Running on a dirt path with an awkwardly oversized 20 pound weight vest creating a small patch of raw skin that is just now beginning to heal, I had to take a moment and laugh at the hilarity of my situation. I could have been whipping up a batch of strawberry cornmeal pancakes with a hot latte in hand, enjoying the slowness that usually typifies Memorial Day Monday. Instead I was working very hard to run a mile, then complete 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, and 300 air squats…and then suffer through another mile. All the while toting around the aforementioned 20 pounds.
Thankfully I had set up my Murph (the annual crossfit Memorial Day workout) station next to an equally suffering individual. We had broken up our repetitions differently- I chose to do 20 rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats, while he was doing 5 rounds of 20 pull ups, 40 pushups and 60 air squats- but found ourselves to be moving along at similar paces. Just past the half way point, my Murph partner starts giving himself a pep talk. His weight vest had hit the ground one too many times, and in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he says: “You wanted this! You did this to your self. This is your choice, you can stop ANYTIME you want.” He then proceeded to knock out the remaining push ups in his set and continue on to complete the brutal workout.
Fast forward a couple days, and I’m doing a 5 by one kilometer trail running workout. I consider myself to be a pretty good runner, but trail running is very much slower and very much harder than the typical road run. Rocks, loose gravel and some BIG UPS (1.2 miles of straight up in one instance) make the experience exponentially harder. I was in the middle of an all uphill kilometer, my heart rate was going up as my speed was going down, and I was ready to just finish out the interval without any real bravado. But then, the Murph Man’s voice popped into my head, reminding me that I was choosing to do this. If I wanted to stop, I could. No one was making me run up the hill, and no one would even know if I stopped. This reminder that what I chose to do- run up hills, race on snow and do 200 pushups with a 20# weight vest- was in fact my choice was weirdly liberating. Instead of choosing to stop, I chose to go harder.
Finishing up the final kilometer of up hill running, I was the closest to puking I’ve been in a long while. My legs totally flooded and my heart rate hovering around 190, I let my grimace turn into a smile. After another three minutes of rest, I did the last interval downhill (actually maybe the hardest part of trail running) smiling/grimacing/enjoying the choice the entire time.
Going into a new training season it is critically important to have intentions. Remembering that I am choosing to do this, and more than that I want to do this will be propelling me through this season. There will be days- I’m sure of it- where I don’t want to go outside, or do one more rep or push my heart rate up that extra beat. And it is important to listen to those days- why am I feeling that way? And it is equally important to sometimes push past those hesitations, voluntarily pop on a 20 pound weight vest and sweat it out over 42 minutes of constant work.
Luckily for me, there haven’t been many of those “push through the pain” days so far this year. I’ve just wrapped up a very successful May of training (including two weeks of on snow time in Bend, Oregon), and will be spending the month of June training in Rapid City, South Dakota. Cheers to choice!