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It's Hard For Everyone

Last week in the gym, I had a moment of clarity. At first, I thought I might have been hallucinating, which doesn’t seem that uncommon for me. High intensity exercise has been known to send me to some dark places. This, however, was a moment of clarity. I don’t remember exactly what workout we were doing or how far along we were in the workout, but I remember I was tired. And honestly, I wanted to stop. Which is why I work out with other people, because I find it harder to give into my temptation to stop when surrounded by others who press on. But none of that mattered in the moment. As I stood there bent over trying to recover my breath with sweat dripping off my nose, I heard coach say something. Something I’ve said to athletes myself, only this was different. When he said it, it was as if the entire gym had gone silent and all I could hear was his voice and these words – “It’s hard for everybody.”

Fitness is hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first workout or number 5,000, if you are in the pursuit of fitness, you better learn to embrace suffering. There’s this misperception that the fitter you get, the easier the work gets. In some ways that’s true, but it’s a bit more complicated. The fitter an athlete, the more stimulus required to produce a result. And the resulting gains are incrementally smaller compared to new athletes. That’s because fitness is a byproduct of increased work capacity, and capacity is where the magic happens.

The reason my coach was right that it was hard for everyone was because everyone was working at around 70-80% of their work capacity. 80% of a fit athlete’s capacity might be 30 kettlebell swings at 53 pounds over one minute. 80% of a new athlete’s capacity might be 15 kettlebell swings at 22 pounds over that same time. In CrossFit, we call this scaling. Scaling a movement to a less technical movement, or a weight to a lighter weight allows us to coach classes of all ability levels while still driving everyone to the same goal - increased work capacity. Given sound mechanics and consistency in training, athletes who challenge their work capacity will achieve new levels of fitness.

The same principle applies to Spiritual Fitness. If you want to handle life better, you need to challenge your spiritual work capacity. Just like you go to the gym for an hour to do things you don’t normally do like jump on boxes, swing from bars, and lift heavy weights, you need to set aside daily time for spiritual training. In the beginning, it may be as simple as reading a few verses from the Bible and saying a prayer of thanks to God. And while that’s sufficient to start developing some spiritual work capacity, if you want spiritual fitness, you’ll need to increase your capacity. You’ll need to incorporate a set of practices the early Christian church developed called the Spiritual Disciplines. These are the muscle-ups, overhead squats, and Turkish get-ups of Spiritual Fitness. The result of these disciplines is a richer, deeper, more personal connection to God, which will lead to increased spiritual capacity. Capacity not to yell at your kids. Capacity to turn your brain off and go back to sleep. Capacity to apologize first. Capacity to see opportunities where you used to see obstacles. Increased spiritual capacity does not lead to an easier life, but it will reveal your resiliency when life gets hard. And remember, it’s hard for everyone.

Questions for Reflection: Post your answers to the comments below

  • Is there an area of your life where an increase in spiritual capacity would help you? If so, where?

  • Share an experience where you tried a new Spiritual Discipline. 

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