This morning, I dropped in at a new gym I've been enjoying only to discover it was One Thousand Reps Day: any exercise(s) you want, ten reps at the top of each minute. For 100 minutes.
And so I completed 500 deadlifts and about 450 Bulgarian bag halos (when the halos became taxing, I threw in some overhead presses). The math works out to more than 60,000 pounds, and yet I came out of this thinking not so much about my strength, but my endurance. The mental kind even more than the muscle. I've never had much of either, and though I never hit the wall today, I had to fight the demons of comfort, persistent as my children, asking me to please, please, promptly halt the suffering.
At 200 reps, the challenge seemed an impossibility. At 500 there was celebrating but a long road ahead. 700, more folks left. The music was turned down, the fans off, only the door open to the snow outside cooling down the room. We lifted to the bell and to the sound of our own bodies. Lose Yourself came on, and the music was turned back up:
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
Losing ourselves, by 800, became the point. This was not a feat of strength but a test. What were we made of? We began to discuss this in half-minute intervals between lifts. The greater life lesson energized us, provided a distraction. And then one rest period, I remember, no one said a word. No crack about how sore we'd be tomorrow, nothing. The bell rang and we picked up the bars once again.
Around 970, the stress increased exponentially. I've always been like this--tell me there's ten seconds left, and I'll give up on the spot. My hands had developed such calluses that I could only deadlift with a finger hook--immensely more difficult, but the pain from a bearing down with a full grip was worse.
Nothing fancy to the big finish, just more of the same until we were done. And then we were. The three of us who had remained to the end congratulated each other, put away our bars, and left. I drove off as if from a church, still held in the contemplative spirit of what I'd just done. I'd had a similar experience previously at this gym, when once again I didn't know what I was in for, and showed up to be asked to perform three-minute kettlebell snatches with one arm. And then on to the other arm, for three minutes. You pause when you need to, but beyond this aspect of endurance I had never experienced anything quite like this. We were all facing a mirror, and I was in the front row. We'd lift without talking. You concentrate on form but mostly, if you're in the zone, you lose yourself in the moment. People all around you, lost as well. But the important thing is we were lost together.
And how am I doing now, seven hours later? If I stop moving, I can no longer move, but if I keep the parts revved up, I feel like one big muscle. I am not entirely sure I'll be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning with ease, but I will either push through the difficulty, or take an extra few minutes in bed to think. My body will remind me of both lessons I learned today.