Endurance

Thirteen months and thousands of miles of training had all brought him to this moment. He approached, for the fifth time, the blue tarp, makeshift tent adorned in Christmas lights, welcomed by a blue dinosaur wearing a Santa cap. The volunteers working the aid station were tired, but cheerful, trying to keep each runner that passed through their establishment as comfortable as possible on their quest to reach 100 miles. This landmark was the 15.5 mile marker on a 20 mile loop and this was his last time approaching it, putting him at mile 95.5.

The thrill of the race had been lost to the trail hours before. Every step was pure agony. The repetitive impact of feet meeting trail, rock and root had taken its toll on every ligament and bone. The well of adrenaline was dry. The desire to be done was overwhelming, but the thought of taking just one more step inconceivable. At this point in the race, even with all the effort, determination, focus and training the thought of stopping is there. It’s human response to this type of physical exertion.

So what then, when all the glory of the finish seemed like a mirage, and the pain of enduring 4.5 more miles felt crushing, transpired to propel forward motion? The answer to that question is the topic of this post.

Any time we set a goal, or take on a new project the excitement and newness of the challenge generates an energy that almost effortlessly moves us forward. We are on track, getting it done, proud of our work, patting ourselves on the back and the goal seems well within reach. As time passes we see some results of our efforts and those results fuel the focus to keep pushing. Often the gains that we may have experienced early on begin to slow down, the going gets tough. The option of quitting is there beckoning us back into the hole of a comfort zone we crawled out of in the first place. We question why we ever thought we could do this, how bad do we really want it, is it even possible, we make excuses and we procrastinate. This is the brain’s defense mechanism against doing something it knows is going to be uncomfortable or difficult.

When the newness wears off, the results go unnoticed or unseen, and we arrive at what seems an insurmountable wall separating us from our own personal finish lines, practicing endurance is what eventually delivers the dream. Endurance is the ability to resist, withstand, recover, and have immunity from hardships, disappointments, fatigue and boredom. Developing endurance is achieved by placing ourselves in situations which require us to practice overcoming the aforementioned obstacles little by little. No one who wants to be successful jumps straight into a 100 mile race. Months of training at shorter distances, building endurance is what allows finishers to run, walk or crawl across the line.

The pursuit of any goal in fitness, relationships, career or nutrition requires endurance. Maybe you have been “good all week,” with your nutrition plan and suddenly someone brings your favorite dessert into the office or friends suggest a night of heavy drinking. Perhaps you’ve been busting your butt at work for recognition and a promotion that doesn’t seem to be happening, so you feel like giving up and rationalizing mediocre work. What if you’ve been putting a ton of effort in with your spouse only to feel like there is no reciprocity and you are tempted to resign yourself to a lackluster relationship for the sake of harmony? Those situations are in that moment your mile 95.5. What will you do? Will you exercise endurance and finish the race, or will you disqualify all that you have already invested for the sake of what momentarily feels more comfortable?

Peace, love and running.

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Overcoming Self Sabotage

Actions that interfere with or prevent the achievement of long standing goals are said to be actions of self sabotage. Some examples of self sabotage are also defense mechanisms like: procrastination, substance abuse and food abuse. Many times we are not fully aware that we engage in such behaviors, and worse yet even when we are aware these habits can be very difficult to break. The action performed in the moment seems to improve whatever the situation is, but it ultimately belittles the importance of our goal and growth. If you feel trapped and powerless in a continuous cycle that prevents progress, I am here to tell you that you can escape and you can move forward from whatever it is that has been holding you back.

Self sabotaging actions can come from all sorts of places like conflicting wants, guilt, shame and regret. In reference to the latter three, sometimes due to events in our past we do not feel worthy of obtaining our goals and so even though we say we want the goal, our subconscious will not allow forward motion. We can’t move forward until we let go of the negative self speak, loathing thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness that are holding us back. Conflicting wants are also a great firestarter for self sabotage. An example of this is saying, “I want to be a size 8,” but when confronted with poor nutrition choices we trade the long term desire for the short term gratification. In doing so we create a climate for guilt, shame and regret to flourish which can then lead to MORE self limiting behaviors. One way to deal with conflicting wants is very simple, but requires consistency and willingness to write. Here is an example of how it looks:

Goal Behavior Limiting Behavior What will Limiting Behavior Achieve? 1 Hour Later What will Limiting Behavior Achieve? Is it Worth it?
Eat in moderation: meaning I can enjoy a variety of foods while not exceeding what is necessary for my body Over and binge eating: meaning eating more than my body needs, eating when not hungry, mindlessly eating, eating foods that will not benefit my health b/c everyone else is doing it.  I’ll get to eat that thing I want.I won’t be bored, depressed, lonely or sad.

I won’t have to think about what I regret or feel guilt/shame.

I will feel full and satisfied

I won’t feel empty

I will be just like everyone else, so it’s ok

I got to eat what I wanted.I’m still bored, now more depressed, still lonely and now more sad.

I feel even more regret, guilt and shame, my problems are still there.

I feel bloated, stuffed and fat.

I’m in the company of misery and complacency

Hell No.

So you first figure out what your goal behavior looks like. Then, be brutally honest with yourself about what the behavior is that is holding you back. When you are just about to engage in that limiting behavior write down any thoughts or feelings that you are having and explain how engaging in the behavior will improve your current situation. Then, record what that behavior will achieve an hour from now, and if you do engage in the sabotage write down exactly what you think and feel. In the final column, determine if the self sabotage was worth it.

This method may seem too involved or inconvenient, but if you are struggling with self limiting behaviors and you want to stop, then it’s really not too much to ask of yourself to slow down and identify why you are about to undo all the progress you have made up to that point. When you read how illogical and contrary the limiting behaviors are to your goals in your own handwriting it can help take you in a direction that is a reflection of what the real you really wants and not a representation of maladaptive habits that are stifling your potential.