Opinion | Pushing Yourself And Running Through Barriers

The best things in life often come after the most grueling experiences.

My friend and I have a tradition where we will run 2.5 miles every Wednesday. This came about after watching a few videos of David Goggins and his philosophy on mental toughness. Since starting, we have been relatively consistent in doing so. Even on days where the last thing we wanted to do was step outside, much less run. However, we recently missed a week and had to stop early for another. Still adopting David Goggin’s mindset, we decided we had to make up for all the missed mileage and then some the following week. This resulted in us having to run 6.5 miles in one day.

I consider myself to be a decently in shape individual. I go to the gym as often as I can, I watch what I eat, and I try to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Running 2.5 miles every week isn’t fun but it certainly isn’t pushing any limit. That being said, running 6.5 miles was possibly one of the most intense endurance activities I have ever undertaken. The first half of the run was nothing too strenuous, just an average Wednesday run, but a little after 3.5 miles, that’s a different story. I was exhausted, my lungs were burning, my feet were in agony, and my vision was starting to turn to TV static. By all means, I should have called it a night, but there was a voice nagging me in the back of my head, telling me that if I didn’t see it through, I would regret it. So I mustered up the last of my strength and decided that I would complete the run.

I pushed on another mile and my entire demeanor changed. I was no longer focused on the discomfort, I was too busy glowing at how far I had come, and every single step I took only increased my feeling of accomplishment. I was still in pain, but it was worth it. I was on Cloud 9 and kept pushing until I completed all 6.5 miles. By the end of it, I could barely stand. My legs may as well have been made of Jell-O. Yet, I offered the idea to my friend that we should do a 6.5-mile run once every month. After all the immediate negative effects I felt, I still wanted to do it again, and it’s all because I finished something I thought I wouldn’t be able to. I broke down a mental barrier and completely surpassed my expectations. This is something I believe we should all try to do.

One of David Goggin’s rules is called the “40% Rule.” Basically, it means when you think your energy is spent, you’ve actually only used 40% of it, and there is another 60% that you have to dig for to use. After that run, I believe it to be true. Everyone should try to dig a little deeper. Most people stop at the slightest resistance, be it a physical barrier or a mental barrier. Once that resistance is met, it’s human nature to want to avoid it – it doesn’t feel good to hit a wall. However, it is when we break through that wall that we see what we are truly capable of. Breaking down these barriers is uncomfortable. Often it’s downright painful. Yet, the benefits make it so worth it. The barriers we triumph over become the fuel we use to break the next one.

We go through this process of breaking barriers often throughout our lives, but we aren’t always conscious of it. When a student aces the exam that they feared they would fail, they will approach the next exam with confidence. When a powerlifter breaks their personal record a month before they expected to, they increase their warm-up weight. When an anxious person gives a speech that garners the applause of their audience, they will approach their next presentation with more confidence. All of these are examples of barriers being broken and subsequently used as a launch pad to take on the next challenge.

The moral of this story is that the true limiting factor in any situation is you. The only thing that is holding you back from achieving your goal is the mental limitations you set for yourself. By pushing past these limits, you not only surprise yourself but better yourself too. There becomes less trying and more doing. So the next time you’re about to walk away from something, give yourself that one final push and let that inner voice win. You will learn more about yourself in those moments than at any other point in your life.

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