My favorite workout of all time has its own name. It’s a CrossFit benchmark called “Helen.”
A three round sprint, Helen is a crazy blend of running, kettle bell swings, and pull-ups that never fails to leave me laying on the ground, trembling, and gasping for air. It’s a mental crucible, a physical torture session, and an all around pain-fest that I can’t even think about without taking a quick jolt of nervous anticipation. It’s short, fast, hard, and I absolutely love it.
Now, after an intro like that, you’re probably thinking that I’m some kind of meathead masochist (and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong), but the reason I love this workout has very little to do with how physically demanding it is. Helen is my favorite workout for one very specific but simple reason: I’m good at it. Or at least I feel like I am.
For some reason, the combination of those three movements allows me to throw myself at this workout with an intensity I can’t replicate almost anywhere else. The runs are short enough that I can hit them hard and hold on, my body just seems built to do kettlebell swings, and there are just enough pull-ups that I can do them quickly but still catch my breath in the process. For me, Helen is an intense celebration of what my body can do; and when I’m done (and have scraped myself off the floor) I feel exultant, proud, and ready to take on the world.
And that feeling of confidence is by far the most important part of this workout for me.
Because it’s a reminder that I can do hard things.
You see, the older I get, the more I realize that there isn’t some magic age where I’ll suddenly “get it” and life will get easy. Unfortunately, my problems won’t magically sort themselves out. Life can be hard, and messy, and intense, and that can be really scary! So, every once in a while, I’ll go on a “date” with Helen just to remind myself that I can do the hard things.
And that’s where I’ll add you into this story. Because I truly believe that each of us has our own Helen.
Now, obviously I’m not talking about the literal workout here– it takes a special kind of crazy to enjoy that kind of physical exertion and pain as much as I do. What I mean is that I truly believe each of us has a difficult thing that we feel strangely good at that we can focus on or come back to when we need a confidence boost.
So think for a second, what’s your Helen?
Do you cook or bake? Read ancient Phoenician poetry? Do you like to run until your legs fall off, like my Dad does? Or do totally white puzzles, like my Mom (seriously, no picture at all, its crazy)? Maybe you even think my workout sounds fun! Honestly, I don’t think the activity matters much. The important thing is recognizing that you’re capable of something difficult and then using that capability to build yourself up when you need a lift.
And if you can’t think of something right now? Go looking for it! Take the time to experiment with things that sound fun and find something that you feel really good about. For example, another “Helen” for me is painting tiny plastic figures. Each figure takes me more than ten hours to paint, blend, and put onto some kind of scenic base, and every person I show them to inevitably tells me that there’s no way they could ever do something like that. It can be difficult, and is definitely time consuming, but each miniature I complete is a tangible reminder that I can do hard things. Like I said before, I don’t think the actual activity matters. Just give yourself the space to find something that takes some real effort, that you enjoy, let yourself do it, and revel in the knowledge that you can do hard things.
Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,