What Would You Be?

“First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus

By: Marshall Bowen

We were in the middle of a workout, and I had walked up behind Terry doing goblet squats with a kettlebell, resting between sets. He was leaning forward, his hands holding him up against the wall of the cage and he was talking to himself.

“I wish I had a time machine. God, I wish I had a time machine.”

Terry and I have become good friends over the past few months, and this self talk was fairly typical for this point in the workout.

Craig came by and did a circle around him, checking his respiration rate, skin color and eyes, and asked him a few questions then smiled and walked away.

“Don’t you go dying on me.”

Terry nodded, beads of sweat falling off his face, and picked up his kettlebell.

Sixteen years ago Terry left the Marine Corps after four years as an infantryman during the Gulf War. He stands six feet, two inches tall and at that time weighed 200 pounds. He could run three miles in 18:45, do 37 dead hang pullups in a single set and crank out 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes.

After Terry left the Marines he was hired on as an over the road truck driver and his lifestyle changed completely. He used to live a physical life, always on his feet with a pack on his back. Suddenly he was spending 10 hours per day sitting in a truck, driving across the country and living off of food from convenience stores.

He came to us after a realization that his body had fallen out of control and he had to make a change. He no longer weighed 200 pounds. In fact, he had to go to a vet clinic to weigh himself because his six foot, two inch frame now exceeded the 350 pound capacity at the hospital.

As far as physical condition went, Terry started with one of the longest roads ahead of him that we have ever seen.

Plenty of people have come to us knowing that they needed to change their lives and that their health would suffer drastically unless they did so. And then the excuses would come, they’d quit and a year or two later we’d see them again somewhere, slightly more overweight, slightly sadder looking, and on their way to pick up the host of medications at the pharmacy now necessary for them to live. None of those people started out in worse physical condition than Terry.

We saw the potential in him the first day. Craig and I both come from a background which enables us to recognize true suffering, and we saw it in Terry. We know what it looks like when the body breaks and what it looks like when it’s just the mind giving in to rationalizations. Terry had what it took. His body couldn’t keep up, but he was mentally resilient. For the first few weeks, he couldn’t finish a full workout and he would end the session lying on his back on the mats, gasping for air, covered in sweat. He always got back up and he always came back. He had the capacity to, as our motto in the Scout Snipers said, “Suffer patiently and patiently suffer.”

Terry was so big that it was impossible for him to do a pullup. Even with the largest band on his foot and a spotter, it just wasn’t going to happen. We had to substitute inverted rows on gymnast rings for his pulling movements because there was just no way to get him up to the pullup bar.

That was three months ago. Terry has already lost around 40 pounds. He’s wearing shirts he hasn’t been able to put on in years. His face is noticeably leaner. Earlier this week, towards the end of a workout, he walked silently up to a pullup bar, hopped up and grabbed it, and slowly pulled his chest to the bar.

Everyone in the gym was immediately overcome with pride because they knew that no matter how hard the workout was for them, Terry was almost always suffering more. They all watched as he knocked out another 15 pullups in sets of three with me spotting him.

Building physical strength and fitness can be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. Letting time slip by and falling out of shape can be one of the easiest. Once it happens, the road back to health can seem insurmountable.

We hear people all the time who say things like, “I’m going to wait and get in a little better shape before I start working out with you guys.” It’s another excuse. It’s what happens when the road seems to long and the first step seems too big.

All that matters is what’s inside your mind. It is completely irrelevant where you start out physically. All that matters is that you say to yourself what you will be, and take that first step. Terry has proven this to us recently, and continues to inspire everyone around him. A year from now, he’s going to be in better shape than he was when he left the Marines.

Where will you be?

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