Lets get philosophical for a moment. In the talk of fitness and the pursuit of health one thing can sometimes get left out. Its not easy, in some cases its down right hard, and its not always fun. Sometimes the workouts are hard and then sometimes devastating. Sometimes it seems easy to eat healthy, and then other times it feels like we are surrounded by temptation in the form of cookies, soda and (insert appropriate guilty pleasure here). There isn’t a party or cheerleaders when you resist the temptation or finish a workout. So why do we keep doing it? Can we learn to enjoy the “grind” and take pleasure in the process and not just the results?
Lets take a look back in history and mythology at the most epic grinder of them all: Sisyphus.
The story of Sisyphus comes from Greek mythology. He is known more for his punishment in death, than the things that he did in life. His life was interesting enough, but we will concentrate on his punishment and death. In case your are curious however. The Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus, for his deeds in life was sentenced to an eternity of rolling a massive boulder up a mountain, only to reach the top and have the boulder roll back down. The Greek gods felt that there would be no worse punishment than to endure an eternity of futile and fruitless labor.
Fast forward a few millennia, and many of us can sometimes find ourselves in a Groundhog’s Day cycle of workouts and meal plans. The repetition can sometimes cause us to lose our focus and commitment. When the PR’s don’t come quite as often as they used to or the pounds aren’t coming off like we hoped. We all go through this at some point. For some its enough cause to “fall off the wagon”. We wonder what its worth. We workout and workout. Endless numbers of reps and endless number of practice. Double Under attempts, Muscle ups attempts. Working to add just one more pound to that PR or that second off our time. Is it all for nought?
We get caught up in all the numbers and records that we lose sight and forget to embrace the process. If we can learn to enjoy the process, the progress will come. When we think about Sisyphus we think about the burden of pushing the rock, but what about those moments when he reaches the top? The boulder reaches its apex and then rolls and returns to the foot of the mountain. What about that moment? Is it a moment of despair at watching the boulder fall or a moment of peace in knowing that you have achieved and you are now unburdened as you descend the mountain and prepare to achieve again.
If we imagine our workouts as our mountain and our boulder we can readily identify ourselves with Sisyphus. Enduring the labors only to finish knowing that we will once again have to do it again tomorrow. But it is not fruitless. We have achieved. We will achieve again. Regardless of how well we performed we have brought another task to completion. Even in the middle of our workouts, we have these moments. Finishing a set of thrusters and then walking to the pull-up bar, we have climbed a mountain and have a moment of peace and joy as we complete a task and then prepare for the next.
Too often we forget to take pleasure in these moments. We workout for an hour a day and we still must strive to enjoy the remaining 23 hours knowing that tomorrow the task starts again. Scale the mountain, and remember to take a moment to enjoy the view, then rebuild your resolve on the walk down. The task never gets easier, you just get better.
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
– Excerpt from “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus
So what is your relationship with the mountain? Can the struggle be your joy?