“The only way out is through.” -Robert Frost
In the thousands of hours spent the last five years exercising or watching others exercise, a common theme pops up quite often: taking the easy way out to avoid discomfort. I find myself guilty of this too; I’m too sore, too tired, my hands hurt, the pull-up bar is slick, the sled is getting stuck on the floor, I don’t like the way the barbell spins, and so on. There is a marked difference between self-regulation during training and making excuses to avoid putting yourself in a difficult situation. I’m a huge proponent of quality over quantity, so the message here isn’t GO HARD ALL THE TIME. Taking a step back, especially after having rotator cuff surgery and experiencing a time in my life when literally NOTHING is easy has inspired some true reflection.
I can just now set a coffee cup on a shelf without pain, I can almost hold a plank with equal weight on both arms, I can finally put my arm over my head without assistance…this article isn’t meant to be a sob story about my recovery, I’m just giving you some perspective that at one time I could snatch 200lbs and currently I can snatch a PVC pipe. But it’s these moments of difficulty that force me to take a look at myself.
Going through this experience, as cheesy as it sounds, has taught me that the easier things are, the less we learn from them. As humans, we are trained to look for the path of least resistance. To different people that can mean a variety of things. I see people in competitions not able to meet the standard because they make movements too easy during training. I see members scared to add weight to the bar because they might fail a rep. I see people grab lighter kettlebells after one round of an AMRAP when they can’t do something unbroken. People keep jobs they hate for decades because it’s easier than finding a new one. What I’m saying is that following this path of least resistance will never lead to physical or psychological growth. Given the choice, if you continuously make things easy, then when the level of difficulty is out of your control (like a judge at a competition, using a slick pull up bar, forgetting your weightlifting shoes) you are bound to become overwhelmed and allow your emotions to overcome your physical or mental capabilities. When in reality, everyone is capable of enduring infinitely more pain and suffering than we believe we are.
It’s not a matter of killing yourself during every workout, it’s not about quitting your job to live out of a van with no heat; it’s about forcing yourself to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. To remain composed and still able to put forth your best effort, no matter if your rope breaks, your hand tears, or your boss asks you to meet a seemingly impossible deadline. It’s knowing that because of these tough moments, the next one will be a little easier to get through. In 2015, I tore my hands terribly about a quarter of the way through an Open workout (which I don’t condone, I was being an idiot, trying to make things easier by using tape and grips, go figure) but I finished that workout by doing another 50+ pull-ups. I know now no matter how badly I tear my hand at a competition, I can finish the workout. I did heavy Fran with an assault bike and chest to bar at Wodapalooza last year, and planned on breaking up the 21 c2b…making it easier, but in the moment I changed my mind and that was my best workout of the weekend.
All in all, we have to push our limits to expand them. As long as you’re not injured, and your coach approves your form, go unbroken, put the weight on the bar, get your toes all the way to the pull-up bar, pick up the dang sled and carry it if it’s not sliding. The only way out is through, and if you keep taking detours, it’s going to take you much longer to reach your destination.