Accountability: Get high with a little help from your friends

This is the WOD (workout of the day) that broke me:

Kelsey Rope

150 kettle bell swings
100 wall balls
50 burpees
25 inverted rows
12 back squats
6 Hand stand push ups
3 rope climbs

I had to divide it up into depressingly teenie sets: 10 kettle ball swings, 5 wall balls, 5 burpees. And even then, my brain would shut down mid-set and instead of completing rep four or five I would find myself staring at the floor.

I couldn’t see life beyond the next burpee. If the meaning of life was to suffer, I was living life to its fullest. There were only three ways out: finish the workout, hit the 40 minute time limit, or death.

Death felt more possible than finishing, but the time limit seemed the way to go.

Leaning against the squat rack, my arms were rubber, my legs were shot. I waited for the clock to hit 40, marking the end, and making this the first workout that I hadn’t completed.

But then I saw Dave hustling up the rope one last time to beat the clock. When his feet touched the ground an expression of sheer exhausted joy came across his face.

Push it to the end

Dave is a quiet dude. The first time I met him was at a noon workout. I tried to chat with him during the warmup, but he wasn’t really reciprocating, so I left him alone. Too often folks who aren’t quiet paint their own insecurities upon the silence of others. Dave didn’t want to talk; that was okay. Still, part of me was like, “I annoy this dude.”

The next workout, started and finished with a half-mile run. In between we had to do some squats, box jumps, and pullups. I had to modify the squats because my back was a little sore, so I set out on the last run before Dave. As I turned onto Jackson Street in Downtown Muncie, the homestretch of the run, I caught up with another runner.

“Come on, man, let’s push it to the end,” I encouraged him, as Dave came out of nowhere behind us. We all three sprinted across Walnut St. and into The Arsenal.

Neither of us could talk. Dave just nodded and gave me a fist bump.

Climbing together

Back to the WOD that broke me…

I was thrilled for Dave when he finished just before the 40-minute time limit expired.

“Nice job, Dave,” I said.

But I was also ashamed of myself. I, and how I was milking the last few minutes knowing the end was near. The less likely it became I would finish, the less I pushed.

I was going to leave the gym and not feel good about myself.

“I want to finish,” I said aloud. It’s as if I had to verbalize it to convince myself. I forgot about the clock.

I finished the squats. I finished the modified handstand push ups (I can’t do handstand push ups when I’m NOT exhausted, so I do them with my feet on a box). Then I was just three rope climbs away from being done.

I stared up at the rope. Fifteen feet never looked so high. Half way up my feet lost hold of the rope and I about slid down.

“Come on, Kelsey,” Coach Emily said. “You’ve got this.”

I redoubled my efforts and slapped the ceiling. One down.

Up again. Slapped the ceiling. The second one was made even more difficult by the knowledge that I had one more to go.

There’s a point when you run a marathon–or at least when I ran a marathon one time–where you get your second wind, but it’s the point after that where your joints feel like bone-on-bone and your muscles like Silly Putty where you really want to quit. Your mind searches for a thousand reasons to quit, but your soul for the one reason to continue.

“I’ll do the last one with you,” Dave said.

In three workouts with him, this may have been the longest sentence he had ever uttered to me.

Dave grabbed the rope next to mine.

“Reach high,” Dave said. “Let’s get it in three pulls.”

I climbed it for me. I climbed it for Dave.

We can only push ourselves so much, only hold ourselves accountable to a certain standard. If we want to climb to the next level, we need help to push us further and hold us accountable to a higher standard.

My time of 45:03 didn’t show on the Leaderboard, but I finished. I couldn’t have done it alone.

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