Snap my finger

You have to start somewhere. For me, the day that is etched in my memory is my first-ever 1-mile run. Which I did about a third of and slunk away. My heart wanted it. My head wanted it. My blasted legs did not want any fucking part of it.

But snap your fingers and say abracadabra, there I was, running 21k at the San Jose Half a few months later.

Off I went to CrossFit, with dreams of 6-pack abs and throwing the barbell around and jumping on boxes my height. Snap my fingers and all I found was myself lying on the floor, ass-whooped after the warmup.


I thought Angel (my coach at SFCF who ran the Intro sessions) was the funniest guy when he asked "Are you guys warmed up?" as I valiantly tried not to sway or throw up. But unfortunately, that was really just the warmup. Apparently running 21k does not inject superhumanness into every skill I decided to pick. Harsh lesson to learn, it was.

CrossFit competition
Photo by Bastien Plu / Unsplash

Not this time

Every time until then, when faced with the reality of a situation similar to this, I had walked away. I had cited some nonsense about how this was not right for me, how the stars were not aligned, blah blah fucking blah.

But I nailed one thing this time around - from my 28-day yoga, my 21k, and my transformative year and a half at SFCF.

One rep at a time

I changed my goal to one rep at a time. One step at a time. Runners will be mighty familiar with this. Every run starts off the same way - why the fuck am I running?!?! It is always too hot or too cold or too muggy or too something to be running.

Especially when you suck at it, the distances that seem nonchalant to everyone else seem nonsensical to you. Run 3 miles (5k) as a cool-down?! What the fudge is wrong with you people?! That's something that requires hard planning, motivation, a couple of bagels, and good weather.

But I nailed this thing. I'd look at a tree a few metres in front of me and just cajole myself to run to that tree. Once I hit that tree, well, the next tree. No tree in sight - well, that stain on the road, those people walking the dog over there, that turn in the road. You get the idea.

Photo by Johny Goerend / Unsplash

At CrossFit, I revamped this strategy to one rep at a time. Almost every workout would be high volume and HIIT and all that jazz. 30 wall-balls (thrusters with a heavy ball that you throw up a wall, above a certain line), 30 pushups, 30 pullups, 400m run for as many circuits - about the norm. For me, one rep at a time. And when I had no more, pause, and then, you guessed it, one rep at a time. And then move on to the next exercise in the circuit - one rep at a time.

10 sets of 1. Not 1 set of 10.

This radically transformed my fitness. Showing up, obviously. But once I was there, one rep at a time. It allowed me to get my mind to wrap its head around running further and further. It enabled me to finish CrossFit workouts and even get to finishing them somewhere in the middle.

Of course, I tend to get carried away. Aim too high, get burned by the sun and fail. But then, get back, and chant the mantra - one rep at a time. Of course, this is the best one for strength work. But it works for anything, to be honest. A set of 10 swings - nah. It is 10 sets of 1 rep at a time.

In the present

Much later, I'd discover that this is a lesson to be in the present. To not get caught up by your failures in the past and get demotivated or scared and give in to fear. And to not get caught up in the future, of day dreaming and competing at the CrossFit games or finishing the Ironman, or worrying about how the heck you are gonna get through the rest of this workout when at minute 2/25, you are feeling slightly pukish and at minute 4, you aren't sure which hole things are gonna explode out of.

But one rep at a time. Run to the next tree. Do the next rep perfectly.

Most times, you have the next one after that. You will make it to the next tree. To the next set.

And to the next training session.

Training is my sandbox for life.

Every time I am faced with a difficult situation, something I do not want to be in, something I want to stop doing and do something easier - I tell myself to get to the next tree, to write the next line, the next paragraph, to do the next rep. And breathe. And then, one more rep. Just one more.

Always room to grow
Photo by Kyle Glenn / Unsplash

It works.

It works every time.

Funnily, when I don't listen to it, it doesn't work.

Every time I have the guts to listen to my learning - one rep at a time - it fucking works. Across the board. Across whatever I wanna do, or rather, don't wanna do.

Couch to 5k - one rep/tree at a time.

Lose 50 kilos - one rep/day/kilo at a time.

Be in the present, the here and now and all that jazz might sometime seem nonsensical speak. Well, of course it is not. You make it into a version that works for you.

One rep at a time.