4 things I learned at the brink of quitting
Most of you do not know, but I have a slight obsession with obstacle course racing (you know, the Tough Mudder thing your buddy is doing? Yeah, that.) I have been racing in OCR events for the better part of 3 years now, and I can tell you that there are a few things I have learned from cold mornings filled with rain, hail and some seemingly never ending muddy trails.
The purpose of obstacle course racing is to awaken the innate ability inside of you that has been lying dormant for too long. Thus, it makes logical sense that training for races like these requires at least a degree of discomfort, right? With that in mind I created a program for myself that intentionally places me before the fight-or-flight fork in the road by making it so obnoxiously hard that it is inevitable I will break down mentally, physically and spiritually. What’s more is that I have made the goal of these programs is to try and reach that breaking point before you even reach the midway point of the workout.
You must be thinking I am insane right about now. Who would ever intentionally put themselves through this level of pain? Well, I’ll tell you. When you are capable of making yourself uncomfortable, you learn to control life from a perspective of clarity, confidence and passion. You increase your level of being.
I put myself through this sort of training at least 5 times per week, each day harder than the last. The point of it all is to remove excuses and implement accountability. Sure, we can all hire a personal trainer to do this for us, but when you are capable of switching it on all by yourself, something changes.
Every time I put myself through this training I seem to re-learn these 4 things, each time quicker than the last.
I. The mind always wins
Your mind will tell you absolutely everything you want it to in order for you to justify a decision. The unfortunate undertone of that last sentence is that we have reverted into auto-pilot and comfort mode and so our minds take us there with ease. Anything that can potentially bring discomfort our minds will tell us that it’s just not worth it! We’d rather be in our warm beds, watching Netflix or eating that greasy bag of potato chips, because it is comfortable, it is easy and it is justified.
What I’ve learned from putting myself through the proverbial ringer is that there is no changing the fact that your mind will win. What you can change, though, is what that win consists of.
Unless you are highly trained in the art of meditation you will never be able to switch your brain completely off, especially in times of trial and tribulation. But you will be able to switch its gears. I intentionally place myself in a position where I am begging myself to quit — but I don’t. I change the dynamic of the win in my head and visualize the reward of pushing through. To give you an indicator of what my training consists of, these thoughts happen at the conclusion of round 2. There are 5 rounds plus another 3 round circuit afterwards and either a long distance ruck, swim or run to finish it off. Sure, it is extremely uncomfortable and some have even said it is downright insane, but it works.
To sum it up, I have found that it is possible to convince the brain that the real win is the struggle and not the comfort. I have achieved this through the struggle and it has given me the ability to break down mental barriers that used to stand mountain-high in front of me.
II. The body is capable of so much more than you think
Going with point one is this. Your mind will tell you when you are uncomfortable and that stopping or quitting is the best thing to do. When you shift gears in your mind you will notice that what your mind is telling you is nothing but a myth. You can get to 500 push-ups. You can run a marathon with blisters on your feet. You can do so many things your mind initially says you can’t or aren’t worth doing because of the discomfort the endeavor will bring. Knowing how capable the physical body is helps reaffirm that “you ain’t finished yet”.
I have felt like packing it in plenty of times during my training (in reality it’s more like every time), but I quite simply don’t. I put my head down and I get after it. It is truly incredible what happens within the body and mind when you finally get to this point in your progression as a human being. We really are powerful creatures.
III. The value of a mantra (both good and bad)
This point ties the previous two together with a nice and sweaty bow. You see, at round 3 of my 5 round workouts, you better believe I am hurting. My breathing is weezy, my shirt is literally dripping with sweat and my mind is telling me that I am an idiot. Well, as a friend and member of my Awakening program (more on this at the end), has learned, it is here when you don’t need external motivation, but internal.
A mantra serves you well here. You have a choice at every moment of discomfort — to either tell yourself you can or tell yourself you cannot do it. A mantra will help you along whatever path you want to go. I can sit in front of you while you complete 200 push ups and tell you “you can do it!” but that doesn’t shut your mind up. What does is replacing that negative crap seeping into your head with a mantra. The first time I put my friend through one of my workouts he nearly quit about half a dozen times. He is in good shape, but he simply could not get through the mental barrier that was slapping him in the face each medicine ball burpee he had to do. So, what did he do? He dug deep. Real deep. He replaced the “I am gassed” with a simple mantra “I have the strength of 10,000 men.” He crushed the final three rounds of the workout and the sprint training we did afterward. Yes, all with a blister on the ball of his right foot. The mind is the most powerful tool a human being has — use it to your advantage like he did.
IV. The importance of an internal fire
I have two kids at home, and sometimes this means limited sleep. They are not on my schedule- so if I put myself through a strenuous workout and one gets up for a bottle at 2am, I’ve got to be on point. You bet your bottom dollar I’m tired the next day, but should I treat this as an excuse or an opportunity? I think you know my answer at this point, but at times it is much harder than just going and doing it, as I emphasized before. Sometimes it is the fire inside that kicks you into overdrive and pushes you through.
Sure, I could take an extra hour of sleep when they go down for a nap, or give the workout a skip for the day, but what does that teach me, my kids, my wife? It teaches us complacency in a tough and unforgiving world. I need to get up, show up and get things done — no excuses. On that 4th and 5th round, or on the final mile of a long run, I call on my Why and push harder than ever. Without my Why (I’m sure you can figure out what that is now) to call on, though, this becomes much easier said than done.
When you are down, out and do not think you could go even a step further, call on your Why.Your spirit is rooted to this Why and when you are able to determine what that is, you will find it much easier to wake up at 2am after a 15 mile run, 100 burpees, 200 push ups, 150 pull ups and 200 crunches to look after your crying child. Excuses will become minimal and accountability will become everything. It is here you become who you were always destined to be.
In short, putting myself far beyond my comfort zone has taught me the power of the mind, body and spirit. It has also taught me that they interact very closely and deep inside your soul your purpose is longing to drive them forward. Get out of your own way and see what starts to happen in your life.
Should you follow a regiment like this? That’s up to you. I can show you inside mine, if you’d like. We are in the process of on-boarding members to The Emergence — a program and summit that removes the sugar-coated “I can do this attitude” and replaces it with real action, real growth and an emergence of your most authentic self. Pre-register for the program here.