Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fitness Is...


Uncomfortable.

Get comfortable with it.[1]

Someone once said that nothing worth having comes easy.  While I tend to shy away from superlatives when analyzing the real world, I think this is true more often than not.  Maybe we unconsciously categorize the things furthest from our grasp as “best,” fundamentally requiring a great struggle to acquire them.  Or maybe in the course of a hard struggle we come to appreciate things more for the effort it took to achieve them.  More than likely there are elements of both at work, but the fact remains that we seem to value most those accomplishments that nearly break us.  
Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of fitness.  Because our bodies are hard wired to survive rather than excel, we must consciously push past our boundaries in order to improve.  That means sweat, blood, and lactic acid.  It means sunburns and blisters, frustration and pain.  Try as you might to find your way around it, there are no exceptions to this rule.  Embracing this truth is perhaps the most difficult task you will ever face, but here it is, in plain English, so you can know it, and know it well:  IT NEVER GETS EASIER. 
You might think that the more you train the less things hurt, and in an absolute sense you’d be right.  The stronger you are at squatting, the less difficult 100 lbs is going to feel.  But in relative terms, you’re no longer squatting the same weight.  If 100 lbs used to require 90% of your strength to lift, and now only requires 50%, it is no longer a reliable standard for your measuring your effort or workload.  Remember, effort is everything.  Unless we are pushing beyond what we can currently do, we will not progress.  Perhaps now 150 lbs feels the way 100 lbs used to, so that’s where you will need to train in order to improve.  No matter how strong or fast you become, you will never out pace this process. 

Take an example.  Ask any football player, hockey player, boxer, or wrestler about the rigors of their sport and hear what they tell you.  The hits taken never stopped hurting, they just got used to the pain.  Ask Michael Jordan how he felt before every game winning shot and he’ll say he was nervous, just like every other human on the planet.  He was just great at managing his emotions.  The most impressive ability of these types of men and women is not their physical strength or stamina, it’s their adaptation to pain and anxiety.  To them fear, pain, and discomfort are part of the job description.  They revel in the challenge to overcome them.  For most of us these things are like the plague.  We cringe at the thought of putting ourselves through any sort of awkward or embarrassing situation, let alone a physically painful one.  It’s no surprise that when the moment comes to put up or shut up we make like ants running from a ground fire.  Watch a class of people in the moments before Fran and you might not know a thing about them because it’s all internalized.  Watch that same class during the round of 15 and you’ll know all you need to know.  The warriors commit and the pretenders crumble.  Becoming fitter requires you to go beyond your physical limits… Guess what?  This fucking sucks!  It really hurts and it’s always going to.  Own it.  You’ll never be able to do what it takes to get what you want unless you start accepting this as a cold, hard fact.  All the rational explanations you gave yourself for working out don’t mean a thing without this most basic understanding.

The good news is that when you do, you’re in for a huge payoff.  There’s the physical change—an inevitable acceleration in your progress.  Rather than merely getting through your workout and surviving, you will be attacking each session and demanding the equivalent response from your body.  Things will look, feel, and perform better.  MUCH BETTER.  Your body parts will shake where they’re supposed to shake and your records will start breaking in bunches.  That is a promise.
Not only will your body change in both appearance and ability, but there will be a psychological shift as well.  You’ll start tapping into that deep satisfaction that only comes from overcoming something difficult. You’ll start craving that feeling of total exhaustion, knowing what it will cost you to achieve it, and craving it just the same.  You’ll walk taller in the hallway at work, knowing that what you’re about to do barely measures in comparison with what you’ve already done.  Your approach to everything will be different because you know what it means to truly give it all; to be lying on the ground withered and gasping, then to get up do it again. 
This is why CrossFit is the optimal training environment, in my opinion.  You know exactly what you have to do, you know exactly how much it’s going to hurt, you’re surrounded by a group of people that know all the same things as you. The only thing left to do is go there.  The warriors of the world accept these consequences knowingly.  They know that it’s hard and that it’s going to hurt, and they do it anyway.  To continually grow and improve, this is the outlook we must all have.   At 100% effort, Fran is always going to hurt.  Running 1 mile for time is always going to hurt.  Embrace this reality.  Know that it’s going to suck and don’t back down.  Wear it like war paint every time you train.  When you do, you’re no longer the ant.  You are the ground fire. 



[1] “Get comfortable with uncomfortable.” –James Fitzgerald.

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