It is damn loony that the sun is 95 MILLION miles away and can cause the sweat from my brow to ride the bridge of my nose into my eyes. Think about it. The heat commuting from our neighborhood’s nuclear reactor of a space blimp leads me to sweat, while the largess of it’s gravity redirects the sweat straight to the surface of the two orbs within my skull that allow me to navigate my surroundings.

“Ninety three million?” I say under my breath, “Feels closer.” And I hear my father adjust in his chair, leaning forward, forearms on his thighs. It’s Spring Break, 1999. And by maybe noon, on any given day when I should be doing kid things, I’ve already shot the basketball I’m talking to several hundred times.

Two dribbles, deliberate and exact. Then I’d spin the ball within my palms, dribble once more, raise my eyes to the hoop and shoot. My father, sitting in the safe haven of the shade just inside the garage door would watch my release, the action of the ball on the rim, and the result. The ball would fall through the net and I’d jog to retrieve it.

“Soft hands.” He’d say as he sat back, recrossed his legs, holding his jaw with his strong hand in the way men do when they want to look like they’re serious in assessment.

He meant I needed to relax in my follow through. Forcing the ball into the intended trajectory is not how you cultivate a jump shot. Or in this case, a free throw.

Tens minutes into this process of shoot, observe, retrieve, repeat, my father would stand, fold his lawn chair and hang it on the garage wall and as he turned to walk back into the house he’d say, “100.”

The assigned task was to make 100 free throws in a row. If I missed, I’d shoot the remainder to establish a percentage and then I’d start over.

A few weeks before I’d thrown up a dud in the final seconds of a game that now, as an adult, I do not remember as significant, but in that year of my youth felt like my sole purpose for living. The game had been lost and I was the player who’d had an opportunity to win it.

This sounds nuts, right? Shooting all them jumpers. But, I’d be willing to bet, having not shot a basketball in what has to be a year, I could make a hundred free throws in a row if the fate of all mankind hung in the balance. All due to the repetitions from before.

These are the unseen hours. This is the discipline.

Fitness is just this. And the frequency with which people think it’s not is damn near slapstick comedy to the enlightened. My lesser exercise-inclined friends will say dismissive things such as “Well you have a good metabolism,” in regards to my fitness. This is an effortless and empty excuse in refusing to validate my application of true discipline. For this, I do not blame them because they cannot know.

Liken it to appreciating the creation of art. Not that I’m art. But that learning to paint or sculpt is an accomplishment itself. Even if no one knows you possess this skill set, when you gamble through the galleries of the world you have an almost arcane knowledge of the pieces you look upon.

At 3:50 AM, for YEARS, my alarm would arrive, extracting me from a dream like a rescue diver plucking a poor sap out of mismanaged waters. My feet would find the floor and I wouldn’t have to think about what to wear. Black shorts, grey shirt, white socks, and a pair of Nike Pegasus 2’s. The standard PT garb for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. By 0800 I’d have burned off the morning frigidity through nothing more than repeated perseverance.

One day, it was automatic. The early call to salute the flag was a jump shot. Monday formation runs that reached 10 miles more times than not became space for me to enrich a productive mentality in moments of physical anguish. Through constructive recurrence (habit building) free from the expectation of praise for completion, I found freedom in growth.

These are the unseen hours. This is the discipline.

True story, I never got another opportunity to shoot a game-winning free throw. But, who cares. Triumph lays in wait within the work.
This principle, applied to fitness, cannot be defeated. One wake up at a time becomes years of focused, virtuous and healthy life. Small victories in what seem to be inconsequential battles mature into wars you’ve won. A single jump shot can win a championship.

Think about it.