My mom was a collegiate runner, and she instilled her disciplined training ethic in me. It would take years for me to understand the profound impact her influence had, and how I learned to cope with suffering in such a way that I can now accept pain and push through my thresholds. The most profound lesson she taught: you push yourself to the brink, and you learn how to recover on the downhill.
It has taken years, but I’ve learned how to apply this method. I’ve pushed into and through injuries, I’ve run until I’ve puked or nearly shit my pants, and trained until the back of my hands were bloody and raw–my fingers too swollen to close. Anything new comes with a learning curve, and when it comes to becoming physically attuned it’s a sharp one. The trick here is consistency.
You must understand that if you are going to become proficient, especially when endurance is involved, you’re going to face serious physical suffering. It will pass. When it does pass, you will find reprieve in the downhill. But don’t kid yourself, because there is no way around this.
Runners will battle learning how to breath, and how to cope with oxygen debt; they will battle with hills, and establish a baseline to build on. Climbers will thrutch up climbs with bad technique, over gripping and ripping their hands open until they put in the time needed to hone the skills required in the vertical world. All will face fear: maybe fear of failure, or doubt of their aptitude to navigate a situation, or maybe question the risk of proceeding through the pain into a new threshold. Push through that shit, and try not to bite off more than you can chew. This takes a lot of patience and self-awareness.
Eventually you will bite off more than you can chew, if you’re invested, and it will require reaching down deep to find the strength required to proceed, and the ability to use the mind to conquer the body. Failure is often a choice, or the inability to adjust to your circumstances–whether onset by an unrelenting pace or distance, or lack of preparation and resources. Mistakes don’t happen, we make them.
When you sit down with any seasoned vet of a particular discipline they will surely have books worth of experience testifying to the mistakes they made early on. I once misjudged the water I needed for a 20 mile endurance run and ended up crawling, between fits of vomiting and delirium from dehydration, 5 miles out of a canyon. That was bad preparation and worse judgement; a move indicative of inexperience, yet necessary for my growth as an adventure athlete. I learned to stop, and that it was possible to push into danger zones where life was not sustainable.
Everything in life has its uphill treks, and the only real way to cope and deal with those times is to find a sustainable pace that wards off burn out. The real trick is how we approach the less intense intervals. In running, as my mom has taught me, we learn to adapt so that we can recover without relenting on the downhill. We use the terrain to assist us in our recovery. Life is no different. We play to our strengths and understanding of ourselves based on experience and preparation.
The end result is a new approach and understanding to adversity. We don’t fight the constant when we don’t have to. We save our fight for the intense intervals, and train so that we can restore actively. It’s not the intensity that wears people down, but the never ending process of life. There is no stopping, because there is no need when we learn to trust ourselves and modify our approach as needed.
In order to transcend average you must apply extraordinary techniques and reach beyond your conception of capability, and sometimes, on the cutting edge, defy what is thought humanly possible.