I Can Do Hard Things

My favorite workout of all time has its own name. It’s a CrossFit benchmark called “Helen.”

The lowly kettlebell, a tool of pain and destruction.

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.

Why?

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,

-Ian

13 thoughts on “I Can Do Hard Things

  1. It’s interesting to note how we feel after completing a big challenge, all those small steps completed previously to get to that point. Because we often end up in routine these hard things are a great way of breaking that up.

    I think this is why things like Spartan race have taken off, it brings out our spirit of adventure and challenges us with something we’re not sure we can do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post. So true and is so helpful in different parts of your life. It’s a great boost to motivation to know that you can do something that is difficult. When you complete the task you also help yourself in increasing your self-confidence. Glad you wrote this post, I think it’s important for everyone to recognize what accomplishing something hard can bring and what it can do for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading this post, especially because it had a message I needed to hear today. I have been “doing hard things” a lot lately – and this was the wake up call to remind myself that it’s not something to complain about – but something to be proud of. Thanks for sharing this post with us! Joan https://kindness-compassion-and-coaching.com

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this, because I also love the pain and wonderful euphoria that comes from the strangeness that is crossfit. When I told people I did it, I’d receive a million reasons why it was the worst thing I could do to myself and how I was headed down the path to injury. But, thing is, it’s The One in a million that is worth doing, worth fighting for, worth trying and failing over and over to achieve, so they can keep adding their opinion to the millions of reasons why it’s not for them. Thank you for sharing and reminding me of why I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

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