Committed or Interested?

I recently had the chance to participate in a mental conditioning clinic with several other APS athletes. The clinic was led by esteemed CrossFit Coach and former Marine Corps Sniper Joe Roy. I was pleasantly surprised on the heavy focus on teamwork and positivity. As a highly self-motivated athlete, I found a lot of the concepts foreign, but Joe’s logic was irrefutable—in a team sport, you win or lose as a team.
On top of what was a healthy mix of mental and physical conditioning, what stood out to me the most was Joe’s insight. One of the very first phrases out of his mouth was the challenge, “are you committed or interested?”

At APS, we have already established the need to evaluate whether an athlete will be training as a hobbyist, or as an elite competitor, as well as the different connotations of success. I would offer that the next step on the road to greatness is posed by the question “Committed or Interested?”

Interest is self-serving

It’s imperative to condition your mindset when receiving mental conditioning. Committed or interested has nothing to do with the intensity of your training. We’ve already established that training needs to be executed at the right intensity with maximum focus. Any more effort debating this is a waste of breath, and applying any more titles, thoughts, or sentiments is a waste of brainpower.

However, training is largely about interest, not commitment. If not for the endorphins, certainly for the aesthetic appeal that developing your body has. The vast sea of career Instagram models effortlessly proves this point. It’s also a fairly linear manageable trade-off; at the cost of time and effort, you are given aesthetic and physical improvement. Being able to train consistently doesn’t reflect commitment as much as it reflects interest because the exchange rate of time for improvement is very economic—nobody loses.

Commitment is sacrifice

Commitment is accepting a large, but acceptable* tradeoff for a small but significant payoff. Winners and losers aren’t separated by seconds. They’re separated by tenths if not hundredths of a second. A blink of an eye is the difference between a champion and a nobody.

In my last article, this is what I wrote about commitment:

Working hard is a lifestyle discipline, not a highlight reel. You don’t get to stitch together your top moments and put them on social media and pretend that’s how you handle everything. Every waking second of your life is a test to your will to commit to excellence. Training is only a couple hours of your day. The real work comes in the other twenty-odd hours—how you sleep, what you eat, and all the other ways you treat your body. After all, it’s not hard if you bust yourself for a couple hours only to take it easy and slack the rest. You will have to sacrifice for the sake of your training. That’s not debatable.

How much are you willing to give for a hundredth of a second? The first few steps are easy. Foregoing fast food during the week is a good start. The next step becomes on the weekends as well. Then it becomes explaining to your friends why you’re not taking a slice of the pizza, followed by you can’t go to the bar because you need to train the next morning (also, because alcohol has been affecting your workouts). Then it becomes telling yourself to turn the TV off by 8 PM when you’re home alone, drinking a chalky protein shake, and getting ready to hit the hay because you need to train every morning.

Then it becomes the realization that doing this for a month won’t be enough, and it’s going to have to be a year, just to get that 0.01 seconds faster. Compared to the fair tradeoff that training yields, commitment becomes an overwhelming force that dictates a large sacrifice for a modest reward. Commitment is honed through the sacrifices you make to optimize your performance. Optimization is the process of acknowledging small but significant improvements in an effort to be the best. Commitment is the realization that the proper balance of tradeoffs for that fractional improvement is worth it.

Whether you’re a 10.5s 100m runner or a 10.3 100m runner, it’s indisputable that you are fast. However, all it takes is a 10.4s opponent to determine whether you are a winner or a loser.

Remember, winners and losers are separated by the blink of an eye.

*NOTE: I’m going to mention that tradeoffs don’t include negligence. If you have responsibilities as a student, parent, spouse, employee, or teacher, giving those up isn’t sacrifice, but a slight on the responsibility you are trusted with. You’re not sacrificing, you’re being stupid. A well rounded and fulfilling life outside of sport is integral to your mental health and performance as an athlete. Throw out the garbage in your fridge, get better sleeping habits, and be a nicer person to your neighbors before even considering affecting your responsibilities.

James Sa is an APS athlete and wheelchair rugby player for San Diego Sharp Edge. He works full-time as a grant writer and enjoys reading, trying new food, and video games.