The other night I watched the movie “Miracle” with Kurt Russell about the U.S. hockey team beating the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. I’m guessing it was on TV because of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I LOVE this movie, which is interesting because I could care less about hockey. I grew up in Western New York in a small town halfway between Buffalo and Rochester. Believe me, I knew all about the Buffalo Sabers, and I’d recognize their theme song, the Sabre Dance, if I was in a coma. It’s just like the William Tell Overture forever being recognized as the Lone Ranger song.
One of the reasons I like the movie is because I remember seeing the actual game on TV when I was in college. I went to Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY which isn’t too far from Lake Placid. For some reason, I was in the student lounge when the hockey game was on, and it became more and more exciting when it became apparent the U.S. actually had a chance of winning. Like a lot of people, I was a hockey fan that night.
After watching “Miracle,” though, I realized another reason I like it so much. Herb Brooks, the coach for the U.S. Hockey Team, had both courage and confidence. He had the courage to take on the best hockey team in the world, and the confidence that it could be beaten. And he instilled that confidence in his players who had the courage to face formidable foes.
So that got me to thinking… Which comes first, courage or confidence? Is it courage, because we need it to face certain truths and make changes necessary for our health and wellbeing? Is it confidence because that means being willing to trust our abilities to make the changes? Do we become confident because we have courage? Or do we have courage because we have at least a little confidence in the outcome?
Thinking about this brought me back to when I first started doing CrossFit. The majority of my life I had devoted to elevating couch potato-ness to an art. The photo shows my favorite position – ensconced on the sofa, with cats, doing cross stitch. If I went for a bike ride, it was a big deal. If I walked a mile, it was a VERY BIG deal.
So, as you can imagine, CrossFit scared the daylights out of me. I was the kid picked last in gym class. I would always be the goalie because I didn’t have to run up and down the field, getting sweaty and out of breath. I read all the time. I was skinny and awkward. So what was I doing in CrossFit, in a no frills gym, where everyone else knew what they were doing? I was immediately transported back to Medina High School, 35 years ago.
One time the Workout of the Day (WOD) included a complicated series of lifts. This link shows the moves: Clean to Front Squat to Push Press to Back Squat
I’m guessing we all know how well I did with this. The instructor did his best to explain and show me all the different movements, but what I heard and saw was, “You’re going to juggle these chainsaws. While riding a unicycle. On a tightope 200 feet in the air. With no net. Over a tank filled with sharks.” The tiny bit of courage I had to even lift the barbell fled. Any confidence I had that I could do CrossFit fled. I fled. Into the bathroom to cry. Believe me, there’s crying in CrossFit.
After a few minutes I managed to pull myself together. I had come so far, and had experienced so much in my life, I was not about to be beaten by a piece of metal. Dammit. I had to go back out there. And I didn’t have to do all the repetitions, I just had to do one.
So I marched back out and tried again. I couldn’t do it. Then I figured out the problem. There were too many movements, and I was afraid I would drop the bar on my neck. So I asked the instructor if I could put the bar on a rack and just do the back squats (this is called a modification). He said, “Sure.” I did one back squat that way. I did one more. And one more. Until I did all of them.
This gave me the courage and the confidence to keep going back to CrossFit. Now I can do all the movements with good form.
So which does come first, courage or confidence? I’m thinking that sometimes it’s courage, and sometimes it’s confidence. But most of the time, it doesn’t matter. What matters is being willing to try.