Why I Do This Stuff (Part 1)


“Why do you do this stuff?”

I used to train at the mecca bodybuilding gym Gold’s Gym in Venice. When I first started to experiment with CrossFit and high intensity training over ten years ago, I use to get the strangest comments from the meathead crowd. They were seeing a new breed of training that they never saw before and were slightly intrigued, but more disdained than anything else.

“Why do you do this stuff?” was the polite version of what they would say to me while I was lying on the floor drenched in sweat and looking like I was punch drunk. Most of the time, the muscle bound monsters would call me “fruit cake” or “that weirdo” while watching me have a spastic attack while attempting to do kipping pull-ups. For months, I thought I was doing them right, but I must have looked like a dead seal flopping around on the pull-up bar.

“Fruit cake” indeed. Nevertheless, I was able to earn the respect of many Gold’s Gym regular because according to them, I was one of the hardest working people at the gym and I was doing this “crazy new type of training that they would no way in hell would even try.”

Fast forward to 15 years later and I still get asked this question – Why do you do this stuff?Not from my CrossFit brothers and sisters, but those who don’t workout like my lazy ass neighbors who just watched me did a WOD of kettlebell swings combined with car pushes. I’m sure they probably said to myself “What is this idiot doing now?”


At the end of this killer training session, my heart was soaring so hard and fast, I thought I was going into cardiac arrest. While clutching my heart and struggling to breath, the local mailman walked over to me and asked me if I was all right. When I told him, I was okay and wasn’t going to die, I knew he was going to ask me “the question” next.

“Why do you do this stuff?” he wondered.

I was still having a hard time organizing my thoughts and getting my heart rate back to normal, so I didn’t have the energy nor two hours to explain him my mental toughness needs. So I just mumbled, “To…get…stronger…”

I don’t know if he fully understood my answer, but it was good enough for him. He walked away without pursing and probing into my psychological craziness.

I understand the curiosity. I get it. Why would any sane person put themselves through this torture? In fact, I ask myself the same question whenever I met with my regular training team on Sundays. As I see themselves walking up to me with the same enthusiasm as the week before, I wonder what brings them back for more of this brutal training after what I just put through the week before and the previous weeks.

Seriously, if one of them would drop out of the training, I would be more than understanding.

“Why do you do this stuff?” is what I wanted to ask every one of them. I know it’s not for atheistic reasons. If so, they can do P90X or your typical bodybuilding split body routine to get an even more spectacular looking physique as they all already look phenomenal.

I know it has to be more than just external motivation. It just can’t be for superficial goals because there is no way anybody can sustain this challenging high intensity CrossFit regimen so they can fit in skinny jeans or look ripped on the beach. There are hundreds are more pleasurable and easier ways to readjust your body composition.

The reasons must be something deeper.

I should know because I ask myself this question all the time. I reflect on this question before training especially when I know I have to do a WOD that I hate and I am trying to get out of the workout; I ask myself this question over and over again during a training session when I’m struggling and don’t think I can finish it; and after the workout is over and I’m mentally spent and physically in pain.

As you can see I ask myself “Why am I doing this stuff” before, during and after a WOD so you can assume that this question is constantly floating in and out of my head.

The obvious answer is that I want to be mentally tough in my life. The response I get from asking myself this question is so strong, it can stimulate me to get off the couch when I’m lazy or get extremely aggressive in a WOD when I need it the most.

However, like most psychologist I assume a patient is always holding back on a response.The answer is never the complete truth.  Usually, the answer to a confronting question is more personal and in depth. Once the shrink is able to probe and poke and find the underlying truths of his clients is when breakthroughs and insights happens.

So, why do I do this CrossFit stuff?

Yes, it is all about being stronger in my life. But, it is more than that. Sure, that’s the main answer, but the reply is vague and incomplete. To get to the root of my reasons for mental toughness, I had to dig deeper and ask the real hard questions.

And once, I did I found the hot buttons to my training and my evolution has grown tremendously.

So think about why you do this stuff. Spend the next couple of days tackling and addressing this question. Be direct and uncomfortable. Discover and find you why you put yourself through this daily misery and when you do, you’ll light the fire that has been missing in your training and in your life.

(To be continued)

Today’s WOD

5 sets

Turkish get-ups with a dumbbell – 5 reps each side

One minute jump roping

I love Turkish get-ups for mental toughness training and over all physical conditioning. Turkish get-ups are a full-body movement and works just about every muscle in your body.  Here’s a great tutorial on how to do them – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNVi6H3OUVs

This is another excellent WOD where you can practice your positive self-talking skills. Trust me, your whole body will be screaming at you at some point to quit. Doing a shit-load of get ups, is very draining on the body and mind. It won’t take very long during the workout when you will be attacked with a barrage of negativity.

I have a simple trick to help you deal with the upcoming threat of quitting. Instead of trying to censor the negative dialogue, use it to you advantage. Remember the adage of of one  who is mentally tough – they have the uncanny ability to change any negative situation to a positive one. In today’s WOD, you will have a chance to put this viable skill into practice.

So today, embrace and welcome the negative thoughts as you will change the overall meaning of them. What you will do the negative statements, is that you will add a positive or encouraging statement at the end of them. . For example, if you say to yourself – “This WOD is too hard”, combine it with another sentence with and make it into a new positive thought like “This WOD is too hard, but I’m more than half way done with it.” Another example of changing negative thought into a positive one is – “This WOD is too hard, but I am getting mentally stronger because I haven’t quit.” By twisting the negative meaning of the statement into an upbeat tone, this positive self-talk technique is very persuasive when you think you’ve had enough and close to quitting. It just takes practice and you will have a lot of time to practice this positive self-talk skill in this mental toughness program.

When you progress with your mental toughness development, you’ll be so strong with your convictions against quitting, you’ll be near unbreakable.

Now go suffer.

Scaled down version of this WOD:

1. Do 1/2 Turkish get-ups instead. Here’s a good link to show you how to do them – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvcS5lrW8x8

2. Omit the jump roping or jump rope for 30 seconds

3. Don’t use any weights for the Turkish get-ups