A few days ago, I took a new class at my gym called “The Decathlon.” The Decathlon is an Olympic summer games inspired workout series based on the training regime of Olympic athlete’s. Each week, the workout routines in the Decathlon series change to mirror the various summer sports played in the Olympics. The Decathlon class I participated in focused on the sport of boxing. Within 5 minutes of the class beginning, I knew that the Decathlon was going to be like no other class I’ve ever taken before. The featured 30 second to one minute drills interspersed throughout the class were challenging enough to cause even the most advanced gym- goer to lose his or her breath on more than one occasion during the class. While I wouldn’t classify myself as an advanced gym- goer, I’d say that I fall somewhere within the intermediate zone, working out 4 to 6 times, alternating between cardio, strength training, yoga, spinning, and here and there, a quick run. I typically do not shy away from tough classes or tough instructors, nor are the exercise DVD’s that I use at home a cake walk. Frequently, I am pushed out of my comfort zone. In other words, I am not an exercise newbie who’d rightly struggle in a class like the Decathlon.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Decathlon class is the most difficult class I’ve ever taken. The level of difficulty the Decathlon workout delivers was written all over the faces of the students that I glanced at during the class. Just like me, these students struggled to keep up with the intense drills, at times looking as if they were going to beg for mercy. It was precisely these students who approached me after class to see how I was doing and how I liked the class. Despite the fact that some of these individuals looked like they were going to cry during the class, without fail, every individual that spoke to me expressed how much they loved the challenge of the Decathlon and were very vocal about their commitment to see the series through until the end. The enthusiasm of these students reminded me of the enthusiasm of some of the participants in shows like the Biggest Loser, and, my newly discovered mint, Extreme Makeover- Weight Loss Edition. The indomitable drive to meet every challenge head on, tapping into an ever- increasing spring of inner strength, is what is modeled week after week to viewers of these respective weight- loss shows. This drive is what emanated through the individuals I spoke to after class. I was impressed that the focus of these students wasn’t so much on the physical benefits of the class as it was on their determination to go the distance with the series. Of paramount interest to these students is the opportunity to get pushed outside the limits of what their minds have conditioned their bodies to believe is possible physically.
Throughout the Decathlon class, students are encouraged by the instructor to leave limiting thoughts about what they can or cannot do outside of their exercise space. Of course, the instructor tells students to listen to their bodies so as to avoid injury and provides modifications for some of the exercises; nevertheless, the instructor is cognizant of the fact that some students are not working at their true capacity. Ultimately, it is the faith that we can push our bodies past any preconceived notion of what we think it’s capable of achieving which fortifies us through particularly challenging physical tasks in and outside of the gym. This mind/body connection is critical to the Olympians the Decathlon workout series is based on and what I believe is the underlying fuel for this class. All of the state of the art workout equipment and world-class trainers on the planet is of little use to an athlete who doesn’t believe they can rise to meet, then push past, the demands of their sport. The same holds true for non- Olympians. Access to a gym full of exercise equipment and certified personal trainers and instructors is extremely useful in achieving ones fitness goals, it is what has, and continues to, transform my body. But it’s the mental endurance and continuing belief that my body can achieve feats that I’d once thought impossible what carries me through every workout. It’s not about perfectly meeting these fitness challenges the first, second, or tenth time out of the gate. It’s about strengthening ones ability to keep pushing past ones self.
How will you push past yourself this week? Please feel free to share in the comments section.