Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Push it real good.

After a full week of being bogged down with work I needed a release so I decided to get out for a run. Today in the northeast the temps were in the high nineties so I wasn't sure what to expect. Oftentimes I like to just go and not set a specific goal or distance. I listen to my body. If I feel good I keep going, if I feel crappy I try and push through or just cut it short. Just recently I read a blog post by a fellow message board member and barefoot runner who follows the same mindset and surprised himself and ran 30 miles! (

Starting out I felt great. The warmth actually made my muscles feel loose and my barefoot form was clicking nicely. The heat didn't start to get to me until around the third mile. I knew right there that I had a perfect excuse to cut it short. I could tell myself, "Oh, it's too hot. I could get heat stroke. I'd better head back." But besides that nagging voice in my head I still felt pretty good. Fast forward to around mile five where the heat started winning, and this is where today's lesson begins...

You see, I knew that if I decided to start walking or take a little break under a shady tree it would be perfectly understandable. I mean, it was crazy of me to even be out running on a day like today, right? But what if I kept going? This is where the mental games began. I would tell myself, "After you get to that street sign you can walk for a block." But then, when I was just about to reach the street sign I would think, "What if I kept going? That would kick ass." And so the inner battle continued with me like that for another half hour. I never did stop and probably ended up running around eight miles or so.

Mentally pushing yourself is something you can train yourself to do in almost all of the menial aspects of your life. I remember when pushing myself physically, even when not working out, first dawned on me. It was many years ago around Christmas time and I was at a tree farm carrying a freshly cut Blue Spruce to mount on the top of my car. It was heavy as hell and my shoulder was humming in pain. I thought, "I should put this down for a minute and give it a rest." Then I thought, "Why not push yourself and carry it all the way to the car? In fact, don't set it down when you get to the car. Toss it through the air and have it land on top of the SUV." And that's what I did.

Today during my run there were two paths to my house I could have taken. One was a soft grassy shortcut and the other was a gravelly hill that added another two minutes to my run. I chose the hill. Even little things like rounding a corner when you are running on the street. You can cut the corner and hop on the curb or you can stay on the street and take the turn wide. At the supermarket you can park in the last spot and carry all the bags you can hold. You can take the stairs at work. You've probably heard all that stuff before but really, it adds up.

So right now as finish up typing this I'm pretty spent physically and I have every right to go lay down on the couch and watch the baseball game. But instead, I'm going to go ask my daughter if she wants to go outside and get some softball practice in. Push yourself and you will enrich your life more than you know.

Thanks for listening.

"Then die."

This is my favorite Bruce Lee story. It tells of an exchange between Bruce and his senior student Taky Kimura. At the time Bruce was a young man in his early twenties and Taky was in his forties like I am now. I used to tell my students this story years ago when I felt they weren't giving it their all. I'd like to thank Tom L. for bringing it to my attention once more. Hope you like it...

Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We'd run three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile. (Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a-half minutes per mile). So this morning he said to me "We're going to go five." He said, "When we get to three we'll shift gears and it's only two more and you'll do it." I said "Okay, hell, I'll go for it." So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I'm okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I'm tired, my heart's pounding, I can't go any more and so I say to him, "Bruce, if I run any more,"-and we're still running- "if I run any more I'm liable to have a heart attack and die." He said, "Then die." It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, "Why did you say that?" He said, "Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it'll spread over the rest of your life. It'll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level."