Suicides, Sweat and Success

My basketball career was short lived. In fact, it was cut short before it really got going. I broke my ankle in my junior year of high school. I couldn’t try out for the varsity team. And in my day, if you didn’t play in your junior year, you didn’t make the squad your senior year. So my hoop dreams ended early in life.

But here’s what I’ll always remember from those early years of playing competitive ball… suicides.

Suicides are brutal. Your legs hurt. Your lungs burn. Your heart pounds. But quitting isn’t an option. You have to keep going. And at the end of it, you’re left drenched in sweat.

While my basketball career never blossomed, I did form a life-long love affair with sweat. It’s a love affair that I’ve learned a lot of people have with sweat. Sweat symbolizes a lot of things for people.

People, of course, I have my own reasons I love sweat. Here are my 5 reasons I love sweat.

1. Sweat serves as a signal. Sweat tells me things about my body. It gives me a sense of how hard I’m working–be it at CrossFit, on a jog, or chopping wood. If I’m sweating intensely, it’s my internal gauge telling me that I’m working hard. And if I’m sweating profusely, it’s a sign I need to drink water to stay hydrated. I value these signals.

2. Sweat stings. OK, I’m getting into masochistic territory here, but sometimes, my sweat stings. Especially on dry summer days, the sweat on my forehead gives me a stinging sensation—or maybe a tingling sensation is a better way to describe it. In the same way that the tingling in my mouth after I brush my teeth makes them feel clean to me, that tingling on my forehead makes my face feel clean.

2. Sweat cleans. For thousands of years, various cultures have subscribed to the notion that you can “sweat out the poison” in your body. Be it aboriginal sweat lodges, Turkish bath houses or Finish saunas, people around world have subscribed to the notion that sweat cleanses for centuries. And according to a Journal of Environmental and Public Health review, all these people are onto something real. The paper reported that sweat excretes toxins such as bisphenol-A, cadmium, toxic trace metals and mercury.

3. Sweat lasts. Often times, I’ll get my body revving high enough during a workout that I end up sweating for a good 10 minutes after my workout. That entire time—during the post workout high—the sweat is a sweet reminder of the hard work I just put in.

4. You can’t fake sweat. This is, by far, my favorite thing about sweat. Sweat is 100% real, yet it’s also one of life’s greatest metaphors. I can feel it trickling down my skin, but I also take enormous satisfaction and pride in the fact that it’s a badge of hard work. And when I’ve worked really hard, when I’ve truly pushed myself… that badge covers my entire body. And there is no faking it. Sweat doesn’t lie. If I’m sweating, that means I was working hard. And there’s something pure, authentic and beautiful about that.

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