Workout of the Day

Microdosing Fear


Talk to anyone who has been onboard a ship going through a dangerous storm, anyone who has had a close call during an extreme sport like base jumping or big wave surfing, or anyone who has survived a life-threatening illness, and they are sure to tell you that these experiences were significant and, quite literally, life changing. New outlooks, new appreciation, renewed vigor, unbreakable bonds with others who endured the same experience, or simply unparalleled exhilaration are all part and parcel with these experiences that bring us face to face with intense fear, physical struggle, and fighting for survival. These experiences, though they are generally negative in the most traditional sense (rarely would one consider fighting cancer or almost drowning a positive experience), tap into something deep in the human psyche, and they stick with us. On a smaller scale, think of the feeling you had the first time you got tossed around in a powerful wave as a child playing at the beach -- you come up from the water, wide-eyed, gasping for air, half terrified and half bubbling over with thrill and excitement.

But to go out and seek such experiences would be a fool’s errand. Even the thrill-seeking big wave surfers and base jumpers don’t want to have a close scrape with death. They want to toy with danger, but keep a safe distance from death’s door. But this experience is something that has some innate value that many are drawn to. People tuned into this fact have even fabricated ways to experience a facsimile with 2-week “survival vacations” aimed at business execs and the rising popularity of experiences like ayahuasca ceremonies.

The good news is, we have some access to these experiences in a small way everyday when we exercise. High-intensity exercise in particular taps into the same fear- and survival-centric emotions and hormones that make these monumental experiences so valuable and life-changing. On a small scale, the same feelings of struggling for survival, or pushing physical and mental limits, and of coming out of the other end alive and invigorated are available to us every time we push our limits in a high intensity effort, or test boundaries in an ultra-endurance effort, or place ourselves under the barbell to lift a weight that we’re not sure we can lift. We can, in essence, microdose the powerful and life-changing effects of fear.

The benefits here are two-fold. While you may not remember a particularly hard workout the same way you remember surviving a tumultuous storm with your shipmates, there are benefits both individually and socially available when we expose ourselves to the physical and mental struggle of training. We can tap into the same effects on our outlook, appreciation, vigor, and social bonds. In addition, regular exposure to these small-scale fear-inducing physical struggles gives us a few tools in our toolbelt in the event that we do face a more real and life-threatening encounter. We can train ourselves to manage fear and struggle.

The gains to be had in training are more than just weight on the bar or capacity to endure. We’re training to become better humans.

- PS


  • Sandbag front carry - 3x100’ (AHAP)


  • 3 rounds

  • 3 min AMRAP

    • 50’ sandbag front carry (AHAP)

    • 5 sandbag front squats

  • Rest 90s