“These Boots” – Lessons From Country Music and a Dusty Guitar

By March 13, 2017Blog

There’s a guitar sitting in my parents’ basement right now collecting dust. Three years ago, my girlfriend bought it for me for Christmas. By that point, she knew my love of country music and had heard me ramble on about wanting to learn to play guitar.

I was so excited when I got that beautiful instrument. It was an incredible gift.

I dabbled.

I watched YouTube.

I played some chords of my favourite songs.

I got slightly better.

Slightly would be an overstatement.

After 6 months of dabbling, I shut it down.

I haven’t picked up that guitar since.

It never really dawned on me until recently why I never picked it back up again, but after seeing two country music concerts in four days; I think I have a better understanding.

Say what you want about country music; I know you will.

Say what you will about Miranda Lambert and Eric Church. Frankly, I don’t care what you think. Their music speaks to me like no other music ever has.

And therein lies the problem.

I want to be there. Now.

I want to be playing my favourite songs; the ones that hit me deeper than I could ever imagine.

But I can’t. I have to start where I am and do what I can with what I have.

I have to bumble around on the chords and screw up and retune and try again.

We’ll see if I can muster up the patience and humility to pick it back up, dust it off and give it another go.

But during this past week; I also had some time to reflect; and as the music hit me so deep I kept asking myself, “Why did I quit the pursuit to make such beautiful music like this?”

Sound familiar?

Because this is what most people do with their attempts at making fitness a routine.

They start, full of excitement.

They dabble, test out a few things, get their feet wet.

They watch YouTube or read magazines.

They pick a few exercises out of their favourite routines.

They get slightly stronger and improve their overall movement quality.

But after six months of dabbling, they hit a proverbial wall. Just like I did.

Then they look back and say – with embarrassment, sadness and even bitterness that they haven’t been to the gym in over a year.

So how do we avoid this trap? How do we get past the “bored beginner” stage and into the “holy-shit-I’m-actually-stringing-together-a-song” stage?

Remember Where You Came From

Eric Church stopped his show at one point and mentioned that he had been doing this for over ten years.

After a rousing applause, he reminisced about the fact that when they first started singing in bars and clubs, “we couldn’t even fill this pit in front of me half with people.”

So, as a treat for the fans that had been there since the beginning (like yours truly) he played the second single he ever released to much fanfare from the true hardcores and some confusion from the young, drunk idiots that just wanted to hear the new stuff.

It was a Tuesday night. There was a blizzard outside and Eric Church must have been thinking, “Why the hell am I here?”

But, he reflected and remembered that he is lucky as hell to be here, playing in front of over 11,000 screaming fans and getting the opportunity to do what he loves every night and get paid well for it.

Weight loss and fitness in general, are so difficult because often you don’t see much in terms of aesthetic changes (the type we all want; don’t lie), especially at first.

But, if you take a look at some objective measures such as how much weight is on the bar vs. when you started, or even something subjective like how a movement feels or how good you feel when you play sports; you’ll realize you’ve come a long way.

Even if you’re playing the proverbial Winnipeg on a Tuesday.

Ya Gotta Believe

It’s funny; the first concert we went to last week was Miranda Lambert. My girlfriend has really gotten into her recently and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity at a country concert with a girl who has always tagged along but never really knew the words.

Finally, we could BOTH sing along!

So, we drove down to North Dakota for a weekend away and were so excited to see Miranda.

She started her show with “Kerosene”, a punchy song from her debut album ten years ago that basically tells love and ‘high society’ to screw off.

It’s in your face. It’s aggressive. It’s Miranda Lambert to a tea.

And it flopped.

She clearly didn’t give a shit.

The song was incredibly… well, blah.

Kelly and I looked at each other with surprise and concern.

It wasn’t until Miranda got to her new stuff (a double album written AFTER her infamous divorce with Blake Shelton) that the fangs finally came out and the show really hit its groove.

I’ve noticed this before with bands or musicians that don’t write their own music. The album version of the song has all these elements that hit you in the face because they only have to do it once.

Ask them to reproduce that fire night-in, night-out for a song they don’t believe in anymore (or ever really did) and it falls flat.

However, move along to her encore and instead of playing an upbeat song to leave all the drunk people flying high; Miranda drops a ballad on our asses stating, “I feel it’s my job as an artist to make you feel somethin’.”

She sure did that, playing her newest song, Tin Man.

Eric Church, on the other hand, went with no opening act and belted nearly 40 songs over two sets spanning three-plus hours.

Midway through the first set, he could be seen puffing his chest and pounding on it in the middle of a guitar riff that just hit him so deep he had to.

Several times during the show, Eric – much like Miranda did three nights before – stopped and told us when and why he wrote certain songs, giving us a further glimpse into the world of a songwriter and helping us feel it even more.

So what does this have to do with fitness?

Well, there are two types of people trying to reach their goals…

There are those that go to the gym semi-consistently but if it’s snowing or cold or they’re a little tired, they have absolutely no problem skipping a day or two.

Then there are those who go religiously. No matter what is happening around them, they know deep down why they’re doing it and can always fall back on their WHY.

When it’s cold and snowy and it’s a Tuesday in February, they’ll remember why they’re doing it, much like Eric and Miranda remembering why they wrote a song and how it makes them feel.

And THAT is powerful stuff.

Which of those two types of people is more likely to succeed?

A trainer, much like fans at a concert, can’t make you give a shit.

That’s gotta come from you. There has to be a deeply seeded reasoning for it, or else you may as well not even try.

Open Up

You may be asking why I named the article as I did. I know that the song title These Boots is one of Church’s most meaningful as it portrays the struggles he has faced in his life and career through a personification of his trusty cowboy boots.

Plus, it’s one of my favourite songs.

I’m not going to post a video here because I don’t think any of the options on YouTube do it justice. Furthermore, this article isn’t about the song. It’s about what the song represents.

The song is Church’s story and it’s a deep and vulnerable look at him and his struggles.

It’s a perfect example of the beauty that is vulnerability.

If you can get half as deep when trying to find your reason – your WHY, there’s no doubt you’ll have success.

“I’ve wore out more soles
Than I’d care to count
I’ve done more stupid things than most
Would dare to
I’ve kicked myself more times than not
For the roads they led me down…”

To playing your song – whatever that may be,


P.S. My goal is to start guitar lessons in the spring. Keep an eye out on social media for some tunes!

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Gavin McHale

Author Gavin McHale

Online training and nutrition coach, retired semi-pro hockey goalie, and ex-skinny kid. Currently a beer league superstar, and lover of lifting heavy things, Gavin will help you reclaim that athletic, dead sexy body, and shrink your clothing budget. Because tarps are always optional.

More posts by Gavin McHale

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Avatar Beth Albers-Jones says:

    Nice piece! Well written and oh so true! Drove to Red Rocks last fall to hear Jason Isbell on a full moon night. His brand of country and that of his wife Amanda Shires are great work out music. Guess it’s time to get off Facebook and head to the gym. Thanks for the push!

  • Avatar Joey says:

    I started playing guitar at 45, a few years ago and although it is much more difficult than I ever imagined, I have never regretted starting on my journey. I had never played any instrument before I now play in 2 bands and go to Open Mikes regularly. It’s lots of fun and great stress relief. Who can think of work when trying to finger chords and solos plus trying remember the words to sing? Lol

    p.s. Mar-Shells Music on Henderson Hwy. is great. Ask for Mark and tell him Joey sent you. Best teacher!

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