David Johnston - TEAM Warrior WithinI’ve been getting nervous lately. A little afraid. Which is odd– fear is not an emotion I entertain often. I learned long ago that fear is a useless emotion, meant to hold one back, designed to make you second-guess, when, in reality, gut reactions and first instincts tend to win the game. We never fully know in advance if a decision is “right”, or if it will pay off as intended. And the more afraid we are– the more we second guess– the more we water down our strengths, passions, and desires.

But lately I’ve been thinking, forecasting, what it will be like to go back into contest prep mode come January. I know the pain the lies ahead. I know the suffering, the misery, the grueling days that bleed one into the next, with no time to breathe, sit, relax, reflect.

I know the switch the needs to be flipped, and I know it’s been a while since I flipped it. For the first time in my life, I am starting to enjoy some “creature comforts”. Maybe it’s old age. Maybe the colossal chip on my shoulder has finally started to melt away. Maybe the joy of a beautiful daughter has made it so that I feel nothing left to prove to the world at large.

But I’m still surrounded by bad-asses and wannabe-bad-asses: those who have chosen to separate themselves from the pack, to be superheroes, gods and goddesses among men. I’m surrounded by, and help guide, those who bear the burden of contest prep– the hunger, fatigue, and insanity that comes from month after month of running on fumes, with nothing but adrenaline and purpose to fuel one’s day. I have been blessed to be surrounded by experienced competitors, those who take the suffering and greedily ask for a second helping; and on the flipside, I have been surrounded by those who think they enjoy that suffering, but truly lack the testicular (or ovarian) fortitude– physical, mental, and spiritual– to do what is necessary, day-to-day, to take that leap and separate oneself from the pack, to truly become a walking sculpture of flesh and sinew made real.

And I know my time is limited– the days where I can sleep an amazing six hours will likely be shortened to four; the weekends when I can enjoy a meal with my family that is not 100% prescribed weeks in advance; the moments when I have energy to spare. I know that it’s almost time to get back on that horse, and make misery my companion-in-arms one last time, as we launch our onslaught on the stage.

But more importantly, I know in my heart of hearts that I need to do it one last time– that I have one more dance within me, to show the world, my friends, my family, my daughter Raven, what can be brought to life with hard work, consistency, discipline, and pride. I know I need to show the end-product of 13 years of bone-crushing workouts, countless miles on the stepper, and enough bland food to choke a nation.

I know I have one more round in the tank. Like Rocky’s trainer Micky used to say, “I didn’t hear no bell”.

And I know that nervousness never did shit for anybody, other than stop them from achieving greatness. I know that fear did nothing but choke dreams out of the hearts of those too cowardly to endure the temporary pain, in favor of a greater goal.

So I look forward to that final dance, with misery by my side, her sisters hunger and exhaustion just a few steps behind. I guess that chip on my shoulder hasn’t fully melted yet.

Still waiting to hear that final bell. And it hasn’t rung yet.