As a military veteran and endurance athlete, I have heard a lot of reasons to quit over my lifetime. After a while they all become background noise and are often just variations of ones I have heard before. Get ready for some tough love because here is my quitters translation guide:
Excuse 1: “I just need to focus on X right now”- If this is your excuse, you shouldn’t have shown up. You knew how long this event, course or project was going to take before you came here. I’m not saying that you should keep training for that marathon at the detriment of showing up to work, but be realistic. Is there other time in the day you can cutout or multi-task? Do you have to watch a Game of Thrones Netflix marathon? Maybe you could still watch your show while running on the treadmill. This is people backing out of their decision after they realize that while they want the ultimate goal in theory (military tab, black World’s Toughest Mudder headband, Death Race Skull, GoRuck patch, marathon finisher medal), but they did not realize it was going to require this much work.
Excuse 2: “I don’t want to risk permanent damage”- One of my all-time favorite excuses. While I am not going to say it is impossible to do permanent damage, I will say it is improbable. Your body will most likely shut down before you can do something permanently destructive to your body. Like I said in the first article in the series, I have been through many training and endurance events and I am yet to meet someone who has caused permanent damage. There are even guys that have finished Army Special Forces Selection despite having a fractured femur but still did not do permanent damage, although I do not recommend trying that and it did require months of recovery. I’ll caveat this with if you are peeing blood or have actually broken a bone (difference between that and my feet hurt), you should probably stop. Bottom line, this is a great excuse if you feel like being quitting but don’t want to tell everyone that you quit.
Excuse 3: “I have hypothermia.” There is a difference between hypothermia and being cold. Everyone gets cold, not everyone gets hypothermia. Where is the line when it becomes dangerous? It is hard to say, but chances are most people are still far away from it when they quit. If the medics are not allowing you back on the course or in the training because the rectal thermometer is saying your core temperature is down then you have hypothermia. Otherwise there is a good chance you are just cold and don’t want to risk getting hypothermia (see Excuse 2). Try running/working harder and your body’s natural heat will help you warm up.
Excuse 4: “This is impossible.” I have heard this one before, but it really means “this is impossible for me because I am too mentally or physically weak and I have given up”. When an instructor asks a team of guys to move a 500 lbs. duffel bag full of sand several miles down sandy roads with each guy carrying 70 lbs. of equipment, someone may utter this phrase. The bottom line is that it is possible, and people prove it every year. Whether it is at a GoRuck, Fuega y Agua, 24 hours of Dirt Runner’s OCR or Military selection, it is possible. When you view things as impossible, you are immediately closing the road which leads to success and guarantying failure.
Excuse 5: “I’ll quit now and come back better prepared next year.” This is the only one that might actually be true. The easier option is to power through whatever you are dealing with right now and not have to come back for redemption. Trust me, coming back at a later time will be mentally more difficult, it is better to get it over with now, like ripping off a Band-Aid. While I have heard his one numerous times, I would say probably 75% or more of the time, the person never comes back. This is a good one (no sarcasm this time) to use if you actually follow through with your promise, to ensure you hold to your goals, I would tell as many people as possible about your decision immediately afterwards. This publicly stated goal will help ensure that you are held accountable for your decision.
Excuse 6: “This is too hard.” Rarely spoken by anyone, but this is one of the only true statements made by people who quit. This is an admission of defeat and acknowledgment that you are in over your head. Also rarely spoken but along the same lines is “I stopped because I wanted to quit and this event broke me”. Anything along those lines is okay. While it is still quitting, it is the first step in admitting that you stopped because you wanted to and not because some fabricated excuse like one of the ones listed above. If you quit, you better own that decision. It is a step in the right direction and will help lead to future resilience.
Hopefully that helps so next time your are slogging through the woods at Death Race, carrying a weighted box at a GoRuck, trying to earn a coveted tab for your military uniform or running laps of some overnight OCR. Now you will know what those thoughts in your head really mean. Go in armed with this knowledge and remove quitting from your list of options. Instead, replace it with the only three options I know, speed up, slow down or continue at the same pace. The finisher’s award will be a point of pride showing perseverance rather than a participant shirt as a reminder of failure.
If you missed Part I: Let’s Talk About Quitting, Part II: The Loudest Are Often The Biggest Quitters or Part III: Why are SOF Good at Not Quitting? you can read them here.
Evan Perperis is a National Strength and Conditioning Association- Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT), a SOF military veteran with 44 cumulative months of combat deployments and an Obstacle Course Racer for the Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Team. He specializes in endurance racing and is also the author of two books, Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR and Mud Run Guide’s Ultra-OCR Bible.