Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mind over matter ain't no joke, son!

I tried to find something to rhyme with "mind over matter" but all I could come up with was something involving a mad hatter, which didn't seem quite right. For any that are offended, I also deeply apologize for my incorrect grammar using the word "ain't" in my title. The words just come to me and I must obey their wishes....haha, that sounded appropriately pretentious and artsy.

Anyway, back on topic. Mind over matter. What the heck does that mean? Is it just some phrase people put on inspirational sports posters or does it actually have meaning? It has a lot of meaning to me, especially these past few weeks when I have been driving myself particularly hard. It's about not giving up even when every cell of your being screams at you that you should just stop already. Chris Powell once wrote to me (name drop alert lol) that my mind will try to get me to stop long before my body actually will give out. That is so true. Yet, your mind tries to continually trick you. It tries to tell you that you really can't handle any more. That it's okay to quit this one time. And even though my quitting that one time will not make a difference really in how much weight I lose, it sets a precedent. A precedent that says it's okay to to flake on a promise you made to yourself.

For the past couple of months, in addition to my regular gym workouts, I have been getting up at 4:30 am to run and do a strength-training circuit. I would say the first example of mind over matter here is actually managing to get up out of bed at that ungodly hour. I do my best to ignore the clock as it is just too painful to see the numbers. And then having to face 8 miles of running? My willpower and persistence is not really in peak form at 4:30 in the morning. I have to rely on a combination of being half awake and knowing that I have never once regretted a morning workout once it was done in order to get me through.

I do a one mile loop around my apartment complex that consists of running short distances between strength training stations. At each station, I alternate between burpees, sit-ups, push-ups, leg raises, lunges, and side leg-raises. Then I run out on the road 3 miles and then run back 3 miles, before completing another strength-training circuit. It's a lot. I'm drenched in sweat and have to physically wring my hair out when I'm done. Even now, after doing this for 2 months, it seems daunting every morning. So I use a lesson I learned at the very beginning of this journey. Don't look at the big picture. It seems almost counter-intuitive, as we are all usually told again and again to look at the big picture. But I know when I started this journey, I couldn't even think about the fact that I needed to lose almost 200 lbs. It was way too overwhelming. I focused on losing 10 lbs, or 5 lbs, or whatever amount of weight seemed manageable to me. And that's exactly what I do on these runs. I don't think about the fact that I need to run 8 miles. I break it up. Some mornings I'm more motivated and can think about 1 mile at a time. Some mornings it's all I can do to focus on passing one streetlight at a time. But it gets done. I very literally accomplish it one step at a time. And if I set my goal at 8 miles, I do 8 miles. I don't do 6 or 7 or even 7.99 miles. I do 8 because that is what I promised myself I would do. I finish what I start every single time. That means something to me because in the past I wouldn't have thought twice about quitting early. I didn't think twice about cheating myself.

Many people think that working out is primarily about the physical. And obviously, that plays a role. But I think the act of pushing your body beyond what you thought it was capable of is a mental game first and foremost. It's all about the mental strength and fortitude. I've seen day after day that my body is capable of running 8 miles. And yet, my mind still tries to tell me that this day is different, that my body just can't do it today. My mind can sometimes simultaneously be both my worst enemy and biggest strength. Because even when part of it tells me that I can't do this, that my body just can't take it, there is another part that tells me I can do this because I've done it before. That I have strength, both physically and mentally, beyond what I ever thought I was capable of.

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