The Iron Mile.
More than a decade ago now, I put a 275 lb iron backpack on and walked a mile with it. Despite the difficulty, the soreness and the ridicule from peers I received; it was one of the most pivotal moments in my fitness career.
I had just come off a top 10 finish at the 2012 CrossFit Games Regional and was seeking to build on that for the next year. A friend, famous powerlifter Mark Bell, gave me a Yoke that he couldn’t find a use for. After some contemplation I decided to add a hundred pounds of weight to it and then walked with it on my back for 1 mile in 100 degree August heat.
The exact duration of that grueling walk has faded from memory, but for what seemed like hours, the physical demands of the workout pushed the boundaries of my strength, endurance, and sheer determination. As a way of maximizing the effort into something that forced me to be the best that I could, I would perform three burpees on the hot asphalt each time I set the burden down. Instead of doing traditional burpees, I would push myself off the ground and then climb up and over the crossmember of the yoke on each rep. A punishing reward for taking a break.
In the days that followed, my lower back ached, and my upper back bore the marks of scabbed-over skin. Yet, there was a profound satisfaction in being able to say, “I accomplished that.” I had achieved something I never knew I was capable of. It was a testament to my strength, but more importantly, it proved my resilience and durability.
Over the coming years I came to realize that the Iron Mile was a microcosm of life itself. The virtues of durability and resilience that I developed during that grueling walk would become invaluable as I pursued my roles as a business owner, husband, and father. Like the Iron Mile, life has a way of making you walk through pain. We may try to dodge it, evade it, or turn a blind eye, but sometimes, no matter our efforts, we must confront it head-on. We must shoulder burdens and endure discomfort to navigate the paths that the Good Lord sets before us.
So, the next time you step into the gym, you may not be attempting the Iron Mile (though I’ll be there to support you if you do). Regardless of your chosen workout, approach it with a mindset that carries you through not only the gym but also the challenges that life presents.