2013-07-21

8W: Two-week recap

If you've been following along with my 8-week all-around fitness plan, then today is your rest day. I thought I might take this opportunity to reflect back on the last two weeks and solicit some feedback from those who may have been brave enough to take this on.

My hope is that the term "brave enough" will seem a little sillier now, two weeks later, than it seemed at the beginning. One of the fascinating things about somewhat-more-adventurous training is that, in the beginning, it seems like an insurmountable force that we can never overcome, but once we've actually done it, it hardly seems as terrible. There is certainly a physical aspect of this, which means that you're accomplishing exactly what you set out to do: you're getting fitter. Perhaps the more significant change, though, is psychological.

There is something about success that seems to build an expectation of future success in our minds. The classic illustration of this is when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute "barrier" by running a mile in 3:59.
Shortly thereafter, a few other runners also managed to break the four-minute mile barrier. Within a decade, it had been done by Jim Ryun while he was still in high school. (!) Still, Bannister's feat stands out as its own unique accomplishment, not because his was the fastest mile, but because he overcame the psychological barrier that had kept human runners from breaking the four minute threshold.

Once he opened the floodgates, the "impossible" was understood to be possible. Many athletes now break the four-minute barrier, but to achieve this kind of feat, someone had to first prove that it could be done. Similarly, climbing Mount Everest was once the most revered feat in mountaineering. The more people who do it, though, the less impressive the feat. Many "ordinary" people have been able to summit Everest now. Knowing that the unthinkable really is possible changes the psychology of human effort significantly.

Of course, I'm not really trying to compare my little 8-week training regimen to running a four-minute mile or summitting Everest! All I'm really pointing out is that difficult efforts become much less difficult once they've actually been done.

During the last two weeks, Thursday's workout is clearly the most difficult of all. When I did it during Week 1, I was completely exhausted. I made it through the workout, but I was stunned by how difficult the workout proved to be. So, when the following Thursday rolled around, I knew what was coming, and I was quite honestly dreading it. It didn't help that I hadn't had much sleep the night before. But the second time around, I had the advantage of having previously made it through the workout. Something inside me knew that, in spite of the fleeting pain caused by the workout itself, I could make it through to the end and feel relaxed and happy afterward. As a result, the second Thursday proved much easier than the first, even despite the increased number of repetitions, and the addition of another riser on the platform I use for the side jumps.

Unlocking the power of one's own mind and applying it to personal achievement is frankly the whole reason I am interested in fitness. I find it fascinating to be able to push my physical limits on an almost purely psychological basis. Having had the opportunity to do this my whole life has given me a personal discipline that has benefited me in every other aspect of life, too. This is why I do it. This is why I try to help others do it, too. Nothing feels so good as doing the impossible. At least, that's how I see it.