The old adage, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” while maybe not universally true, speaks to the level of helplessness that’s inherent to our very being. No matter how hard you work, no matter how prepared you try to be, there comes a time when there’s nothing left to do but succeed or fail. There, in that moment, all you can do is try your best and pray that your best is enough.

In a recent appearance on SOFREP Radio, Jack Murphy, Ian Scotto and I were talking about the differences in our fitness mentalities. Ian thoroughly enjoys the fitness lifestyle. I lift for the same reasons I sharpen my knives, clean my guns, and change the oil in my car. Jack, however, mentioned that he has trouble differentiating between the act of working out and it’s ultimate use as a tool for violence.

“When I work out, I feel like I’m preparing for war,” he explained. Even as a kid, Jack Murphy took to exercise with the intrinsic understanding that eventually, the endeavor culminates in taking lives. He didn’t grow up drinking in dirt floor bars and trying to find excuses to turn rugby games into fist fights like I did, and as such, his appreciation for physical preparation took on a different flavor, but beyond that fundamental difference in our approach, our paths aren’t without common ground.

There are no atheists in foxholes.

For some, religion plays as significant a role in their lives as a loved one, and while I respect that in my spiritual brothers and sisters (and even in my spouse) I’ve always struggled with my own set of beliefs, and through that struggle, a number of superstitions have taken hold. Not everything I do comes with a rational explanation: I wrapped my right wrist for every football and rugby game I played in, from high school, to college, to the Marine Corps. The wrist does give me trouble from time to time, but that’s not why I did it. As a young man, I found that I could deliver a pretty damaging blow to the sides of opposing player’s helmets with a clubbed up wrist, and eventually, I came to feel naked without it. Finally, as I approached my first playoff game in the Marine Corps, our trainer asked why I wrapped my own wrist before every game.

“Because I wouldn’t be any good without it.” I explained, grabbing two roles of tape from his table and forgoing the line to receive professional help in the endeavor. I didn’t need a trainer to wrap my wrist the right way, I needed it wrapped the way I’d always done it.

My old college rugby team didn’t shy away from superstition or tradition — demanding terrible prices be paid from new ruggers that score their first Try (comparable to a touchdown in American football). Shooting the boot is undoubtedly a form of hazing that has likely been banned since, but in my day, your first Try meant your first date with the boot: a cleat, worn in the day’s game, filled with beer and passed around the team for additional … ingredients. Dirt, spit, and worse finds its way into the alcoholic elixir and there, surrounded by a few dozen of your closest friends, you chug the poison from the cleat to the cheers of the crowd. Soon, you find yourself buying ever shorter shorts despite Rugby jerseys sporting collars and, often, long sleeves. Tradition, superstition, holds that the shorter your shorts, the faster you run.

When your shorts are shorter than your underwear… then you really start moving.

In the gym, I lift by myself and have for years. Workout partners have come and gone, but the problem with the buddy system is that you come to rely on your buddy to justify your workout. When your buddy can’t make it, you give yourself a pass on skipping a day; after all, you’d have no spotter. Then your buddy takes a week off, then a month, and before you know it, you’ve both got Type 2 Diabetes together and you’ve got a buddy to help with insulin injections.