Practice as not just doing but making

Those practices which are engaged with labor, which are the result of a kind of labor, constitute a kind of making. Our practices are not only things that we do, our practices are things that we make, among those things being the world.

Ross Gay, Interview for Between the Covers

And, our practices are things that make us.

Reps (repetitions)

from Let’s Not Begin/ Maggie Smith

If I list everything I love

about the world, and if the list
is long and heavy enough,

I can lift it over and over—
repetitions, they’re called, reps—

to keep my heart on, to keep
the dirt off.

Reps is short for repetitions, or the number of times that you perform any given exercise in your workout. If a fitness instructor or an online training plan tells you to do 10 reps of a body-weight squat, that means you’ll repeat the exercise 10 times.

Each rep of an exercise puts your muscles through several positions, including a lengthening phase, a contraction phase and a shortening phase, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Most exercises are performed in a range of 8 to 12 reps total per set. This range is best for general increase in muscle strength and size (aka hypertrophy), according to the ACE.

On the other hand, to build muscular endurance, you’ll want to keep your reps high, between 20 to 30 repetitions, according to the ACE. Higher rep ranges are excellent for runners or cyclists who need to perform exercises for long periods of time without muscle fatigue.

Generally the amount of repetitions you perform should be inversely related to the weight you’re lifting, the ACE recommends. If you’re performing heavy squats, for instance, you may want to do just 6 reps. On the other hand, if you’re doing light hammer curls, you can go for 12 reps total.

Whether you’re training for hypertrophy or muscular endurance, you want to perform your reps to a point of muscular fatigue, which is when you feel too tired to do one more repetition with good form.

What is the Definition of Reps and Sets?

Thinking about this in relation to Maggie Smith’s poem, I like this idea of needing to do exercises that make us stronger in 2 different ways: 1. that make our hearts/capacity for delight bigger (expanding to include more) and 2. that fortify our ability to persist, endure, flourish for longer periods of time, despite our struggles, the recognition that we will all die someday, and the difficulties of living in a broken world.


from River Running
Rituals Routines Habits
(tankas 3-5)

Ritual. Routine.
What’s the difference between them?
Are habits mundane
always? Can’t they be sacred
sometimes—spiritual acts?

What is it they need
to be transformed? A doctrine?
Some theology?
Hymns about souls rejoicing
Kingdoms conquering reigning?

Chants about fathers
& sons? Uncomfortable pews?
Rising too early
on a Sunday morning? Yes.
Early mornings are sacred.

And the refusal
to stay in bed the act of
being upright and
alive outside by the gorge—
these are sacred practices.

from Practice! in Unofficial Student Transcripts

Why did I play the clarinet for so long? While many reasons come to mind, one that makes the most sense to me now involves my love of practice, repetition and the rituals of sitting alone in a room with a clarinet, a stand, a metronome and sheets of paper filled with notes, preferably sixteenth or thirty-second ones.


I always enjoyed practice more than any performance. Some players feel that the right performance can be religious. A deep and meaningful, almost transcendent, experience of connecting with the music and the audience. Not me. I always liked the private moments, when an intimate, almost sacred, connection with the notes, the music, and my instrument was created through repeated and habitual practice. Who finds transcendence through scales, played to the steady rhythm of a metronome? I did.