Resting between sets, thinking about the next hurdle.

My journey with better health and fitness hasn’t been a smooth road. It hasn’t been all up-hill, though, and at times, it really felt like I was on an easy down-hill jog while still losing weight and getting fitter. These days, however, with the Achilles heel injury lingering, I feel like I’m not able to make the progress I really want. I’ve been able to lift weights, and my progress is really great, but even there, I face one big hurdle: self doubt.

Even though I’ve exceeded my own expectations, every time I walk up to the bar for my first heavy squat of the day, my mind screams, “Don’t do this! It’s too heavy! You won’t be able to do it!” I have to stop, take a breath, and just go for it. Each time for the last four sessions, I’ve had to do this. Each time, I completed all five reps in all five sets. Is it getting harder? Certainly. But I’m still able to do it. The last set is the hardest, but I’m following Mehdi’s recommendations for 3 minutes of rest between sets, and I can definitely feel the difference between the 1:30 and 3:00 rest periods.

It seems to me that the biggest hurdle, regardless of any endeavor, is self doubt. It’s the first, and in my experience, the highest hurdle to get past. Once I can get past that nagging voice in my head that says, “You can’t do it,” the rest of the hurdles seem much easier to get over. Muscle soreness? Keep going. Out of breath? Slow down, but keep going. Typically, as I keep going, the hurdles actually get smaller and smaller. By the end, it’s just me and whatever exercise I’m doing, or in the case of being on a diet, my body gets used to it, my mind gets used to the new paradigm, and what were hurdles before are smooth asphalt beneath my feet.

Something I learned that’s fascinating to me is that self-doubt is a survival instinct. It’s natural, and it’s actually a good thing. It’s the mechanism that makes us search for easier ways to do things to conserve energy. Of course, the problem here is that the endeavor we are wanting to start is that of using energy to get stronger. So, that seems counter-productive, right? Well, on the surface, yes. But if we understand why that instinct is there, we can get past it easier. At least it works for me. The same holds true for eating. Our instinct is to eat as much as we can to store up energy in case lean times come and we have to go without food for days. That’s highly unlikely for us in the first world, and we know our next meal is only 4-6 hours away, so it makes it easier for us to push that plate away and say, “Enough.”

For me, the toughest hurdle in limiting the amount of food I eat is held up by two legs: the first is that I love delicious food, and I love eating. The second leg of the hurdle is that finishing my plate was ingrained in me by my father as a child. I was punished for not finishing my food, and I have a difficult time leaving any food on my plate. That’s why I prefer to get plates with less food on them. Once I’m finished, I feel like I did a good thing, even if it wasn’t quite enough.

We all face the hurdles. Some of them can be pretty tough to get past, but ultimately, we can get past them. I got past mine, and I continue to surprise myself all the time by getting past each new hurdle as I lift heavier and heavier weights.

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