This is a rare occurrence.
Mat had sent me a link to a video, in an email that just said, "this reminded me of you today." As I watched the clip on my phone, rain pouring down the windshield, the tears came streaming as what he meant sunk in.
It was a tough hour with a lot of sweat and very little rest. We were in a multipurpose room all to ourselves, and Mat had pulled out all the toys that told me from the moment we started that this was going to be an intense training. Boxing gloves. Sand bag. Weighted vest. And a no-nonsense, not-here-to-be-your-friend, you'll-do-what-I-tell-you attitude. Dude was out for blood, sweat and tears. He got two out of the three.
I was panting harder than a dog in summer, after 5 minutes of warming up.
Near the end of the hour, he had me planking and pulling the sand bag through, from one end of the room to the other, with 30 mountain climbers at each end. "For every time you put your knee down on the floor, you have to do 30 more mountain climbers," he told me sternly. My shoulders ached. My butt kept sticking too far up in the air, prompting a broken record of "BUTT DOWN, BARB!" from Mat. He doesn't usually use my name, so when he does, I know he's not messing around.
Half way through round two, my shoulders gave out. Or, rather, I let them. Maybe it was my mind that gave out. Despite the consequence of more mountain climbers (meaning more time on my hands, which would tire my shoulders out more), I dropped for a break. "Fuck," I sighed. As I moved back and forth, Mat both encouraged and cajoled, to keep me going. "Don't listen to your mind. Keep going. Keep going." After giving him the extra 30 mountain climbers, and a brief rest, I went for the third round. "Don't let your knees drop. You can do it."
I have to tell you: it was HARD. I could feel the blood pressure in my face, knowing how beet-red it was. My arms shook. I was clinging to that floor for dear life. Gritting my teeth, making every ugly barbarian face imaginable. And I did it. No knees.
Then he says, "you're almost done. 5 minutes. Russian twists with the sand bag."
I started to laugh. Uncontrollably. I mean, I barely made it through what I thought was the final exercise of the hour. I sat slumped against the wall, unable to feel my upper arms beyond the burn, panting profusely, and he thinks I can slam a 25 pound sand bag from side to side?
"What are you laughing for?" he asked, in all seriousness. "I wouldn't ask you to do it if I didn't think you could." I laughed even harder. He waited. I caught my breath, calmed the giggles, and picked up the sand bag.
And I slammed the hell out of it, back and forth, 30 times.
So, it was in that context that he sent the video. I don't know why it made me cry. I know it was supposed to be inspirational. (Don't worry, Mat; it was. You did good). I know he was proving his point: he knew I could do it, and I did. I just had to get out of my own way and stop doubting myself. It's the kind of thing that makes total sense on a motivational poster. Your body won't go where your mind won't let it. Mind over matter. Believe you can, and you will. We say it often, but do we really mean it? Or do we even recognize the value of fortitude at times other than the big game, the grand finale, the climax of the story?
This was supposed to be just another workout on a wet and rainy Thursday, before going about my regular work day. There was no swelling music in the background. No crowd cheering. No competition. Just Mat, standing there with his arms folded, expecting something of me.
Believe me, I thought every single thing that football player said in the video:
- "it hurts"
- "he's heavy"
- "my arms burn"
- "it's too hard"
And Mat paraphrased the Coach: "Don't tell me you can't give me more than what I've been seeing."
I don't know how we learn to dig deeper and give our actual best, a true 100%. Except that when someone is beside you, believing in you, expecting it from you, even if you think they're nuts, it somehow becomes possible. It is the expectation that smashes the limits you set on your self.
The mind is so powerful. When you give yourself a limit, you work within that limit.
And that's probably why I was crying. Once you realize that you have it in you, you have to face the harsh truth that whatever excuse you give yourself, it's just that: an excuse. It's a lot scarier to admit that you can do more than you think, more than you allow yourself, because then you have to live up to those expectations. Even when it's on a small scale. You raise your own bar. Nobody really wants to ask the question "can I honestly do more? have I done my very best?" because we know the answer.
You can do more. You can always do more.
"Don't quit until you've given your very best. Keep going. Don't give up. It's all heart from here."
Mat proved me wrong today. Well, as he pointed out, I actually proved myself wrong.
I don't usually like to be wrong.
Today, I am okay with it.