I’ve considered dropping out of every one of the best workouts I’ve ever completed. With my body and mind overloaded it simply seemed like too much.
“There’s no way I can hit that split again for this next one. I must stop soon.” I decided. But then, in that moment of resignation, when I’d settled on a plan to quit, I already felt better. While still traveling at the same pace I was more at ease. With the plan to stop in place the effort felt less onerous since my mind was already relaxed. Which, irritatingly, meant I must go on.
Such moments of fear teach us that it isn’t the instant you’re in that’s too much, it’s the extrapolation of that moment multiplied many times over that breaks your brain.
Do not concern yourself with what’s to come.
“Confine yourself to the present.” — Marcus Aurelius
Though I have no insight into what the Roman emperor meant, as a leader during great upheaval it’s safe to assume he faced immense uncertainty and danger. So he managed through reduction, by zooming in and confining fear. Eliminating an indulgent preoccupation with the future that he could not afford.
Neither can you.
To push your body to its peak you must confine your mind and diffuse its protective impulses. While its alerts are sent with noble intent, they’re misguided and exaggerated. Prone to hysteria. Contrary to its fearful protests, you are in fact alright. Safe, if a bit insane. Even as your senses scream otherwise, you are able.
So hang, in this moment, at this speed, under this pressure. Appreciate it for what it is: a preciously brief window of designed discomfort.
If you can, find others willing to join you to gallivant in this garden of distress. Together my teammates and I create psychological safety that normalizes the pain. We slip into a mutual delusion, a warped reality in which paces are possible that I’m never able to manage on my own.
“Focus on the gap, not the rock. If you stare at the rock you’ll steer right into it.” — a friend suggested while mountain biking.
The same could be said for the pain of endurance exertion; focusing on it only seems…