“The Worst thing That Could Happen to a Fighter is that He Becomes Civilized”
This quote comes from “Rocky” where Mick, Rocky’s trainer, is talking about finding the hunger, desperation, and sense of urgency needed in training and to succeed in any great endeavor.
Life is a fight. Nothing is ever given. And even just a little success can corrupt the mind and the soul into complacency. In every “Rocky” movie there is a turning point. The deep thunderous bell of the warrior spirit is rung, signaling a switch in mentality from a flacid, benign and contrived effort where our hero is “mailing it in” so to speak, to an authentic abandonment of fear, judgment, and pain. Rocky may not have the same speed as Apollo Creed, or the same strength as Ivan Drago or Mr T,  but what he does have, is more grit, determination, and toughness than any of the competitors he faces. This embodiment of the warrior spirit is one the most beautiful adaptations to a training program. Soft athletes become hard, weak athletes become strong, scared athletes become brave and it never ends in the gym, but spreads and leaks throughout all aspects of life creating a stand up quality human.

Creating a harsh training environment is a mechanism by which to farm and cultivate this process. Yes, there is a physical training effect taking place, but really we are trying to create a feeling to direct and control an emotional response. When done consistently, the response becomes habit and eventually refurbishes the foundation of who the athlete is at their core. In “Rocky” this environment is created many different ways: Rocky is in the freezer hitting meat, in a hot barn lifting rocks, or running up a mountain in the Siberian wilderness etc.. When we look at the movements and training at its core, it is not so atypical, there is footwork, lifting, and conditioning. What is different is that the niceties are gone. Early in the morning…no problem. In the heat or freezing cold…no problem. No nice equipment…good.

When creating a training space understand that the environment is key, this is why Crossfit felt so different and special back when it was a fitness counter culture and not so mainstream. Gyms where in the basements of churches, garages, and parking lots. There where no mirrors, nice equipment, clean spaces…even a bathroom might be hard to come by. Yet somehow, it was the greatest thing I have ever experienced. I remember walking into CrossFit NYC in 2007. It was on the 4th floor of an old building in the fashion district. I was very apprehensive as I walked up the stairs that there could even be a gym in this old beat up building as I passed what I though was a Vietnamese sweat shop. When I got there, there were wholes in the dirty walls, makeshift homemade equipment, and blood and sweat stained on the floor. I remember HQ staff member Keith Wittenstein yelling at me to go lower in my wall ball, like I had never been spoken to before in a gym. I puked out the windows 4 stories down onto the sidewalk at the end of the workout. It is one of my fondest training memories ever.