[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 6, 2009.]
In the bottom of a clean, quads burning, you’ll want to quit. Pulling deadlifts, the skin on your hands tearing, you’ll want to quit. Your body protesting, crying for relief as your veins pump waste, you’ll want to quit.
Your mind will scream from its high perch, commanding you to stop, lest you break, crash, and burn. Feeling the outer limits of your capabilities, it will hit every physical and emotional alarm in the arsenal, rocketing pain, misery, and doubt into your thoughts.
It would be easy to give in to the hot rush of your brain’s emergency brake. To drop the bar. To get off the rings. To let your knees collapse as panic breaths heave through your chest.
High intensity compound movement, performed with moderate loads, will bring you face-to-face with this crux—quit or continue—faster than anything else on earth. Unique in its ability to elicit pain, this combination of distance and weight will expose your character with every repetition. Don’t.
Superhuman performance is separated from mere fitness by the undeniable need to persist, to never give up. Those who achieve are resilient. Standing when you want to fall, punching when you want to tap out, and running when you want to walk are the necessities of elite athleticism.
When the knurling scrapes your shins, and your traps bunch into knots, you’ll make a decision, one that will affect every aspect of your life. Give in to the agony, and you will always give in. Cave to demands that crush you, and you’ll always cave. Roll to the floor, and you’ll always exist beneath those who choose to stand.
Remember that the walls of the gym are nothing more than physical barriers, meant only to separate us from the elements. What you do within those walls will echo in your daily life, and you would do well to choose your actions wisely.
Push for one more repetition. Live through one more pull. Get to your feet one more time. This decision will accumulate momentum with each iteration, and you will move into the realm of greatness. Like a boulder rolling downhill, you will become unstoppable, undeterred by the falsehoods of your weak mind.
Next time the demons of hardship come rushing forward, push them back. When your muscles bellow for relief, carry on, and smile at the sting. You will become more than an athlete, and you will be amazing.
Jon Gilson is the owner of Again Faster. Photograph of Brian Curley courtesy of Evan Saint Clair at the JournalMENU.