POISON, SERMONS ON SUFFERING
I think about quitting. I write about quitting. I think most people quit when it gets hard. This is what keeps them from achieving, from fulfilling the potential that resides within. The conscious mind isn’t strong enough to push the body past physical barriers that exist at the edge of comfort.
I wrote extensively on the subject about 18 months ago after a particularly hard day on the bike in France. That day I wanted to quit, and easily could have with no one knowing I’d done so. I didn’t. That climb was a crucible I needed to pass through if I wanted anything more from my life. So I pushed on. There was a cost and I knew it at the time. But I knew I would heal too. And a little downtime due to knee pain was worth the lesson I learned by crushing myself on that hill.
In the mountains turning back – no matter how attractive – was always a complicated affair so choosing to do so wasn’t a decision taken lightly. On the bike turning back is easier but it still means I have only gone halfway so the choice doesn’t end the pain unless I pull over and make a phone call. I can reduce the pain but I’ve a lot of time to think about having quit as I pedal toward home.
In the gym today I realized that by putting myself in situations where quitting is almost as hard as pushing on I don’t have to address the temptation to quit when there are no consequences. If I can’t quit and I don’t it doesn’t mean I’m good at resolving the “Quit / Dont Quit” negotiation it just means I didn’t quit (because I couldn’t).
To learn how to win the negotiation one must be in situations where it would be easy to quit and free of any consequences.
I once wondered why guys quit when they were halfway through “300 F:Y.” but later realized they did it because there was no penalty. I’ve seen it with the 2km Row too: when the “projected finish” field gives negative feedback? and the effort to convert it to a positive value too great it is SO easy to give up. If the only consequence is verbal beatdown by a ridiculous trainer then why not quit? But if your life or someone else’s depends on a positive outcome then you won’t quit.
I dragged a sled today. I carried some weight today. Alone in a huge room. I could go 50m before I had to turn around. Michael was in the room next to me doing his own thing I could have stopped at any time. I understood how easy it was to do so for the first time. All I had to do was quit. And then admit it. Or lie. Whatever. It’s just fucking exercise. It hardly matters…
Only it does matter. Whatever I do, whatever I say, however I respond writes a pattern. And that pattern of behaviour is in me no matter what I am doing: habits I form in the gym I express outside of it. Habits I develop in the workplace manifest in the gym. We often say, “The body is one piece,” but I’I take it a step further and declare that, “Life is one piece.” Habits are universal. If I quit here and I’m comfortable with it, I’ll quit elsewhere in life.
If I persevere in the gym, when it would be all too easy to quit then I might keep pushing in other aspects of life – maybe when it matters most. So the real question comes down to how we use the gym, or any physical training. Do we isolate the work and pretend how we behave in the gym doesn’t influence, or is not influenced by life outside of it? Or do we accept and apply a wholistic ideal by which we may change our lives and ourselves through mindful, attentive practice in the gym or on the road?
I concluded the June 2012 post by writing,
“You chose it. You said you wanted it. Deep down you knew this was coming. And you started. By starting you signed the contract. So finish it. This is temporary. But quitting isn’t – unless you lie to yourself about it. So go on.”
That’s it. Go on. Simple. Quitting is easy. So make the hard choice. Don’t quit. Do it often enough that you become a different person. The fact that this can actually occur is what makes the gym and the work done there such amazing tools.
– MARK TWIGHT
POISON, SERMONS ON SUFFERING