Find a Reason to Keep Going: Whatever the Challenge

Last week I was in Charlottesville, sweating side-by-side with our clients, as we introduced a few new intervals.  This weekend, we blindly took on the newest combination of time + pain, I found myself wondering at the half way mark how I was going to make it to the end.  I was being challenged, mentally, by both the interval and myself.  During the short breaks between intervals, I took stock of the faces around me; the wavering levels of commitment in some, and the determination on the faces of those who were totally in it.  As I stood there getting ready to take on the second half of the interval, I started to think about the choice.  Just like like anything else in life, what I was experiencing in that moment, and what I would experience in future moments was my choice.  It wasn’t just about deciding to walk in the doors, or to participate; it was about deciding to actually be in it.  Instead of creating excuses and thinking of reasons to give up and quit, why not just decide to execute.  Decide to get the most out of it, to actually challenge yourself and push the limit of what you think is possible, guts and all.

I kept this conversation going with myself throughout the rest of the interval, but slowly, over the next day or so, the thoughts tapered off and drifted out of mind.

On Monday I made a game-time decision to go to Flywheel after an especially long day at work.  Five minutes in to the class I knew I wasn’t in it;  I didn’t love the instructor, she talked to fast, the mic was too loud, her resistance was too low, and we seemed to be climbing a never-ending hill (that I decided she wouldn’t understand since her resistance was half that of ours).  I was spiraling.  I spent the first 30 minutes of the class being annoyed that I was there ‘wasting’ my time, subconsciously depriving myself of the opportunity in and of itself.

It wasn’t until after the short weights section that the torq board finally came on and I had my moment of truth: I wasn’t leading.  For the first time in the last year and a half of classes I wasn’t winning the class.

The thing is that I’m not crazy competitive – at least not these days – but that board is my one true measure of progress.  I know what I typically average in a class, and what my baseline for power is.  It’s how I track improvement in my own strength and endurance, objectively, and how I keep myself honest.  Somehow I had lost sight of why I was really there and got lost in an entitlement of experience.  I expected a certain level of x, y, or z from my ‘experience’ and amidst all of the external factors that I was suddenly hyper-aware of, I completely lost sight of what I needed to bring to the table (or bike, if you will).

When the torq board flashed on and I found myself in second place by 7 points. After the half second it took me to realize that I had failed to make the choice to be in it before class started, I finally checked back in.  I knew I had two, at most three, songs to rebound so it was game on.  After the first song I had closed within 3.5 points and my heart was pounding along with me.  The last song finally took us into 30 second sprints and I remembered again not only why I came to class, but also why I needed to show up.  It fed something in me, and for the first time in a while I was reaching for something that was out in front of me and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to attain — but I wasn’t going to stop chasing it.

When we finished class I was just under two points from the leader, having closed the gap on the previous 5 points.   I was at my threshold point – my lungs and legs were burning, my heart was pounding, and I was completely out of gas.  The last 30 seconds of sprinting gave literally everything that I had, and it was without a doubt the most satisfying feeling I may have had after any ride in recent memory.  In the end,  and as always, it came down to finding a reason to keep going – a reason more compelling, appealing, and powerful than any possible reason to give up, and it made all the difference.

So, a big shout out to Anna79 for keeping me honest, and for your similar sentiments after class.  You gave me a reason to be in it, and to take control of my experience.  I remembered again what I was there for, and more importantly what it felt like to really chase down the experience that I want and am fully capable of creating for myself.

[On another less related, but just as (if not more) important note, thank you to my friend Jen who actually convinced me to sign up for class with her, despite her raging post-bachlorette party ‘headache.’   You’re a much braver soul than I am.]

There are a lot of ways to spin the experience and to interpret the general theme — all of which could be applied directly to fitness, or more broadly in all things life — but today I just want to focus on the choice.  On choosing to show up, choosing to get the most out of the experience and most of all choosing to wake yourself (myself) the H up in every moment where I begin to lose the drive to choose my power.

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