R14D62 – I Am Not Fearless. I Am Courageous.

courage-and-successI’m not fearless I just know fear is false…

There is a saying that you should do something every day that scares you. When you get past your 30’s getting out of bed should count for that thing, but since it doesn’t we usually don’t come across fear very much in our lives. How then can we relate to the athlete that is fearful of doing a new skill? Well, in my most basic mind I think “Suck it up, I had to, you can too” without realizing that in as much as I seem normal, I am in truth an exception. It’s not to say that I am exceptional (although there have been times when I was) what I mean is that over the years, and starting at a very young age (pre 16 years) I have developed a very strong control over the tricks I allow my mind to play. Fear, after all, is a trick your mind plays on you to prevent you from hurting yourself, it’s the most basic of self preservation. However, the brain is a bit of a sissy and it will over-react to most things. With that in mind you have to take what that voice inside your head is saying with a grain of salt or in my case a box of salt. I have an often quoted page I wrote about fear and “doing the work” and the part I like to quote the most is this:

This is something I wish someone had told me in simple terms when I was younger. Instead I learned it from coaches who drove us into the ground on the rugby pitch, drilling us with merciless laps, sprints and piggybacks up tall grassy hills. It was those experiences and the results gained that drove into me the importance of doing what you are told, no matter how hard, no matter how painful it is, you will always succeed if you just do the work. There is a whole industry built around this theory, shirts, advertising campaigns, soft drinks, power drinks, protein bars, and almost everything else that can benefit from being tied to being healthy promotes pushing yourself to the limit. But it’s not the limit that you need to worry about, it’s your brain that you should be wary of.

The key here is to stop listening to yourself and realize that your brain, the couch potato that it is doesn’t really want to do much of anything, especially something that is hard or potentially dangerous. At 16 years old I flew a powered glider solo for the first time. I was scared out of my mind but I already had the mentality that if I wanted to do something amazing I was going to have to be something extraordinary. That achievement is something I still talk about decades later, it meant that much to me and it is probably the one thing that taught me that you can truly do anything you want if you are courageous enough. In my current life I face fear every day during my workouts, I have a history of back problems and a longer history of pushing myself beyond what some might call reasonable. That is why I still bench press 400lbs without a spotter, not because I have to but because it reminds me of what it is like to be scared. That feeling of fear is what produces the adrenaline that gets me through the set. Without the fear and adrenaline there would be no way I could do that kind of weight. Without fear, there is no courage…

We live lives fraught with danger, crossing the road, driving a car, riding transit, we put our faith in the skill and care of others with unwavering faith so many times, then why is it that when you have a coach who could dunk you that you refuse to let go of the bar doing flyaways? Is it really a fear of the skill? I think we know that is not the case since nobody gets to the point of doing flyaways or sole circles or giants without having done hundreds of drills and repetitions beforehand. So if it’s not the skill, what is it? It’s not the coach, for most kids the trust that they have in the coach (although they may not admit it) is is enormous, every back tuck they do, every twisting layout they try, any time they throw complex skills while the coach spots is saying “I trust you” and in turn the coach is saying to the athlete, “You can trust me, I promise to protect you”.

So that being said, where does the remaining fear come from? It comes from your inabilty to forsee a positive outcome. It comes from the lack in confidence that the unknown is a safe place. It comes, at a most basic level, from the voice in your head that can’t imagine your ability to succeed. That basic self-preservation has no gray areas, it’s not likely to make quality decisions, after all, it’s job is to keep you safe and much like parents on their child’s first day of school, breaking that protective bond is terrifying. But let’s give a shout out to logic here. Emotions are what give us quality in our lives, it’s what make us happy, loving, sensitive caring people. But it’s also what makes us paranoid, frightened and reclusive. Which one we choose is exactly that, it’s a choice. We choose to be fearful without even thinking that maybe the more beneficial choice would be to try a little courage on for size and to reap the emotional reward that comes with staggering achievement. And don’t kid yourself, once you have chosen to ignore the fear and go for it, the result is truly staggering because you have just overcome millions of years of evolution to do something that you wanted more than you feared.

There is no easy way to this point. It has to come from experience because nobody except you can control that inner voice of yours. Nobody can magically make the voice go away but with a little practice you can learn to ignore most of what it says. So next time you are stuck with a skill, fearful of a fall or worried about the work just remember, your coach has one job above all else and that is to help and protect you. But no matter how much support and encouragement they give, you won’t be able to hear it until you tell that voice to be still.

Bravery isn’t the absence of fear. It is the acceptance of the dangers, the acknowledgement of the challenge and the unwavering faith in your ability to perform. It is the courage to stand up for yourself in the face of doubt and to emerge triumphant. It is truly the champion’s path to greatness.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

R8D25 – Crush Your Fear. C&B Plus TGU.

I have abandoned the ARX in favour of a move that I remember vividly as giving me an extremely strong core, the Turkish Get Up. I am a big fan of the TGU and believe that it was the move that was responsible for giving me a set of recognizable abs for only the second time in my life. Since the first time I had to put in several months of painful crunches and denigrating moves laying in aerobics class as a University student I will take the TGU way any time! It’s not that Ab Ripper X isn’t good, in fact it is, but I find that most if not all laying / sitting ab work leaves my back sore and that is something I am not about to mess with. As I have done for the last 3 weeks, I took Thursday off since the amount of cardio stress I put on my body coaching the bootcamp is ridiculous. As an example, the only time I have been over 5.0 on the Training Effect in Firstbeat Athlete is during bootcamp. The only time I have burned more than 1000 calories, is at bootcamp and the only time my heart rate gets over 170 is during the bootcamp as I try to talk and work at the same time. So my affair with the TGU will have to wait until tonight, and even then, maybe it will get bumped to tomorrow if I opt to work out at gym tonight. I didn’t enjoy last week just doing abs so I will have to see what I can come up wit for today. I am thinking maybe 4 stations including a thruster station, dips, chin ups and push ups.

My parents are here on Monday for 2 weeks, that means probably sporadic updates at best. So I will leave you with a tidbit to think about.


Fear is a chemical reaction. It’s a systematic response to something that starts deep in your brain, floods your body and mind with chemicals and prepares you to react to your fears. It’s the basis of the fight or flight response. In order to survive, your brain will tell you to fight or escape, and your body will react instantly to that decision. But think about that logically for a second. Your body and mind get to a state of readiness without you thinking about it. But that state of readiness isn’t just an evasive reaction to fear, half of that reaction is to stand up to the fear. Your entire being stands to alert in preparation as much to fight as to run. It’s sad, then, that our own immediate reaction to fear is a socially conditioned response to flee immediately with no consideration to the thought of fighting. I face this problem on a daily basis, not only with my own fitness journey, but mostly with my athletes at the gym whose response to scary situations is almost always to quit. They may not be mature enough to understand the mechanisms but they are human and are genetically engineered to balance fear with aggression, to measure out the degree of danger they perceive and to escalate their resolve and determination to overcome that obstacle. It’s what thousands of years of survival of the fittest has brought them.

They stand there, the absolute pinnacle of human achievement, the most advanced and feared animal on the planet, the most recent, most improved and most genetically perfected organism we as humans represent and yet, they squash their killer instinct with ignorance. There is no other word for it. They are unaware of their potential, not their individual talent potential but their organic, human potential to use their base instinct to overcome their fear. It’s a fact that we as humans are designed to fight, to kill and to rise above the challenges we face. However our societal morals have taught us that those things are not acceptable behaviour and that we need to use our empathy and intelligence to measure our reactions. That’s great in the outside world, but it doesn’t translate to training, and it sure as hell doesn’t translate to that voice inside your head who tells you that “you can’t do it”.

Physical activity, high intensity compound movement physical activity requires the benefit of that systematic response to work. It relies on your fight or flight response to cause the cascade of chemicals to flood your brain and focus your mind to the task you face. Without it, you will fail. Without it, you will reinforce your conditioned response that you aren’t good enough, strong enough or skilled enough. Without it, you are no better than that person you see in the gym endlessly lifting 5lb weights, 30 reps at a time in the hope something will happen, or the person running on the treadmill trying to escape their biological need for battle one pathetic step at a time.

It’s simple to turn it all around. Some people call it aggression, some call it a competitive nature, others an A type personality. It’s not really any of those, it’s just a desire to be better today than you were yesterday. It has to come from a place of honesty and integrity but if you hold on to the idea that you will commit to improving yourself then you will discover that you will face adversity with a passion and an aggression that is appropriate and rewarding. Aggression in the physical realm is not only a benefit, it’s a requirement, and the sooner you use your aggression to squash your fear, the sooner you will discover just how much you can really achieve.

Feel the fear, face the fear and crush the fear.


Day 33 – The Fear. The Choice.

Legs and Back.

Note the opposite twist to the natural hip position. Ouch!

Note the opposite twist to the natural hip position. Ouch!

I was thinking last night after I finished Yoga that one of the main reasons that people fail at sticking to thing such as diets, a workout plan, a 90 day torture session like P90X is fear. I have heard this a lot in the past and it never really made sense to me until now. I am not habitually fearful. I have a confidence in myself that replaces that fear. I get nervous, sure, and there are times when I think that my bravery may exceed my capabilities but I am usually fine with that. However, as time passes and I get older and wiser that fear has started to creep into my life. It is not unexpected given what I have been through with my back I suppose. If I were someone else I would think it is perfectly reasonable to be fearful given my circumstances. But last night during Yoga I realized that the reason I have stuck with this program so far and the reason that I have made such good progress with my flexibility and Yoga is that I refuse to acknowledge the fear in my head. Since my surgery I have lived in pain, it is not something that I like to talk about because I am sure to most people it just sounds like the complaining of a lazy fat guy. However, living in constant pain teaches you how to avoid any additional pain and the one thing I have mastered is staying on the right side of that extra pain line. However, I realized yesterday that the buffer between me and that line is a lot wider than I imagined. In fact, that line is WAAAAAAAY further than I thought it was. Sure, I have discomfort ( I call it pain, but in reality in comparison to ACTUAL pain it is just an inconvenience) but so far I have not caused myself an additional pain. As I went into Twisting Triangle pose last night I thought to myself that only a few weeks ago there is no way I would have tried something like that. Not only would I have thought it physically impossible but I would have assumed that I would twist my spine and like a bent paperclip it would never return to it’s original shape again. When it comes to my back my fear has ruled the roost and up until now it has served me well but I think it is about time that I realize that I may in fact be capable of more than I ever thought possible. Of course, if I manage to put my back out during this 90 days I will come back here and curse myself for my recklessness however one good thing about that fearlessness I spoke of earlier, it always means you will get back on that horse one more time.