A Defining Moment
This weekend I started Week Three on my journey of intensive training. (It was actually week 5 as I had started doing workouts two weeks prior.) I plowed through my running day with no problems and felt great afterwards. Sunday was my calisthenic and strength day. According to the workout plan, sets and exercises were amped up one small step towards reps. My energy was down a bit but I was ready. I could do this. I was excited for no other reason than the simple fact I would be putting those Bear Walk Holds to good use and actually doing some Bear Walking. I was also going to start doing Crab Walks. How exciting!
I opted after warm-up to do it outside. The sun was out and it was warm. It was also humid and because I had decided on a lazy Sunday morning, it was about mid-day. That laziness choice would bite me in the butt and teach me a solid lesson later.
My set rotation is push-ups, plank holds, squats, lunges, side lunges and then bear and crab walks. Today, I was to do 4 sets. A pretty tight and efficient workout. Right after my first plank I knew I was in trouble. It seemed like all my energy went into holding that plank and as I went into squats I was sweating and tired. The heat quickly went from mild to oppressive over the course of the set. (I’d not looked at the temperature before going out and found out later the heat index had been up near 90. Smart move!)
I took my break eagerly and then hit Set Two. After Set Two I was a mess. My Pandora music station wasn’t working for me. My form had been bad throughout and it felt like the wheels were coming off. Not only that but mentally things had started to crumble. I started having variations on the following thought, “This sucks. Maybe I should just repeat Week 2?” or, “You’ve not done that much and look at you. You’re no spring chicken. Take it easy. Just stop here and you can reset to Week Two.” And, my favorite, “The air conditioning feels so good back at home…”
I almost bought into it. I was gasping for air, my shoulders were on fire and I was pretty miserable. It just seemed like I had nothing in my tank! On top of that my monkey mind was chattering about how uncomfortable it was. I took a knee after that second set and decided to take a longer break to get everything back under control. So, with my knee pressing into the concrete, sweat rolling off my nose and chin, I stayed there until I could get my breathing back. I did some mindfulness meditation around my breath and went inward.
Did I want to tap out? No. Did I want to reset to Week Two? No but maybe I should… And that’s when something clicked. Wait a minute. Should? Should?!?! It was time to look at that word a bit more closely. I was told several years ago to be careful about “shoulding” on myself and how the word itself should (ha!) be avoided. I realized this was a defining moment for me.
In the past I would have opted for the reset to Week 2. The “should” would not have come up. I would have mumbled some excuses to myself and taken the reset. Make no mistake, I was miserable in that moment. Yet, somehow, I latched onto that one word and while I focused on my breathing and on the moment, everything fell into place. It was not just a simple choice at this moment. It was a big choice. It was a defining choice.
Thinking back on it I wonder what it looked like on the outside? I like to tuck myself away, back in an out of the way corner near my apartment’s workout building. I doubt no one saw me in this moment. If they had, it would have been a simple sight. An exhausted middle-aged guy, on one knee, recovering and getting his breath back. “Gee, he looks tired.” That’s it. No sign whatsoever of the inner battle, struggle and decisions going on. How turbulent it was internally! How often do we see athletes like this and we just think, “Oh, they’re just getting their breath back,” and have no concept of the battle being waged on the inside.
I made a decision. I was going to finish this damn thing. I would take breaks if necessary but I was not resetting to Week 2. I was finishing this damn workout. As I stood up it was as if the Pandora Gods were looking out for me because what happened to play next? Battle without Honor or Humanity from Kill Bill, Vol. #1. It was perfect.
Make no mistake, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t smooth, sure movements. It was a battle with myself with no honor and I’m real glad I was alone in that secluded corner because I was spitting, cussing and growling my way through every rep. Either I went down or it did. It was more than the “breaking through” I posted earlier. It was a fight with deep self-esteem based beliefs and habits that had made a little rat’s nest inside of me. When the fourth set and my past habits lay broken and bleeding on the concrete behind me I was exhausted. I stumbled home and had to use both hands to lift my water bottle because my arms were shot. The rest of the day was a downward spiral towards sleep and I crashed out at around 7:30 or 8 PM.
But, you know what?
I walked away from that spot knowing I had won, that I had surpassed anything I had ever done in my past. And that feeling? That sense of completion, attainment and courageously breaking new ground?
It was, and still is, amazing.
(However, next time, I won’t be waiting to do my workout at Noon in the middle of July!)
Post edit – Looking back over my workout schedule I saw that I was not required to do 4 Sets at all. This week only required 3. *headdesk* 😀 But I did it anyway, right? RIGHT?