I recently watched a documentary on a 100 mile endurance race held in Tennessee, that only 14 out of a thousand runners has ever finished. The organizer of the race describes those that have been hearty enough to finish as “marionettes that have had their strings cut” when they finally get to sit down at the finish line “…and you can see the utter joy of accomplishment that you only see with sports, and only comes when failure is more probable than success.”
That feeling of joy is something that I’d like to have more often. I’ve never run 100 miles (and don’t plan to anytime soon), but the joy comes from finishing something that is seemingly impossible, and that the average person would call you crazy for even trying. To do something like this takes an incredible amount of mental fortitude. There will be a thousand opportunities to quit, a million ways to rationalize why you couldn’t do it, and lots of people who will validate that it was never possible in the first place (mostly to satisfy their own justification for not challenging themselves in that way), but you will never have that feeling of pure joy unless you can forget about all of that and just keep going.
At some point in a race like that, and in life, the physical push disappears and the only thing left is your mental strength. Your body will do what your mind tells it to do. If you let the “quit now” thoughts take over, your body will listen. If however, you focus on the positive and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you stand a chance of finishing the race.
CrossFit is an incredible tool for training this mental fortitude. There’s always a moment in the WOD when your lungs are burning, your legs feel like jello, and the only thing you want to do is lay on the floor. At that moment, you can’t think about how much time is left, or how many more reps you have to do. You have to focus on getting just one more rep. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, and before you know it you’ll have finished what seemed like an impossible workout.
I think the ability to push through a tough WOD makes us all stronger for our jobs, our families, and our life goals. When things are at their worst, anybody who’s been through a tough WOD has the ability to push through and focus on taking one more rep, putting one foot in front of the other, and making it through to the other side.
P.S. – It’s a short documentary. If you want to watch it, you can find it here: