Cannot contemplate life without you
All of us have a few things - an activity, a food, a pleasure, a habit - that we indulge in often. To contemplate the notion of not doing that might not even be computable. It leads to saying things like "Life won't be worth living" or "I am fine dying a couple of years early" or some such thing.
It is worth your while to break the cycle and deprive yourself of your crutch. Whether it is a glass of red wine with dinner, or your post-meal cigarette, or a TV show with dinner, or dessert. Doesn't matter what it is. There's no judgment at all.
It is a tool and a tool you can use to learn a deeper skill. That you can deprive yourself and be comfortable with the discomfort.
Back in 2008, I was neck deep in my love affair with CrossFit. It had been close to 15 months since I had started and I still loved it. I looked forward to going to my gym every single day.
After starting from zero, I had progressed pretty well after the initial few months. My conditioning and skill had improved leaps and bounds. I had lost a lot of weight and was leaner, and more athletic. But my strength levels were still lagging far behind.
Raj kept prodding me to make the shift to lifting heavy and working on my gaps. But I resisted. Because I could not contemplate not going to my CrossFit sessions. I was scared that I'd let go of what had transformed my life and do something else that I was not that keen on, and then spiral back towards my old life. Every week, I'd tell him that I would do it but would always chicken out.
It took me 3-4 months to take the plunge. I still remember it took me close to an hour to write a 3-line email to Kelly Starrett about taking a break and doing something else. Kelly was generous and understanding and responded back rather immediately.
From 6 days a week to zero
The shift from CrossFit to Starting Strength is night and day. One is about a lot of variety and kitchen sink and lactic work. High volume, medium-to-light load and getting high on dopamine. The other is low volume, high load with lots and lots of rest, and you barely break a sweat.
I grumbled. I whined. I wanted to go to a couple of classes a week to SFCF. But I knew that was not part of the plan. I needed to work on getting stronger - much much stronger than I was. And doing anything besides the recommended protocol would impair my progress and learning.
I learned to suck it up. I ambled into a love affair with heavy lifting. With CrossFit, it was love at first sight. Doing a 25-minute AMRAP takes a specific kind of crazy. Doing 5 x 5 of a load that's twice your bodyweight takes a different kind of crazy. Both build awesomeness in you.
I spent a year working on my gaps. I put up respectable numbers on the barbell's fundamental movements - the squat, the deadlift, the bench press and the military press.
What I learned
Taking SFCF to zero was a huge life lesson for me.
Yes, I could've done my Starting Strength and one day of CrossFit without much damage. In fact, with my knowledge today, I know it could've been beneficial. Back then, I didn't know that and it was a good thing too.
It made me fall in love with the larger idea of strength and conditioning, of general fitness. It helped me realise that I could train on my own, and not just ride the energy of a group class. It made me learn on my own and figure out how to periodise my training, how to read a training plan and contextualise it for myself, and how to set goals, when to push and when to back off.
Without immersing myself in this new mode of training, I wouldn't have been able to do all that.
I realise it taught me that I can stop doing anything. It has allowed me to push my levels of discomfort. A few of the experiments that I have done include:
- not consuming sugar for more than a month.
- not consuming alcohol for more than a month.
- not reading (gasp!) for more than a week.
- not eating meat for more than a year.
- not watching TV for a month.
Giving up SFCF made me realise that I could go to zero on many things that I thought non-negotiable to have as part of my life. This is a valuable life skill, in my opinion.
List out the top 2 things that you find hard to contemplate to be without. And prep yourself to do it for a week or a month. You'll learn something cool about yourself.