I talk to myself a lot. During the day, at work, while driving, and especially when I’m exercising. Often its a stream of consciousness, a weird series of connections that I can follow if no one else can. (Like this: listening to a song, a lyric clicks and reminds me of a movie, which reminds me of an actor, whose name makes me think of someone I used to know, which reminds me of their favorite song, which… you get the idea. The rabbit hole is deep, man, so be careful down there.)
During workouts, it’s usually nonsense – “you don’t really need to run all 5 miles today, you can cut it short.” At which point I may tell myself to just finish this mile, and then I keep going and do the whole 5. Normal bargaining stuff and outsmarting myself…. Errr, am I the only one who does this??? Someone? Anyone? Bueller?
Occasionally, though, when it’s a tough one, my inner voice will go darker. I may hear things like I’m wasting my time, why are we doing this, and so on. When it’s really bad, I might hear the two worst words – I can’t. (Is it two words? Can’t is a contraction, so does that count as one word, or is it two by itself? See, there’s that damn rabbit hole again…)
There are some really terrible phrases and words in the English language. “I hate you” comes to mind, for one. But I would argue that one of the worst is “I can’t”. It’s not just a statement, it’s a surrender. When you say you can’t, you are saying you are beaten – and you are done trying.
Like most phrases (including, again, “I hate you”), “I can’t” isn’t generally really meant that way. But once you’ve opened the door to cutting the run short, or stopping the workout, or doing less burpees today because… whatever, you sell yourself short.
This morning, I was struggling badly. I wasn’t feeling it, was fighting everything, body was sore and stiff, head a mess – and yes, my mind dropped that phrase. Not just in passing, either. I vividly remember thinking it, and I froze up for a second. Then I got really pissed at myself. You can’t??? Of course you can! Think of all the things you’ve done the last two years that you never thought you’d be able to do. You can’t???!!! Get up and move!
So, yeah, I thought it and I yelled at myself (I’m telling you, this is a pretty elaborate conversation in my head sometimes!) and I finished the workout. It’s stuck with me all day, though. Why was today such a back-breaker? Why did my brain try and quit, actually quit?
I don’t necessarily have an answer. Yes, there was a lot going on, and I didn’t feel well physically. I am in the middle of a couple of challenges right now – the 1DOS Yes Today, Not Today challenge, plus doing 150 burpees every day for December as part of a Spartan group, as well as Holiday Streakers – which has me working out every day from Thanksgiving through New Years Day. With all that, there’s a “how much longer” aspect, as well. This truly is a mental game, though.
I’ve written before about outsmarting yourself; that’s what it comes down to some times. Don’t let your brain lie to you and tell you the things you are capable of; don’t limit yourself that way. Be as strong as you can be (not as strong as you think you can be) and push through!
To Be Clear…
…I’m not talking about an injury. I’ve thrown my back out and pulled a muscle before. Frankly, I’ve been very lucky with so few injuries over the last couple years of training <knocks on every piece of wood he can find>. When you are hurt, you MUST listen to your body and slow down, modify, adjust so you don’t hurt yourself even more seriously.
No, this is the good old fashioned “I don’t wanna” kind of “hurt” that we’re talking about. I wasn’t doing anything I hadn’t done before. My heart just wasn’t in it and I started to give up. My brain went to a bad rabbit hole there – if I give up today, do I give up tomorrow, and on and on, until I’m back where I was 3 years ago? Nuh uh, no way, no how. That’s when I got pissed.
The important thing is to focus the anger in the right place. I got mad, but I turned it into finishing the workout and am trying to dissect and learn from what happened. Don’t let it fester, don’t let it drag you down going forward.
Find the answer the best way you can, fix it if you can, and move on. Sometimes it is just your brain talking, fearing change. Sometimes it’s more than that. Don’t be afraid to call or message a friend and get some help (no one swims alone, after all!). Just make sure to keep moving forward, and get out of your own head!
So glad you wrote this today, brother. I’m on a new, scary path and I needed to hear this more than you probably know.