COMING CLEAN: Alpha Showdown

When motivation during an athletic competition wanes, one editor gets support from her team.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been focused on one major goal: competing in the Life Time Fitness Alpha Showdown. Sound intimidating? It was.

Our event took place on April 21, and later that day, my family was getting together to celebrate my grandfather’s 83rd birthday. I was corresponding with my aunt, who was the hostess (and also a member of Life Time), about arrival times and any items we could bring to the gathering. I mentioned we’d most likely be late to lunch because I was in a competition that morning.

“Wait, are you doing the Alpha Showdown?! Isn’t that an extreme athletic event?!” she wrote via email.

Why, yes, yes it is. And I’m participating. Am I an extreme athlete? Heavens no!

But that’s not saying this event was for someone new to fitness. Our T.E.A.M. Boot Camp group has been together, more or less, since October 2011, and even those with the greatest fitness capacity had to muster the strength to finish. It was that challenging.

snatch prep
The event consisted of three parts: power, strength, and endurance, one section after another, all for best time to win. So even though I felt great while doing strength, power and endurance had me arguing with my sensible side. Just stop! she’d shout. This is too hard. That voice was most vocal during the burpee broad jumps, the snatch (that’s me pictured at right with the women’s weight of 45 pounds, midway through my 10 reps), and the duck walk, which I’ve practiced but opted out of since it aggravated my lower-back condition. (I had to listen to my body on that one, even though it meant my time would be disqualified.)

courtney and earl
As the voice in my head grew stronger, I became weary. I was fatigued, but knew I hadn’t reached my limit. When I nearly laughed out loud at myself — my internal dialogue was seemingly delirious — I considered quitting.

But then I’d hear the cheers from my teammates, all of whom seem to dismiss the idea of competition with each other in favor of challenging themselves. And then, like something out of a boxing movie, my fellow Boot Camper Earl came up to me as I was losing speed, and put his hands on my shoulders: “You got this. We do this all the time in Boot Camp. You can do this.” The voice of my sensible side faded as he spoke, and I realized she was attempting to make concessions for me. Yes, it was hard, but I was indeed capable of completing the course. All my work in Boot Camp had prepared me for it, and I was strong enough to finish the challenge.

“Finishing is winning,” Earl told me. He’s right. I think we often get so convinced that the only way to win is to take first place, and if that motivates you, terrific. Counting those smaller triumphs, though, are equally important (some would argue more), especially when you’re working toward a larger goal. I needed to finish the Alpha Showdown that day, not win it, because finishing was indeed my prize. Finding stamina during moments of perceived weakness helped me see that my personal reserves of fortitude are big, and when I feel myself losing sight of my goals or veering off track, I can remember Earl telling me, “You got this,” and know that my teammates, too, have got my back.

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