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The CrossFit Games have come and gone.  What were your thoughts? If you are anything like me, you thought “how is that possible?” We set our DVRs, we tune our satellite radio, and we glue ourselves to the television to watch elite athletes perform at the highest level. Week after week, in boxes around the country, we watch these people, seemingly average humans, attain greatest with their bodies. But, how do they do it? Is there some magic formula that causes these people to achieve amazing times, heavy lifts, or record speeds? How does an average athlete become a phenomenal elite athlete?

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If there is a secret formula, we all want a part of it. No matter the sport, the greats got there through ways some of us could never dream of. Sometimes it’s genetics. Sometimes we see families where athletics seem to run in their blood like brown hair. Sometimes athletes are born with the ability to perform their sport. In a recent interview 2016’s Fittest Man, Matt Fraser, discusses lifting in his youth and what they looked like for him. It was in his blood. However, not every athlete is born in to athletic prowess, and that doesn’t make it easy for that athlete. So, how do these athletes come to be the standard by which we measure ourselves? Passion, intensity, pride, mental fortitude. All of these attributes play a pivotal role in transforming an average athlete into elite.

Elite athletes must commit themselves to a training routine at which most of us would shudder. To be able to do this, a passion must come from somewhere we can scarcely imagine. An elite runner truly loves to run. They like the smell of the air in the morning, the sounds of their shoes gliding off the pavement, the feeling of the wind aiding them in their journey. It’s not just a run, but an expedition. To a CrossFit athlete there is nothing better than the feel of the barbell in their hand, and the sound of the weights crashing to the ground after a successful lift. To be an elite athlete, you have to love what you do. It becomes part of your soul. It’s just who you are.

It’s a look in their eye. Have you ever trained next to an elite athlete? Have you ever shared the same space as they prepared for their next big event? There is intensity in the air that cannot be matched. Had a bad run? You do it again. The round didn’t go as planned? You do it again. The way they push themselves is something most of us cannot understand. Intensity cannot be taught. There is no class on how to be intense during your workout. There is no way to copy the intensity of the person next to you. It’s the fire in your belly. It’s the constant desire to keep moving, to do better, to make it to the next level. Bad days come to every athlete. Things don’t always go as planned, but when you feel the intensity the elite feel, you wipe yourself off and you move on. You search for that feeling, that passion, that keeps you coming back.

Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” In essence, greatness is not obtained through random acts, but of constant and persistent hard work. Elite athletes are not handed a manual and told to show up. They do the work. They pour out the effort. They demand excellence, even in the midst of failure. The elite stand out because they do things and train in ways we regular folks cannot even dream of, and are often times scared of.  There are no days off when you are an elite athlete. You may have rest and recovery days, but there is always some aspect of training to be done. Mobility, mental training, or simply resting are all part of the preparation for an elite athlete. It’s not about what is done when you feel good. It’s about what is done every day. What is accomplished every time you lace up your shoes and do work.

Most of us will never experience the life and training of an elite athlete. We will never walk in their shoes and understand the strength and adversity they must take on day after day. For the athletes who do walk that path, it’s important to understand how and why. These men and women have a passion, an intensity, a drive, and a willingness to learn. Prominence is not handed to them. They don’t expect success every time they step into an arena, but they know the winning formula. They hold the secret many of us only dream of knowing. It’s not luck and it’s not happenstance. It’s a combination of mental fortitude, consistency, passion, and pride that turn these athletes into elite. So, sit back and watch. It’s going to be an amazing site to behold.