Delayed gratification in training

I had the idea for this post after watching a “Crossfit” session, in my gym, where one of the participants was unfortunate and got a bloody nose. Actually I have no idea how he got it, I only noticed him once he was laying on his back while the others were working out as crazy. But some characteristics about him, together with how he acted, led me to some probably wrong conclusions about him, but nevertheless conclusions which certainly fit others quite well, he was just the stimulus that popped the idea into my mind.

Training in itself is actually a manifestation of delayed gratification. You do something rather unpleasant now (training hard) in order to gain pleasure in the long run (getting in better shape and feeling better about yourself). This seems pretty obvious to most people, except for the ones who wants their training to be pleasurable, looks for the “easy” paths and ends up getting right back to square one or most likely; worse.

Without pain, there is no pleasure. Without struggle, no victory. Taking the easy way makes it less uncomfortable now, but also cuts the joy of the final result, which will be bland in comparison to the long harsh road.

Now why did I come to think of this, as I was looking at this guy laying on his back with paper sticking out of his bleeding nose. It came to my mind because of his physical shape. This guy was not extremely overweight, but easily the most chubby in that Crossfit class. Just showing up to a Crossfit class, in that condition, has taken quite some mental power. Big thumps-up for that part!

But what triggered my attention was him laying on the floor pretty early in the session, not in pain or anything, just with this annoying bleeding nose. I can imagine the internal fight he had gone through to show up; then getting started and feeling the pain of the exercises, the strain on the body, this internal dialog nagging him to stop and then all of a sudden the nose starts bleeding.

There are two ways to handle this; lay on your back, give up, tell yourself you went, but it weren’t your fault that you nose started bleeding – feel the pleasure of having ended your immediate pain; or try in every way to get that workout finished, even if you have to finish it with a mile worth of paper mashed into your nose to keep it from bleeding.

I know which one of the two that will make you feel good about yourself once you’re back home and which one of them will haunt you and make you feel bad about yourself, even though you in the moment convinced yourself, that you had done what you could. Deep down you know you didn’t.

My hopes are that he didn’t take it as too much of a defeat. To many of those, when you are already in a mental fight to get there in the first place, and you won’t be showing much past the end of January. But it is a long harsh road filled with one defeat after the other, once you have gotten really out of shape, you will have to deal with a lot of downs before you can reap the benefit of your work. Inverse; you can allow yourself quite a lot of slip, once you are really fit.

We all know this internal dialog that wants us to quit. Whenever we do something that pushes our limits, it is there. If you haven’t felt it recently, perhaps you have grown a bit too comfortable with your current training regime. Do some interval training, push yourself, lean a little beyond your edge and reap the benefits of feeling really good with yourself. It builds character, it builds confidence and you SHOULD be doing it.

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