My assumption was that since he was better trained than I was, with better technique, that he'd find his most extreme workouts easier than I would mine. And so his answer surprised me:
"When you are working at the very limits of your ability, do you think you find squats easier than I do when I'm working at my limits?"
There was no conceit in his answer. He was simply stating it as it was. Working at the limits of his ability, he put himself through a far more punishing and painful routine than I did. I realized that a major success factor in body building was the mind. It was true that my friend Marc was physically better trained than I was. But the difference in our respective mental training was even greater. He had trained himself to push himself harder than a normal person (a.k.a. me) thought was possible. He had trained himself to know that when the pain is so great that you think you are damaging yourself (and in serious weight training you often are), you can still push even harder.
"After a max leg workout, I sometimes throw up. I can barely walk, and have to hold onto the wall to stop myself from falling down."
It reminds me of a scene from the movie "Bravo Two Zero", in which a British SAS patrol encounters an Iraqi force. True or not (the details are disputed), the account is impressive, particularly where once the attack is underway, the SAS start to advance towards the numerically superior opposing force. Most normal humans would have cowered in the dust, but not the SAS (2:06 in the following video):
Again, the mind is key. McNab's character in the movie admits that he was scared. "Of course you're afraid. Anyone who says they're not is either lying or needs to see a shrink." But when the crucial moment arrives, past training comes to the fore. The fear remains, but the individual is able to focus on what needs to be done. The same happens in a scene I mentioned before, in "Band Of Brothers":
The difference between Blithe and Speirs was not the presence or lack of fear or of real danger. The difference was in their mental ability to control that fear, and to operate despite that danger. I think there are lessons here for the coming year. True, running and screaming war cries at a global economic crisis aren't going to make it go away. Unlike the Iraqi force, toxic assets aren't going to turn back into high grade investments just because we keep our nerves. But scaring the enemy is only one reason for advancing in the face of fire. Another is the effect it has on you, the underdog; the one being attacked. Like the body builder, you often don't know how far you can push yourself until you try. And a third reason is the training effect. This is not the final economic crisis. We will come through this, and there will be others in future. So this is a rare opportunity to train and learn. We should use it.