Workout of the Day

Nowhere to Hide

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I was fortunate, in my junior year of undergrad, to have the opportunity to study abroad in Oxford and take courses in the Oxford University system. Rather different from a standard-format university lecture class, most of these courses were structured as tutorials: independent work and a weekly one-on-one meetings with a “tutor” (professor).

I distinctly remember my first day sitting across from my tutor in his office, him silently scanning the paper I had written for that week’s meeting, twirling his tobacco-stained mustache as his bulldog snored in the corner, and me feeling intimidated, exposed, and unsure. It wasn’t that the coursework was more rigorous than any other class, or that the subject matter was any more challenging. It was that I had absolutely nowhere to hide. Every Tuesday I spent 90 minutes face to face with this tutor, and we discussed, at length, the reading I had done, the paper I had written, and the ideas I had wrestled with. Equal parts intensive examination and involved discussion, there was no room for daydreaming, settling into the background, or disguising any lack of preparation.

While I felt some stress and dread for these weekly meetings at the time, they were a valuable exercise in forced honesty with myself about my preparation and performance, and an opportunity to gain some “comfort” in such an uncomfortable and exposing position. While the standard classroom structure allows one to fade into the background, coast by, and hide any uncertainty or lack of preparation, the “nowhere to hide” environment of meeting one on one with a subject matter expert was a pressure cooker of accelerated growth and violent exposure to one’s own shortcomings.

Recognizing (mostly after the fact) the value of such a learning experience, I’ve come to realize how worthwhile it is to actively seek out such exposures. Humans are experts at defaulting to what is comfortable, known, and safe. It takes a conscious effort to remove oneself from this safety and move into a space in which we have nowhere to hide.

Much of what we do in the gym is directed at this end: to expose weaknesses and faults so that they can be corrected and trained up to match the challenge of any circumstance. Adding conditions of load, fatigue, or time restraints, for example, serves this purpose. But there also must be a willingness from the individual to be exposed, and to learn from the feedback that comes back to us. We can only benefit as much as we are willing to see our weaknesses and move beyond them.

If you are interested in growth, above all else, seek out and be ready to learn from opportunities that leave you nowhere to hide.

- PS


4/27/17

  • Bent over supine grip barbell row - 4x8

  • 10 min AMRAP

    • 10 power cleans (135/95)

    • 10 parallette push-ups

    • 10 burpees