A few years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a conditioning class for the JV and Varsity Cheerleaders at the high school. Their coaches wanted the girls to build up their strength and stamina for the upcoming cheer season, so they reached out for some help. For a few months I met with the girls on a weekly basis to lead them in HIIT cardio and strength classes similar to what we do at the Barn.
It was really fun…for me, anyway. At the time, I’m not so sure the girls would agree.
It was hard for them – really hard.
I didn’t mean for it to be that way; I was often leading them in similar sets that I did with my fitness classes earlier in the day. In other words, the high school girls were getting the same workout that moms, dads, and grandparents were getting. Only, a lot of the cheerleaders complained and quit when the workout got tough.
I’m not going to lie; I was both surprised and frustrated that most of them lacked the emotional and physical ability to keep working when it got hard.
I think their coaches already knew this – that’s why I was there.
I was tempted to scale back and make it “do-able” for them, but I wanted to push them. I wanted them to get stronger. And I knew they could do it. So I decided to let it play out for a few weeks to see what would happen. Nothing changed. They were sweet girls and we had a lot of fun together, but both their physical ability and their attitude regarding the workouts were less than ideal. The day that 2 girls “forgot” their cheer clothes and 2 others couldn’t work out because they got a flu shot was the day I knew - they lacked grit.
They lacked resolve.
They lacked the tenacity and the determination to do the work.
It’s funny, one of the definitions of “grit” is “spirit.” Yet these Spirit Leaders had none. They were void of the very thing they were supposed to promote at their school.
These girls didn’t really know what it was like to stick with something when it got hard, to push through when it got painful. I wanted them to experience the pain and the tough moment in a sprint set or a burpee set, and then keep going!
Overcoming something is far greater than just giving up. The worst thing they could do was to stop trying.
For the next few weeks I pushed them and they began to work harder. They got stronger. Many of them got it – that it would hurt for a moment, and then it would be over. And they would be better because of it. They discovered their potential and experienced the feeling of accomplishing something hard – something they didn’t think they could do.
The author Angela Duckworth describes grit as a passionate persistence. I see this every day at the Barn – a passionate persistence.
You guys enter in when you KNOW it’s going to be tough. Some of you run to the mats to do Burpees when you admittedly hate them and struggle to do them. Some of you willingly increase calories or speed on the Woodies knowing without a doubt that it is going to suck. I watch some of you literally clench your teeth to finish a rep count, or push past the clock when you could easily quit.
With tenacity and determination, with grit, you dig in when it hurts.
I remember telling the cheerleaders during one of our sessions together, that this is an analogy for life. It is going to be hard. There are times when you won’t like it, but you will still have to do the thing. It will be downright painful at times. You will think you can’t do it and want to quit.
BUT…to be on the other side of whatever that is -to have persevered through the pain, to have overcome the fear or the moment. To realize your full potential. You win! You’re better and stronger because of that pain or that obstacle.
In the Barn and especially in life, cling to your passion and persistence – your grit. Keep doing the work, you guys – even when it’s hard.
We’ve got spirit! Yes we do!
We’ve got spirit! How about you?