Anyone who has experienced one knows exactly what it is. Anyone who trains hard, has played high school football, practices martial arts or otherwise engages in a lifestyle of strenuous physical activity has experienced it many, many times. Hell, I've had three in the last week alone. It can happen during the steep uphill of a hardcore trail run. It can happen during a semi private training session or Spartan Training class that you knew was going to be a nightmare.
It might happen during conditioning drills in tennis camp or a cross training workout. It happens all the time when you're rolling in Jiu Jitsu or in the fifth round of sparring in Muay Thai. It's always there, lurking around the edges of your training, seeking out the perfect moment to spring into your workout like a crack-addled Jack-in-the-Box.
The "Holy Sh**" moment.
If you've ever trained, really trained, trained HARD, you know exactly what it is. It is the moment, during training, when a sudden, overwhelming and blood-freezing reality swallows you, and you think:
"Holy sh**. I don't think I'm gonna make it through this."
The HS Moment has deep and historic roots. I have no doubt that the first Greek wrestlers in the first Greek Olympics experienced it. Anyone who has seen Ali-Frazier III has witnessed two guys experience it. It's the "I've got nowhere else to go!" moment in An Officer and a Gentleman with Lou Gossett, Jr. staring down contemptuously at Richard Gere doing push ups in the mud and the rain. It's Pete Sampras blowing chow on the court during the U.S. Open. It's what Pheidippides would have felt on his run to Athens from the Battle of Marathon had the moment ever happened.
But here's the interesting thing about the HS Moment: For all of it's misery and fright, for all of it's lung-busting discomfort, for all of it's against-human-nature-ness, it's a really important moment for people who are driven to really progress, excel and improve in their training. It's a necessary evil in the pursuit of advancement. If you're NOT experiencing the HS Moment in your training, what the hell are you doing?
In an earlier post, I talked briefly about the principle of overload. In short, the principle of overload states that, in order to advance in your fitness, you must progressively place demands on your body that are beyond those which you have placed on it in the past. In other words, you must force your body to endure unfamiliar stress in order to induce adaptation, which is the process of your body improving it's conditioning in response to the work load placed upon it.