This morning I took a moment to appreciate how ridiculous I must've looked doing what I was doing.
I was at a beach near my house, trudging up a 40-foot staircase for the 25th time. I had a rucksack on my back, and I was carrying a heavy rock in my right hand and a 5-foot length of PVC pipe filled with sand in my left. The sun wasn't yet up. It was about 6:00 a.m.—a shade earlier than when the park would be considered legally "open." I tried to picture what I'd say if the cops showed up.
Oh yes, officer, there's a perfectly good reason why I'm wearing combat boots, a headlamp and a dodgy-looking black backpack and climbing stairs in the dark. Yes, I did pull this rock off the beach, but don't worry, I promise to put it back. Oh, this pipe? That's just my rifle. Wait! What do you mean, stop moving and put my hands up?
Thankfully, the Bay Village (Ohio) Police did not arrive. If they had, I would have had a hard time explaining what I was doing: Training for a SEALFIT 20X Challenge that is taking place in June. Few people have heard of the event, and even fewer would know that SEALFIT uses PVC pipes filled with sand to represent "rifles," which trainees must carry around all day. I now carry my own homemade version during workouts to prepare.
Yes, what I was doing would be tough to explain. But an even tougher question is why.
The answer is really important—so important that Commander Mark Divine, the founder of SEALFIT, dedicates two pages of his book Way of the SEAL to the question "What's Your Why?" Nearly everything else I've read from Special Operators like the SEALs says the only way you can make it through their Hell Week is to have a rock solid reason why you want to. Since my upcoming challenge is the closest I'll have ever come to something like that, the same rule applies—although I should note that what I'm about to do isn't anywhere near as hard as an actual SpecOps boot camp.)
So why am I doing this? The answer has evolved over time. I started down this path with little more than pure curiosity and the desire to get in better shape, but the past few months of waking up early for long and sometimes painful workouts has made the upcoming event far more meaningful to me. It's also led me to several realizations about why I feel training is important, and about how it's helped me in my life outside of physical fitness—especially during the past few weeks.
So now, when a workout has me marching into a frigid lake on a 40-degree day (like it was today), I at least know why I'm doing it. There are many reasons:
I'm doing it because I believe that personal growth is best achieved by challenging yourself. The best way to prove you can do something is to dare yourself to do it. And then do it.
I believe that training can be a metaphor for life. You set a goal that seems impossible. But you can realize that goal as long as you pursue it and refuse to quit.
In a hard workout, as in life, you experience moments when you feel tired, frustrated or hopeless. If you prove to yourself that you can overcome those moments in training, you give yourself more power to overcome them in life.
I believe that by subjecting myself to discomfort, I will better appreciate the many comforts life has provided me. I'm less apt to take them for granted.
For example, my heated home never felt as good as it did this morning when I finally got home, took off my soggy boots, and stepped inside. After "wow, it's great to be warm," the next thought to go through my head was, "man, aren't I fortunate to live in a house that has heat?"
But above all, I believe that I have an obligation to be the best possible person I can be for my wife and daughter. And for whatever reason, I now firmly believe that doing Burpees in the sand and marching up and down concrete stairs in combat boots is helping me do that. So there's no going back now, no matter how odd it might make me look.
STACK Executive Editor Brian Sabin has talked an awful lot about himself throughout SURVIVING SEALFIT, the series recounting his quest to reach elite military grade fitness, take on a SEALFIT 20X Challenge and (hopefully) live to tell about it. Next week, he'll introduce you to some really bad*ss SEALFIT coaches, including one crazy enough to go through the actual Navy SEAL Hell Week twice. Between now and then, you'll find daily updates on his progress Twitter and Google Plus.
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