Superhero Training

batman camping CrossFit fitness mental toughness

Furthermore, my coaches have demonstrated a lot of faith in me to sponsor my sectional registration. I've only been training at this gym since October. Their willingness to sponsor me means a lot in terms of encouragement, but it also puts a lot of pressure on me to get the most out of my training. It also means I need to find a way to pay for my membership fee, since I can't slack off the training, whether or not I can afford it. Come March 20th, I'll be going to the sectionals, regardless of whether I've been able to afford to train up to them.

If I'm honest with myself, the chances of me making it past sectionals are slim, mainly because I'm currently too weak. CrossFit doesn't scale it's weights to bodyweight classes; I will be judged against competitors 50 lbs heavier than me and be asked to move the same weights. Nevertheless, I'm still trying my hardest.

What does it mean to try my hardest? It means training at the highest weight class at my gym rather than scaling the weight down. This means my times are much worse than they would be if I scaled my weights. It means training twice a day sometimes. It means eating right, getting enough sleep, taking rest days when appropriate. Most of all, however, it means mental intensity. And that, I think, is where I will excel. I may not be the biggest guy out there, or the strongest, but I have a disturbing tendency to push myself to apparent self-destruction. When I am trying for something outside of myself, when it's other people who are relying on me, or other people calling on me to finish strong, I will sacrifice my body to live up to their expectations. It's just the way I am, and I can't say I'm especially proud of that habit. Andy and Kristie have, by signing me up for sectionals, inadvertently (or intentionally?) created a situation in which I would feel I was really letting them down if I didn't try as hard as humanly possible, and train for the next month as hard as I can.

Having something outside of myself helps in keeping my focus. Somehow, my mind and body are more willing to subject themselves to torture when it's for something unselfish. It's too easy to tell myself, "Well, I'd like to be able to walk tomorrow." But when Kristie is yelling at me to finish my workout, I know she doesn't care how much it hurts, and so a part of me stops caring too. Which goes back to my post on Excellence. Greatness is not measured by one's own accomplishments. It is measured by the requirements of the task at hand. A superhero is not somebody who says, "Well, I can fight two henchmen, so I'll avoid situations in which I have to fight three, regardless of any damsels/dudes in distress." A superhero says, "There's a damsel/dude in distress. Let's get to it." Never mind the fact that there are twenty well-trained psycho ninja zombies. A superhero also doesn't get to claim that title if he/she fails to rescue said distressed. Then you're just a fool, or at best a well-intentioned passerby.

Maybe that's why I like CrossFit so much. CrossFit's philosophy on scaling is twofold. First, use scaling to make the workouts manageable. There's no point in disappointing yourself so much you stop trying and it's necessary to build strength. Second, there is a distinct attitude of, "That's nice that you can lift 95lbs, and we respect you for all the work you put into that, but it's still not good enough." That reminds me of a Bill Gates speech in which he laments the trend in modern society of always praising children no matter what their performance for fear of injuring their self-esteem. You end up with a generation of wimps with entitlement complexes, incapable of actually dealing with life's hardships.

That's why I like camping. You don't have the luxury of stopping when you want to, or eating whatever you feel like. You have to get the day's work done. A story from my Long Border comes to mind. We had been paddling all day, against gale force winds (which in an aluminium canoe is like paddling into a wall). And we came up to a long lake acting like a wind tunnel. The wind was the strongest it had been all day, right in our faces. We paddled and paddled and paddled as hard as we could for half an hour, finally working our way up the coast to tuck into a little bay. And some of us wanted to stop there. But we couldn't. There was no campsite there. There was nothing to do but to finish. And it is quite possible that some of us wouldn't have the strength to finish the paddle, but what else was there to do? Even though we were at a Y camp, we couldn't simply praise the boys for their effort, or if we did, it would be meaningless. It wasn't us that determined if they'd succeeded or not, it was the lake and the wind. Their effort wasn't good enough until the task was done, and that would be it's own reward. Our situation dictated the standards we had to live up to, not our own limitations. And we all made it to the campsite, and then we all took a nap.

This realization, that our situations determine the standards we must live up to, is one that American society tries so hard to avoid admitting. We expect to be praised for making a good effort. We expect to gain recognition because we tried, or because we dreamed big even though we came up short. We expect to win just for showing up (sometimes not even). We expect to be taken care of, and balk at the notion that life should erect obstacles in the path of our success. We expect to get what we want, when we want it, even if we haven't really earned it.

And yes it is frustrating that, after a year of training harder than I've ever trained in my life, working through self-inflicted injury after injury after injury, tweaking my diet to the point of social ostracism, and working myself to the point of insanity I am still nowhere near the level I could be really competitive in my chosen sport. But it's also gratifying. I know that when I do succeed, it won't be because someone took a liking to me. It will be because I stepped up to nature's requirements of physics and moved the weight that was set for me. It will be because I lived up to the great challenge I chose to take on, with no allowances, no cutting corners, no gray area. Success for me has to come at a high cost to be worth the effort. For me, it is almost an insult to be good enough for some small challenge.

I realize that this attitude means I will never find myself good enough. I will probably never be content with my capabilities or achievements. I will always be striving for something greater than what I am capable of, always frustrated with my performance. I mean, let's be honest, I am as disappointed with my 300lb deadlift as I was with my 180lb deadlift in May. I acknowledge I've made progress, and I am proud of that, but I know I can do better. Maybe, when I feel that I can live up to any standards reality sets for me, I will be satisfied. Maybe I'll require myself to surpass even those standards, to unlock every last potential within myself. Maybe I will require myself to be more than human in everything I do. But I would rather live with constant frustration at potential yet to be released than to live mediocre and content to remain so. I can't say why, specifically, but I know I'd never be at peace.