The Limits That Destroy Us

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too hard.”

“I will only be able to do half of that.”

These are the things that roll through my mind on my rough days. The days where my body is exhausted, sickness is trying to take me down, and my mind wants to follow suit. The beginning of self-imposed limits are these small statements we tell ourselves, the small excuses to why we cannot accomplish something.  And this is exactly what happened on Monday, my standard speed work/tempo training day.

I won’t lie, when I saw the workout for the day, I was hesitant. Speed work days are hard, but manageable, but this one included a few mile repeats at tempo with only a few minutes of rest in-between. I have never gone this far at a faster pace with only a tiny period of rest and it intimidated me. And when I let it intimidate me, I let the excuses flood my mind and begin to create imposed limits. I set myself up to fail and I let it ruin my entire day.

I put my workout off for most of the day. Granted, I generally do these workout in the late afternoon, I tried to push it off longer than normal.  I scrolled through social media, talked to my mom, played with the dog, and kept thinking of how to not do the workout.  Finally, after about 45 minutes of procrastination, I stepped outside to do this run.  My first mile was a warm-up and all throughout I kept telling myself that I could not go 1 mile at tempo speed without stopping. And I started to believe myself and the limit I was placing.  At some point in this first mile I was having an argument with myself that went like this:

“Yup, this is hard. Today is a tough training day. I can’t do this.”

“Yes, you can do this. You can run a mile without stopping. Stop saying you can’t do this.”

“Nope. Too tired. I feel like crap. Allergies are terrible. Am I getting a cold? I can’t do this.”

“WRONG! You are doing this. You are at least trying this.”

And back and forth I went with myself. You see, I have been working on my mental game alongside my running strength for the last year. Granted, the mental game is harder to work on, especially when conversations like this take place in my head. Just before I got to the one mile mark, I decided to at least try. But of course, I gave myself permission to stop and rest at the half way mark, because I didn’t really believe I could 1 mile at tempo.

My watch buzzed at the 1 mile. I took a deep breath and started to go. And go, and go, and go. I got to the half way mark and decided I could keep going. At .75 of a mile I started to realize I could this, I could run 1 mile at tempo and be proud of myself. And when my watch buzzed at the mile marker I yelled with pride. Because this shit is hard and I just battled my own self-imposed limits. Then I took the three minutes to recover before the next tempo mile and reminded myself that I can do hard things.  And during that second tempo mile I set my 1 mile PR and of course, yelled with pride again.

By the time I was on my one mile cool down I had realized what had happened. I limited myself before I could prove to myself what I was capable of doing. I set a limit that was not true and caused myself to be paralyzed by it, not even thinking I would be capable of pushing past it. How many times in our lives to we put these self-imposed limits on ourselves? In our careers, school, activities, social life? We have high hopes for something up ahead and then we subconsciously say that we cannot do it because of xyz. We create the barriers and road blocks. But what would happen if we started to believe that we could do hard things? What would it look like to believe that you could get the promotion at work, run the hard workout setup for you, achieve the higher grade in school, or foster a deeper friendship that you desire? What would you have to take out of the equation to make it happen?

I am realizing more that these self-imposed limits come from a place of fear of doing the unknown.  I have never crossed this horizon and I do not know what is on the other side so I will create a limit that allows me to stay in my comfort zone. Yet, of course, my word for the year is FEARLESS, so how to I face these fears head on? I am slowly learning that I can break through these self-imposed limits and find the strength to go past my comfort zone.  I am learning to charge at the fears I have and come out on the other side still, mostly, in one piece.  And learning that this is hard, but that I get to define what that means and find the value and worth within it.

So my challenge for you is this: Look for your own self-imposed limits and challenge yourself to break through them. Share what happens when you break that barrier down and encounter new territory. You are worth fighting for. So what is holding you back?

Until next time,
— Be fearless, go boldly


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