No Turning Back

It’s 3:30 AM.

You’re all alone in your kitchen, nothing but a single nightlight struggling to illuminate a space entirely too large for its wattage.

You’re in a state of confusion, eyes blurry, body numb, mind battling with itself resulting in a blunt headache.

Sleep. Every part of your body aches for it, nothing more. Your head nods forward, your heavy lids put up a fight as you struggle to open your eyes. Once you do, they fixate on the enormous blue bottle of BCAA’s.

That bottle’s always there, your faithful partner in crime. When the silence seems to scream, amino acids have a loud voice.

Listen…do you hear it? They’re telling you to get your ass in gear, stop pussyfooting around and down a few of ‘em prior to getting those sneakers on and running out the door for your hour-long cardio session.

Listen.

Hear that sound?

That’s your heart beating.

The blood running through your veins has a purpose; it’s there to feed your cells. Your tissues, organs, muscles. Don’t just stand there; give it a reason to keep making its circles through you.

The brisk air hits your warm skin, the moonlight beaming down harshly as if questioning your reasons for being up at such an ungodly hour. Your body quivers, begging you to go back to bed just for a little while…and once again, you ignore it.

Any weakness you had slowly melts and trickles to the ground with every deliberate step you take.

You’re on a journey with no place for self pity or limitations. This is your life, this is who you are. Strong, powerful, brave, and every other antonym for weakness you can think of.

Without a soul anywhere in sight, you try to remember why you’re doing this to yourself. In this solitude, the moonlit sidewalk takes your mind on a journey.

You begin recalling incidences you’d long forgotten; like that time in college, when a professor gave you a B on a paper that took you eight weeks to complete. He handed it to you with a grin and a memorable statement: “if I were grading based on effort, you’d get an A+ for sure!”

Effort. That word is loaded with more meaning than you ever thought possible.

Eight weeks researching the generation and spectrum shifting of spallation neutrons? Try going back to the gym for your second cardio session, third trip that day — when your body is so weak and carb depleted, you see stars circling around your head as soon as you step on the treadmill. You grasp the handles to make sure you don’t fall off, but the thought of giving up never even crosses your mind.

That’s effort.

Leg day, you’re doing squats. It’s an all-out set five; you’re on your nineteenth rep of twenty. Heavy bar pressed into your skin, your eyes swelling with tears, quads and ass burning as if they’re on fire. Your heart feels like it’s about to explode.

One more rep, you’re not a quitter. Quitters don’t win, and you’re a winner. Rep 21, here you come.

That’s effort.

You aren’t hungry in the middle of the night, when you wake up to force down yet another shake. You sure as hell don’t want that second can of dry tuna for lunch when the guy in the next cubicle is loudly devouring his third slice of pizza, but cheating on your diet is sacrilege to you!

You’re at the holiday table with nothing but a plain turkey breast on your plate while the rest of your family, barely fitting in their chairs because of their lard asses, stare at you in disbelief while trying to convince you to see an “eating disorder specialist.”

Your reaction is nothing but an irrepressible grin as you look back at them, their mouths full of butter-drenched stuffing. You thank God for making you different and start to wonder whether you’re adopted, yet you don’t say a word to disagree with anyone — it’s pointless, in their eyes you’re a freak.

You get an A+ for effort.

You’re more proud of yourself now than you ever imagined possible just a few years back. You grew, changed, transformed — inside and out. You’re a different person now than you were when your professor handed you that paper. You’re confident, tough. A true winner.

Your feet keep hitting the pavement with even more determination and there’s now a faint smile on your face. You remember why your alarm clock is set to go off at a time when all of your single friends aren’t even asleep yet. It’s once again obvious how much you love every minute of being…different.

The battle taking place in your mind just a few minutes ago has been replaced with clarity. That headache is gradually dissipating, allowing you to delve even deeper into your thoughts and memories.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” You remember the Helen Keller quote you learned back in High School. It spoke to you back then, but you embody it now.

All those times in the gym, when you felt like you have nothing left, you were developing character.

That last rep, the one long after your muscles have failed and the last drop of Spike is gone. You’re dizzy, out of breath, and are trying to find the strength to rack the weight…when you suddenly realize that you’re about to compromise your workout.

It hits you that you still have one more weapon in your arsenal. The most powerful of all tools you’ve got: the mind.

You sit on the nearest bench, staring at the floor to stop the room from spinning. A sluggish lift of the head and you see a defeated warrior staring back through the mirror. Gazing yourself in the eyes, you make a single statement: you will do one more rep, or you’re a gutless wimp.

The words penetrate your mind. An ocean of adrenaline washes over your body, sending chills up your spine…the eyes leering back are now emotionless.

Glaring past the mirror, you stare straight into the face of every bad experience you can remember. All those moments you felt fragile, spineless, wimpy.

A quiet smile begins to form with the realization that each of the painful memories just contributed to the five tons of gasoline poured onto a dull spark. You don’t do another rep. You do three instead…and they feel light!

You’ve got character. A chuckle slips out, breaking the 4AM silence. Half an hour down, thirty more minutes to go.

Crossing the street to start the jog back, you pass a former coworker’s house. Good guy…strong-willed, kind, patient, positive. Used to always tell stories of the “good ol’ days” in the marines, how much the guys had gone through, how tough the boot camps were.

You’ve quoted his favorite saying hundreds of times over the years: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” One of your favorite quotes of all time — one that you not only understand, but have found yourself transcending hundreds of times in the gym.

All those times your mind screamed, just one more rep, when your body had thoughts of its own. Thoughts of lactic acid, burning through your pores in attempts to rupture through your skin; pain so immense that it felt tangible, screeching right back at your mind…telling it to quit.

One more rep. The mind prevails. Pain is weakness leaving the body, so you embrace it. Accept it for what it is — simply a mental barrier. Nothing more than an imaginary wall you’ve broken through time and time again.

Remembering yourself just a few years back once again, you’re amazed at the way a person’s spirit can be completely reshaped, strengthened by the iron and the lifestyle it creates.

You fight the urge to scream at the top of your lungs, making everyone see what a miracle it is to have the power of choosing your own path. The authority to create the body, the mind, the character you desire.

The power to take life by the horns and make it go your way is truly a sacred privilege; to abandon that control is a goddamn sin! Use it; make it your own…savor the endless possibilities!

Sprinting through the front door, you feel boundless energy; ready to take on whatever the day has in store for you. It’s only a bit past 4:30AM, the world’s barely beginning to awaken; you’re already ahead of the game.

You can’t wait to enter the gym with a vengeance today. You’ll walk in as if you’ve been possessed, knowing your intentions and letting nothing in this world deter you.

The headphones will go on and as the sound of rock gets louder, you’ll turn into the most callous, volatile warrior you can fathom. Nothing will have the power to distract you or make you feel weak; you’re unstoppable.

You own this mind of yours, control it! If you do, at the end of the day you’ll stand a little taller, grow a little stronger. and move one step closer to every one of your goals.

In the end we all make choices, often not having the prudence to realize their lasting consequences. Choosing to control your destiny is the most basic decision you can make.

Once the choice is made, there’s no turning back. No warrior will willingly surrender all control.

Winners are not those who never fail, but those who never quit.

You’re a winner.

Giving up is not an option.

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