fire gives can leave you awestruck. Throughout history fire has always been inspirational and integral to human survival. Think of the Greek myth of Prometheus who stole fire from Mount Olympus and brought light to the deprivation experienced by human kind. Man knows the might of fire. As a blacksmith, you rekindle this millennia long appreciation for fire, as you work back and forth with your tools to shape lifeless metal into lively art.
Regardless of the importance of a blacksmith’s fire, it is their anvil that is the most iconic symbol of the craft. Clanging away on this oblong piece of chunk iron that normally is only seen being used to kill Roadrunners by nefarious coyotes, the anvil creates an aura of its own. It is a sturdy base to work off of as you hammer away at the stock metal.
The relationship of hammer and anvil is so poignant that it has been used to describe things from military procedures (See Alexander the Macedon) to metaphoric accounts of taking action in life. Being the hammer and not the nail; or being the source of change not the thing that gets changed (stock steel), is a great literary image for being proactive.
How does this get me gains again?
For one, blacksmithing as a hobby should open your mind up as a fitness-person to the idea that anything that goes beyond your health in fitness is a hobby. The word hobbies don’t mean that it lacks importance (as many people seem to assume).
Nope. This hobby as all hobbies should enhance your life. It should enable you to be better in the roles you play in the society you reside in. It should empower you to be a better person, to strive for that higher calling, and to have a cold-steel work ethic.
Blacksmithing, by nature epitomizes this. Trying out new hobbies also, is a way of enhancing your foundation. You can be a specialist but that is no excuse to not have at least a peripheral knowledge of a vast array of useful skills.
A pyramid is only as tall as the width of its base and that really shows in fitness goals as well. The better you develop you foundation, the ore you get out of your specialization.
Blacksmithing is creative
It enables a person to do something beautiful, to have a vision. Many of the most intricate things that you may not know of are a result of the blacksmith’s work. Staircase railings, door artwork, tools, even utensils, can all be personalized and made more artistic through the personal craft of blacksmithing. Imagine creating your own spoon, fork, and knife, with a powerful dragon smith-ed upon it. Doesn’t that sound so much cooler than a generic, lame, stock pair of utensils?
Blacksmithing is analytical
From understanding the chemistry involved, to planning logistics of how to undergo a project (including algebra, trigonometry, and geometry), blacksmithing is a very technical activity. From an advanced understanding of chemistry to being able to plan out to shape a project, what kind of tools you need, and if you have to also make certain tools for the project itself, blacksmithing is technical. However, you don’t need to be an astrophysicist to be able to work the iron, and this creates a certain ‘magic’ with the craft.
Blacksmithing is physical
It demands a level of endurance, accuracy, and resilience that only those who have put in time during their weightlifting/running/fitness careers can truly appreciated. After, Slaving away keeping your fire nice and hot (enough to bend metal that is) to being able to effectively strike a 4 lb hammer, you’ll never make fun of the light dumb bells again. Ultimately it’s about making every strike count. Make every rep count. Make use of every life opportunity that happens.
“Iron sharpens Iron”
From blacksmithing for one day, I realized how weak my forearm extensors were. After a few blows with a hammer, fatigue set in and I was beginning to sloppily strike the metal with a bent wrist, and a loose grip. Moreover, I felt I had week upper body- core synchronization as is the case when you are doing something like a hammer strike. By moving away from the physical activities that dictated my personal routine, I was able to identify weaknesses that would likely never have been considered as causes for leaving strength on the table.
This may be an over-the-top cliché to end this post but there was too much effort put into it to not to include it: Working with the iron we make our bodies stronger and are able to fully realize the beauty that is embodied in our physicality. Blacksmithing gives us the chance to enhance this relationship with the iron by using our bodies to work the iron itself, each sharpening the other, and becoming better.