Jun9ThuJune 9, 2016
Last summer, I spent many weekends running in Gatineau Park, pushing the envelope a little more each time as the ski season quickly approached. I enjoy training in solitude in the woods where I can be alone with my thoughts, reflect, and think through problems.
The trails are challenging and unforgiving, especially because my normal training is centred on heavy resistance training and (ski specific) explosive exercises, not endurance running.
On a typical run, it doesn't take long before the terrain begins to wear on me.
The ups and downs of the trails not only cause my lungs to feel fatigued, but also give my legs a nice steady burn.
Although I enjoy exploring the park for new trails, there is one that I visit regularly that is roughly 5km in and 5km out.
I don't mind that it's slightly more popular than other trails. In fact, it's good motivation to see people’s bewildered faces as I subconsciously pick up my pace and fly by them, making myself out to look like some sort of SEAL team six member.
After completing the run several times, I noticed a pattern in the pain levels I experienced during different phases of the run.
It usually went like this:
I start running, and within the first ten minutes all heck breaks loose in my mind. All I can think of is “why would I think this was a good idea? I’m clearly not a runner” or “is that my breathing, or has Big Foot come along for an afternoon jog?”
This initial phase is all about mental suffering, and it gets worse before it gets better.
After about 2.5 km of trying to maintain a steady pace up pitch after pitch, I’m amazed at how many excuses my mind is able to pump out at me.
Some make more sense than others.
“Hey genius, you forgot your water bottle again” or, “if you turn back now you have less of a chance of getting a parking ticket”.
Despite the barrage of negative thoughts I usually find a way to continue on.
Around the 4km mark, the pain gets much more physical and really starts to take a toll.
The mental struggle in my mind also reaches a pinnacle and it takes everything I have to put one foot in front of the other.
I used to think this was the end of the road when it came to training. That if I was both physically and mentally spent there was nothing more to give.
On one of my runs that summer I found out that this preconceived notion was in fact false.
A strange thing happened when I decided to push a little further and kept saying to myself “just to the next corner”, “keep pushing until that ridge.”
The pain had stopped.
I still felt fatigued but the physical pain and mental suffering I had been experiencing was drastically dulled down from where it had been previously.
I can only describe it as a meditative state.
My mind had finally overcome those nagging thoughts and decided to disregard the physical pain I was feeling, perhaps because it was apparent that I wasn't stopping.
I had finally found a way to shut my mind off or at least control it to do as I commanded.
The rest of the run was pure joy with my body succumbing to my mind’s control and my mind being guided by my will and spirit to keep running.
After attending the Warrior seminar in Toronto, I began to understand why training physically is important (beyond getting a beach body or setting a new personal best time).
It’s about having discipline over your own body.
If you have ever trained for an extended period of time, say for a race or a personal weight goal, then you have most likely had at least one training session when you felt like you could just keep going and going on a seemingly endless source of energy and motivation.
If you haven’t, I’ll tell you it’s a great feeling.
Some would call this a state of “flow”, when the difficulty of a skill or exercise lines up perfectly with your skill set, fitness, and level of motivation.
Flow is a great feeling and is very useful for the day of a competition, but the Warrior mentality is focused on the journey, not the outcome.
THE WARRIOR MENTALITY IS FOCUSED ON THE JOURNEY, NOT THE OUTCOME.
Some of the best training experiences I’ve had have been times when I didn't really feel like training at all.
On these days I felt I just had to get into the car and drive to the gym or the trail head and start whatever workout I had planned.
It starts with a simple decision.
The beauty of starting with a simple yes or no decision is that you haven’t committed to anything painful yet.
You might be thinking, 'sure I can act like I’m motivated, but who am I kidding?"
If you associate the intensity of your workout with how you’re feeling at that given moment or how close or far you are away from achieving your goals, you will most likely “sandbag” the workout to a degree (as coach Yurij says).
Alternatively, if you deeply associate your workout performance with a PRINCIPLE THAT IS ROOTED IN YOUR IDENTITY, you will not so easily allow yourself to coast.
Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself every time you are training in the pain, “am I able to go a little harder here? Is this my actual limit, or a limit I have made for myself to avoid discomfort?”
It comes down to being honest with who you are at that moment and acknowledging where your real limit lies.
It’s easy to lie to yourself if this mechanism is not set in place.
Doubting if what you’re doing will make a difference is a common one for me, but I’m certainly not going to believe the web of lies my mind has created. That would be letting down my own character and identity because of some pain that is temporary.
It would be foolish to give up on a paper because of a little spelling error, so why would you give up on a workout because of a little pain?
The motivational speaker Les Brown says it well. “The human spirit is powerful! It’s hard to kill the human spirit!”
I believe this to be true for everyone, but some people haven't figured out how to properly harness the spirit.
Every Warrior seminar begins with a run starting at five in the morning.
The reason for this is to establish a principle: THE RUN IS YOUR LIFE.
By adopting this mindset, training “FULL OUT” becomes almost automatic.
Another motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, says “at the end of your feelings is nothing, but at the end of every principle is a promise.”
So what has changed?
The pain is still there, but the motive is different.
There will always be discomfort and suffering, but when the identity is lined up with the purpose behind the training, then you can be truthful to yourself as to what effort you’re putting forward. I believe that this principle expands to all areas of life, but can be trained best and most simply by disciplining the mind through physical exertion. Of course, there always needs to be time to take it easy and there is definitely a time for recovery.
The Warrior principle ‘trainHARD’ did not teach me to blindly overwork myself. Rather, it pushed me to be completely honest with where I’m at and what my actual limits are on any given day.
This way when doubt inevitably creeps into my mind, I have already determined how far I can push myself.
Take full responsibility for your training.
Olexa is our guest blogger this week. He is an Alpine ski racer who has competed at the highest level in North America. His life embraces training in the pain. He is currently a student athlete studying Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa