Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Don't Fear Pain

My body is totally nuked. My legs are devastated. I ran a 10K Sunday with a bunch of friends and it had a massive steep hill in the middle. I can't understate how smash-tastic this hill was. It started out steep, and then it hit a graveled seasonal road that was even steeper. And then you think you're done but then it keeps going. And then you think you're done. But then you're still not.

It hurt a lot.

I'm in the middle of my deadlift challenge, which hammers my legs. And I'm still swimming, biking, and running. Geoffrey tells me that I'm exercising way too much and I don't rest enough. He's a coach so he should know (check out his new page!). But I don't know what I can take out. The lifting challenge is important to me. But I can't cut the cardio because I'm doing an Ironman next year.

So.... Pain it is.

A lot of pain.

I don't advocate training to the point of injury. Or past it. I've done that before. It's not a good idea. I don't even recommend folks exercise as much as I do. I know I'm not being "smart". I'm terrible at following my own advice.

But I'm a big fan of pain.
And I have this in case I forget.
Even before I became a lunatic endurance athlete and lifter, I trained karate (and still do). I started karate 20 years ago. I've suffered bumps, bruises, pulled muscles and tendons, minor fractures, and probably a concussion in there somewhere. I've always been comfortable with pain, and exercise was a natural progression from that.

Pain makes me feel powerful.

That may sound weird, but hear me out. A lot of folks don't like pain. They go through life avoiding it. And by doing so they never really find out what their limits are. I push myself to my limit almost every day. And that limit increases a little every time. I discover how much I can handle, and I watch what I can handle keep growing.

One more thing handled...

I'm a big fan of superhero shows on Netflix. Right now I'm watching Arrow, and it's actually pretty great. He takes a beating in that show. Regularly. I like Daredevil a lot too, and he takes a huge beating all the time too. One may wonder, how can someone take so much punishment and keep on going?

I know how.

And the two examples above are "normal" guys (at least in the sense that they can't fly or shoot lasers out their butts). I can't do a backflip (last time I tried I landed on my face). And just my luck I'd go up against the one guy who didn't go to the Stormtrooper Academy of Shooting. But I can take a heap of punishment, and then do it all over again the next day.

And that's what their strength is: Perseverance. Never stopping in the face of adversity. And a big dose of loving pain.

I can't do what I do without enjoying pain to some extent. But it's not a natural thing, not for most people. It's something you have to learn. I've reprogrammed my brain to equate pain with power. And of course my brain loves the rewards (typically ice cream). I've taught my mushy lazy mind that pain equals good.

Pain = Good

Life is hard. And it never stops being hard. If it's not hard, then you're not pushing yourself enough. But when I look at a challenge, I can say to myself, "this isn't as tough as a 20 mile run, or a set of deadlifts at 350 pounds." Pain makes a lot of things seem a lot easier in comparison.

I don't take things personally. Well, OK, I do. What I mean is that I don't act out of anger. I have hurt people, and they have hurt me back. I don't want to hurt people anymore, and I make a big effort not to. But I don't react negatively if they hurt me. Because that's a thing that happens. And it's a thing I can handle. I can have a difficult conversation with a loved one, and not be scared.

I stare into the face of fear every day. Nobody else is going to push me into the abyss. Push me to make that leap and face that fear head on. Only I can do that to myself. It's easy not to. Really easy. A lot of folks make that choice. They just sort of float. Work their job every day, live in comfort, get fat. A lot of those same folks end up wondering if they could've done more with their lives. By then it's often too late.

I don't want to be that person. I consider myself blessed that I've learned to push myself this hard - and to enjoy pain - at a relatively young age. I still have a lot of time to find joy and success. And that's exciting! I've got the skill down of not surrendering. At this point it's just a matter of fine-tuning how I direct my energy.

There's all sorts of ways to direct one's energy...

That's not easy either. The navigating part. Life is crazy. Waaaay crazy. I don't know if you've checked, but yeah. It's bonkers. But I'm not afraid of that part. I've built my boat. It's just a matter of sailing now. There's plenty of folks still on the shore, staring out over the sea and wondering. But I'm out there on the tempestuous waves, braving the storms.

It's scary. And it's painful. But it's exciting. I don't know where I'll end up, but the trip itself is an adventure.

Life is pain. Love it.

1 comment:

  1. I very much relate to this, and it's certainly possible to push yourself by what about when yesterday's pain affects today's performance negatively?