What’s stronger? The muscles or the mind?

September 19, 2011 — Leave a comment

September 19, 2011

Challenging yourself is the key to growing. If you never test your limits, you’ll be destined for mediocrity.

Recently, I was experiencing writer’s block, and I couldn’t put together more than two coherent sentences simultaneously. I knew it was time to get away from the computer; I also hadn’t challenged myself physically in a while.

The answer to both of these problems was to get a good sweat going. New Orleans offered up a perfect occassion on this day since it was around 90 degrees with 90% humidity. When I walked out of the air conditioning, it felt like I stepped into an oven.

It was early summer, so my body hadn’t been exposed to major heat while running, and my previous runs were only around 2-3 miles each. I made a goal to run over 6.5 miles.

Things started out as usual, only notably hotter. The first half mile is more challenging then you would think because your mind and body aren’t quite into it yet. An initial burst of running probably tells our bodies we must be on a short run after prey or away from prey. It pumps some adrenaline, but the body probably doesn’t think it will last.

So you force yourself through it, feeling the predictable pains in the joints and tiredness in the legs. Quitting now would feel pretty good, but I must run through it and wait for the runner’s high to kick in.

My runner’s high happened just as I approached the park. It’s a beautiful park in New Orleans; I love to run through it so maybe that was the inspiration that brought the high. My body’s pains stopped and my heart and brain were on board.

Mile two started near the levee and I started to feel the heat. The levee has no trees or shade. It’s a desert of sun that holds back the largest movement of water in North America, the Mississippi River. I felt like I was running upstream, but I didn’t experience the welcome relief of water cooling me down.

Few people were even out at this point even though it was mid-afternoon. There were some bicyclists and a few runners. Most signs of life were driving by in the comfort of their air conditioned rides. Where would we be without air conditioning?!

Miles 3-4 continued on the levee. My mind was kept busy by the sites of the Mississippi, but my legs started to remind me that we should end soon. The tiredness I felt now was different than the tiredness felt initially. Initially, it was a fake tiredness attempting to give my brain a way to rationalize quitting. My current tiredness was more true as it was earned by the previous few miles.

I didn’t quit earlier, and I wouldn’t quit now. Eminem was encouraging me through my iPhone:

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you want it, you better never let it go…”

My legs reluctantly continued.

Mile 5 brought relief from the levee. It was good timing as I felt that my body couldn’t have much left in the sweat tanks, and my decision not to wear sun block was negatively paying off.

The relief was from leaving the levee and heading back down St. Charles Ave where I found inspiration in the surrounding beauty of old mansions and massive oak trees. This didn’t inspire my legs though.

At this point, my brain joined in the revolt that my legs started, and it continued in the reinforcements that I should quit soon.

“There are way too many reasons not to be doing this. For God’s sake, you could give yourself a heart attack! Haven’t you ever seen Dateline when people in good shape die when they push themselves too hard?”

My brain and legs were against me; making continuing even harder. Alas, a shortcut! I could take it and be home pretty soon! Stop it brain, it wasn’t time yet. My legs, brain, and body were all against me now. My goal was to run over 6.5 miles, and I wasn’t there yet.

With my legs and brain wanting to quit, what kept pushing me? My soul.

Our souls are the stronger than our muscles and our mind. When all else has come to agreement and wants to quit, it’s your last hope.

Mile 6 found me checking my watch every few seconds. My brain was living with the fact that I wasn’t going to stop, but it wanted me to remind me that my goal was close.

My legs didn’t feel pain anymore. It gave me the sense of floating because they were nearly numb. Sweat was pouring as my body happily released the toxins that had been building for days.

I hit 6.6 miles right as I got home. My legs and brain rejoiced in the accomplishment as I quickly came inside the cool house. My soul wasn’t surprised; it knew I could hit my goal the whole time. Once inside, I sat down and wrote this post; my writer’s block subsided.

It doesn’t matter what obstacles are in the way; the heat, tiredness, doubts, or danger. When we find our passion, our soul knows. It will guide you there and then keep you going, ignoring the warnings from your brain that it’s impossible, or the warnings from your body that it’s just too much work.

Giving up is the easy way out. If you take the easy way out, even once with a minor activity such as meeting your running goal, it will be easier to give up on something else later. You can’t quit.

These are the same feelings I went through when I had my breaking point, and I fought my way out of $50,000 in debt. It would have been easier to go back to my familiar way of living; spending like I had no worries and not saving any money. However, if I gave up then, I’d be in a deeper hole and bigger mess today.

Have you pushed yourself pass your limits lately? Let me know about it in the comments.


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