The Process: Part 1: Find Your Mountain, Climb Your Mountain
By Coach Michael Garrity
My father was in the room with me. He sat in a chair at the end of my bed; I could see immense anguish in his eyes, almost despair. He searched with his eyes to know what I was feeling: pain, fear, hope… or none of the above.
Until this point (at least from the event of my injury), I had been mostly hopeful; with almost a sense of gratitude that this had happened — knowing that I would no longer feel a pain of such magnitude, and would never have to fear the pain again. It had happened. I had survived; the sun rose the next day.
But seeing my father — my first coach, my loving critic, my most loyal fan — look at me with such a grasping yearn for understanding, I broke. Holding onto optimism for the week that had passed since my injury I was quickly cut down by the sheer effect of it all, and the subsequent magnitude of waves it would send through my life. The last decade of my life had a sole purpose and pursuit; now that purpose was in immediate question and doubt.
So yes, I broke. Completely. My stoicism that had long been rooted in accepting pain and struggle now turned to vulnerability, rushing fear, and the purest uncertainty. I broke down in that bed, still drugged up five hours after surgery. Looking down at my leg in an immobilizer, where it would remain for four weeks, left me at a loss of words. All I could think about was the process back to recovery; the hours, days, months even years it would take to reset my body back to square one — the fading of a life’s work and a boy’s dream. Shedding tears I said three words when my dad asked what I felt.
“It’s so daunting.”
I was immobile for four weeks. I wasn’t able to walk without two crutches let alone drive or even fit my braced leg in most cars. But I did what I could to better myself each day; with a sharp decline in my physical progress and the inability to train, I turned to my mentality and knowledge. That meant four weeks straight of reading and sharpening my training knowledge so I could approach my pursuit with intelligence and without doubt. I digested everything I could find to plan my comeback; I mapped out my entire next year in the gym.
Admittedly, during those weeks I watched a good amount of television too. One of the movies I watched was Everest . There is a scene in which the characters are discussing the reasons why they originally wished to reach the summit Mount Everest; one of the character’s response instantly struck me and opened up my heart to what was ahead:
“I’m climbing Mount Everest… because I can… because to be able to climb that high and see that kind of beauty that nobody ever sees, it’d be a crime not to.”
That’s when it hit me. During the previous weeks I had been balancing on an edge; my mind almost sinking into completely destructive doubt and into the undermining questions repeating in my head: Why do I want to come back so bad? Why risk failure? Why risk another, more serious injury? Why voluntarily put yourself on the racks of physical pain and psychological anguish for my foreseeable future? Why do I train?
I rewound this scene in Everest multiple times, even writing it in my journal — because that was my why. I found my mountain. I had my mantra.
After four weeks of no physical training, I returned to the gym. I began the program I had so meticulously planned while I was home — the first step on my mountain’s incline.
During my first workout I was pissed. Everything was terribly hard and a set of ten reps on the bench press felt like a 2,000. Still, even though I had lost much of my physicality, my mind was on fire. I was boiling with anger and sincere dedication to something I loved, a passion visible in my eyes and in my drenched t-shirt.
Today as I write this, I vividly remember myself saying out loud between sets “Climb the mountain.” The volume would rise and curse words were carefully placed to update the phrase as I threw my weights down after each set. (Thankfully the music was loud so no one heard me. I wanted to train, not embarrass myself!)
But the truth is, that mantra saved me. And it continues to save me today.
So, now I implore you to find your mountain. Find the reason why you do this. We all have various stories and completely different lives. Find what is unique to you; find that personal goal, that sliver of a moment that first brought you through our doors. Make it a battle. Fill it to the brim with passion and pure discipline in pursuit of reaching your own proverbial summit. Once you have found it, once you have your mountain in your sights, don’t veer your eyes from the top.
Because once you find your mountain, you have to climb it. What other option is there? To stop and turn around? Go back to base camp? All that will do is give you temporary comfort, and you should never desire fleeing comfort in life. Your summit holds the ability to bring you a new sense of comfort and confidence into your life. So make it your mission to do away with the pull of a temporary escape from the harshness of your summit attempt. You know the pain, and you love it. More than that, you want it. That’s why you found this mountain. You want a life of impassioned turbulence in pursuit of a noble, clear-eyed, full-hearted goal.
On the mountain you do not want relief from the crushing winds of a pursuit. You do not want relief from the rising and broken steps and valleys of progress. You want to be on the incline, in the breach of your battle; you want impassioned turbulence.
You found this mountain. You brought yourself here. Now it requires everything you got.