Avoid the Quit
Written by Chris Hill
“Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: life.”
Physical pursuits when viewed in a vacuum, or void of any purpose, begin to lose their meaning and relevance. What does struggling to lock out a deadlift PR really mean? What is the point of dragging a weighted sled around behind you? Trudging through the mud, in the dark, strapped to a ruck sack? Shaving 3 seconds off your mile time? Hell, running for time at all? Bear crawls? Absurd.
The acts, the activities themselves, alone, seem almost pointless compared to accomplishments we would all agree have great, multi-level value such as saving a life, actively improving someone else’s quality of life, planting a tree, or any number of acts of kindness or stewardship. By comparison purely physical pursuits seem selfish and almost without useful application.
But when taken in the aggregate those moments mean everything. These moments let you know who you are when you’re deep in that dark hole. And that person, that person is the real you. You are not the perception you have of yourself. You are what you actually do. Think you’re a super tough bad ass who can’t be stopped? And yet the prescribed workout was ten push jerks followed by ten kettlebell swings and you cut it short at eight because you were hurting and no one was watching. Take a look at yourself, maybe hat’s who you really are. You made that decision to sell your character out.
On the other side of the table, not sure you belong at your gym with everyone else flying around full-tilt, moving monster weight? Yet every time you step foot in the gym you complete every rep, apply every coaching cue, and finish the workout no matter how long it takes or how rough it may have felt. That’s who you are my friend. You are a finisher. You are able to listen, make adjustments, and maintain a level of effort all in the face of pain and discomfort. You have intention in those moments. You are resolved. And determined. You are bad ass. Fuck the “stronger”, faster people that quit on themselves. You are the bad ass. You’re the person I want standing next to me in the zombie apocalypse.
Dave Thomas, in a recent Business of Lifting Weights podcast (and about a million times before that) stated, “Show me someone successful in the gym and I’ll show you someone successful in life.” I tend to agree. Finding meaning in those absurd pursuits directly carries over to the rest of your life. Being able to complete a task, take and apply criticism, and practice a reliable work ethic are all valuable assets regardless of profession or stage of life.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” (I borrowed this saying from Kelly Starrett so long time ago and say it so much that friends inaccurately attribute it to me. It’ll be our little secret, K-Starr.) If you never put yourself in a position where you have the opportunity or more accurately the temptation to quit, how do you know you won’t quit when it matters most. You need to crawl deep into the dark hole every once in a while to see who you are in that moment. And when you get there, you need to avoid the quit. You need to learn to put yourself in a position to be able to avoid the quit. Because practice makes permanent, quitting in those moments just makes you well practiced at quitting. And then you will quit when it matters most.
Those deadlift PR attempts, sled drags, obstacle races, timed runs, and bear crawls reveal you for who you are at that moment. For better or worse. And those moments when accumulated, add up to who you are as a human being. There are times where you may quit. (I admit I have been there. I am familiar with the import and the consequence, learned the hard way.) But in order to minimize the quit, to avoid the quit, you must have intention. I’m not talking that vision board, mindfulness-Namaste kind of intention.
I’m talking textbook definition intention.
- 1. Resolved or determined to do (something);
- 2. Showing earnest and eager attention
Resolved. Determined. Earnest. Eager.
(Can we just all pause for a moment and acknowledge how fucking hardcore that is right there?)
Practicing the act of remaining resolved, determined, earnest, and eager in seemingly meaningless moments while enduring pain…. Intent in the face of absurdity.
Now scale that up to the rest of your life.
Go ahead. I’ll give you a moment.
There is an annual tradition a buddy of mine started in celebration of his life a few years back. Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we complete a point to point paddle down the California coast line. It is a self-supported event, meaning you carry whatever equipment you need to finish and since there is no safety escort, you are responsible for your own safety and well-being. Over the years, we’ve done it on outrigger canoes and stand up paddleboards. We’ve done 35 mile versions and we’ve done 25 mile versions. We’ve stuck to the same course regardless of conditions some years and altered course for the most favorable conditions in other years.
Over the years the distance has become shorter and the route has been selected based on the best wind and swell conditions possible. Because of this our little tradition has become very popular and we’ve increased our ranks from just the two of us to right around 20 participants in our biggest year.
But the truth of it is that I miss the early years. The years when it was just he and I heading out for a 35 mile paddle from Oceanside to Mission Bay with no concern for ocean conditions. We put in at Oceanside and we weren’t stopping until we got to Mission Bay. Invariably we would get separated. I’d be out there alone. A few hours in, deep in that dark hole. Avoiding the quit. Again and again over the course of hours. I miss those early days. I was a better person after each and every one of those paddles. I practiced not quitting and it carried over into the rest of my life for the weeks and months that followed.
Paddling 35 miles into the wind. Deadlifts. Sled drags. Obstacle racing. Timed workouts. Absurd stuff. All for no apparent reason. “There’s no reason… and then there’s every fucking reason.” It makes all the difference. It is everything.
Avoiding the quit is what helps you become more.
Chris Hill is a coach at Performance360, a Pacific Beach Gym ranked top 3 gyms in San Diego, CA.