“Never whine, never complain, never make excuses.” — Ben Bergeron
Drama and complaining are contagious diseases. In today’s world of instant gratification, everyone wants immediate results but not everyone is willing to put in the work. The same can be said in the world of fitness. Many people put in serious work and effort in pursuit of their goals, however, they eventually plateau in a place of redundancy and comfort. Soon, they start to whine, complain and make excuses as if things were supposed to get easier. Guess what? They won’t. We all know that the most valuable things are never easily achieved and that it always requires hard work. But how can we put this theory into practice?
I believe that our perceptions can either be a source of great strength or of great weakness. Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it. When an obstacle presents itself, the question is: How do we choose to look at it?
While most may see the obstacle as an inconvenient road block— something to run away from–I choose to see it exactly as the way to proceed. I tell myself that this is exactly where I should be. This is a perfect opportunity for progress, throw away the excess baggage, and a chance to chase excellence. I tell myself that it’s not the most gifted or talented people that achieve excellence but those who are willing to commit to The Process.
But what is The Process?
Being a survivor of a mental trap, the way I overcame anxiety was through the nitty-gritty, mind-bending, body torturing process of exercising. As Ryan Holiday explains it, “The Process provides us a way. Existing in the present, taking it one step at a time, not getting distracted by anything else.”
During a workout when my muscles burn as I rep it away, my ever-distracted brain is left with no choice but to pull me into the present moment. This is a survival mechanism which allows my brain to protect my body from the dangers of injury. My brain lets go of all unnecessary thoughts and I automatically stay alert–my senses heightened and my mind completely focused on the pain that my muscles are feeling. In effect, I become hyper aware of my body and my environment. As funny as it may sound, for me, working out is the easiest way to learn self-awareness!
“Under the comb, the tangle and the straight path are the same.” — Heraclitus
If our minds are in a state of constant disorder, we easily lose track of what’s in front of us and almost always, what’s in front of us is what truly matters. The obstacles we face in our everyday lives provide us an opportunity to follow The Process. This gives us a chance to practice the discipline to keep our perceptions in check and our actions in sync with our values.
Last Saturday, I’ve had the chance to try out the obstacles in the upcoming Spartan Race together with some of my online coaching clients. The venue was the Obstacle Camp on the roof deck in a building located in BGC. We were shocked! The gym wasn’t completely roofed and the monsoon rain was pouring all over the place. The rains sent people home early and we had the entire place to ourselves! I gathered the team and I took a quick scan of the area to see what we can do for a safe yet intense workout. I designed a workout in which some of the obstacles were involved. There were Net Walls, Rope Climbs, Ring Monkey Bars and Lateral Traverse Wall to name a few.
Since the team is composed of individuals of different fitness levels, I scaled some of the exercises accordingly so that everyone can enjoy an intense workout and have a great experience. Here’s what we did:
Station 1: Net Wall
- A 5 minute window of as many rounds as possible of net wall climbs followed by 50 mountain climbers.
- After 5 minutes of non-stop work, we rested for another 5 minutes before proceeding to the next station.
Station 2: Rope Climbs
- A 5 minute window of as many rounds as possible of 20 Rope Inverted Rows and 20 Squat Thrusts.
- After the 5 minute window, we rested for 5 minutes, then we moved into the next station.
Station 3: Play
- We took an indefinite amount of attempts with the Ring Monkey Bars and Traverse Wall and just played with the obstacles.
- After 5 minutes of play, we then cooled down and wrapped it up when the rain was getting worse.
The workout was not only fun for everyone, it also involved the awkward obstacles where functionality could be applied. Being functionally fit means that we are not only good at predictable gym movements but also we are able to apply the strength we’ve trained for in our everyday lives. If we only train hard inside the gym, we would only get better inside the gym. But life does not happen this way. We cannot predict what will happen to us and, most of the time, life throws us curve balls we don’t see coming. When we go outside, look for new and unfamiliar challenges, we make a choice to take on life and prepare ourselves for the unknown. In each of our waking hours, we have a choice to pursue a life of complacency or discomfort. For me, if one truly wants to grow not just in body but also in mind, one must come to terms with the fact that the obstacles may be exactly what one needs! Ryan Holiday couldn’t be more correct: the obstacle is the way!
Everyone embraced the suck and kept on keeping on.
It was raining hard, the obstacles were slippery and they prepared for none of these. They were asked to perform in unfair conditions, however, they saw it as a chance to test what they’re made of. They gave it their all because they knew how difficult it is to finish the race, more so to win. They experienced first hand the inconvenience of getting drenched and sweaty and exhausted. And it was an opportunity to embrace discomfort and overcome their physical and mental limits!
As the day came into a close, I couldn’t help but reflect on the trustworthy saying that we do not take on obstacles to reach a place of no obstacles. As a matter of fact, things will just keep on getting harder. More things will stand in our way as we accomplish more. As the Haitian proverb puts it, “Behind mountains are more mountains.” We will always be fighting an uphill battle and the secret is that there are no secrets. To achieve our goals, whether it is to lose weight, train for a race or to improve our performance, all we need to understand is that the obstacle is the way. We simply should get comfortable in the uncomfortable because each challenge will stretch us to new dimensions — of strength, patience and humility — and we will never be the same person!
“Only those who have the patience to do things perfectly will acquire the skills to do difficult things easily. — Friedrich Schiller