I woke up on a Monday, after a fun and exciting weekend getaway with friends and felt stuck in a rut mentally. I have a lot on my plate that I mean to do I just am not making things a priority. I wasn’t excited to do any of it. I found myself falling into the same trap I talk with my clients about all the time, I was too comfortable.
Just like my body, my mind needs workouts as well to stay strong. As you can read in other blogs I do test myself quite a bit in order to gather wisdom, it has been months since I did something outside my comfort zone. It was time to do something extremely difficult to get my mind right.
I luckily had recognized the problem and the solution was to take immediate action to pull myself out of the quicksand. I decided to cancel my afternoon calls and evening Jiu Jitsu to take action. What would that action be?
After taking about 10 minutes mentally sifting through the challenges that I have thought about in the past I happen to zoom out and notice how beautiful of a day it was out. It needed to be something outside. That triggered a fearful emotion in me which had me thinking about what I hate most, to run hills. Running hills or running in general to me is awful. I am more of the fight guy not the flight guy. Doing the same motion for hours and hours is not particularly appealing to me. Plus I suck at it. Once I got thinking about that I knew that is what it had to be. I had to run hills and I knew the one I hated most.
I subscribe to the thought pattern that the obstacle is the way. Minor fears and anxieties are not just indicators to stay away from something, but a sign telling you to go that direction for growth. This thought pattern limits the amount that fear dictates in my life. Fear is a moveable fence in which can constantly be pushed outwards. In short, Fuck fear.
My girlfriend Meghan came home for lunch and asked me what I was up to. I told her what I was thinking about doing but said it in a way that I could still get out of doing it. Having been with me for many dumb ideas she said she knew instantly that I was going to do it. Her statement is funny to me because I was still trying to get out of doing it by mentally making all the excuses I could. She made me commit myself to take the action that I needed to. I appreciate having that support from a significant other. Once she said that she could come deliver support later in the afternoon at the hill I knew the choice was made.
I got to the hill at about 2:15. I brought a dry erase board to tally each time up and a tea. It was a little warm for this type of run, but at the time it felt like a perfect 78 degrees and sunny. Once I got there I wasted no time and got to running. The first time up the hill was easy as expected. I thought perhaps I should have stretched more but I am in already. As I came down the 5 flights of stairs just to run up the hill again fear set in. What in the fuck was I doing. I could injure myself. I have work to do. It is going to be really hot. Blah Blah Blah. I tallied my first mark and had a vivid thought about how many marks 100 was away.
The next few hills got my heartrate up and a sweat started to break. I was just battling the fear of starting. I timed the loop to try and guestimate how many 100 would take. It took about 30 seconds to run up the hill. At the top I stretched and walked backwards to the stairs in an effort to really maintain good posture the whole exercise. I then slowly, and with being conscious of posture would walk down the stairs. People had told me going down would end up being worse than going up. The whole loop took approximately 3 minutes. That meant 20/hour and without factoring in any breaks or fatigue I was looking at at least 5 hours running the hill.
The realization of how long it would actually take was a bit of a tough pill to swallow. Who wants to run hills for over 5 hours. This is where the true mental game of the day had started. Physically I was fine but mentally I wanted to quit already. I needed to make the tasks smaller or I was not going to make it.
At about hill number 10 I felt fatigued. My lungs were burning a bit and the weight of what I was doing set in. I decided to focus on just one hill. I started chanting to myself “just this one hill. I can always run up this one hill”. This shift in perspective got me through the first hurdle. I wasn’t injured, I was “hurt” going through a bit of discomfort. At hill number 15, I decided to walk and get a gatorade. I let myself be proud that I had completed 15 already and that is the most I have ever ran that hill in my life at one time. However many I ended up getting, I was proud to say I tried it.
Once I got back to the hill the next one was easy. The little bit of rest was good and that was encouraging. That good feeling however only lasted 2 hills before my body reminded me it didn’t like what I was doing. I went back to thinking about the hill as one hill not 100. This time I decided that I really needed to focus. I developed a mantra that I said over and over for at least the next two hours.
What was this Mantra? It went something like “This is why I am successful. I put in the work. I am successful” Every journey up and down the hill for the next 20-30 I would repeat that mantra. My favorite book is called “A Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. In it there is a quote that reads, “A man with a strong why can endure any how.. By repeating this mantra, I had given myself a strong why I was running this hill.
Meghan got to the hill at number 38 for me. That provided me with some positive encouragement. As I look back, it was really important that she came. It reminds me of the value that a good team around you can have on what you want to accomplish. At hill 40 we walked and I got more gatorade and water. I remember being proud of hitting 40 and happy she made it.
Hill 41 was relatively easy again. As, I marked it and went for 42 my girlfriend made a remark about it being the ultimate answer to life. A reference fromThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I giggled at her being a dork and ran up. At the top of the hill my quads started to cramp up. I panicked a bit. I was only 42% done. I took a bit more time and then gingerly began going down the steps. Going down was starting to become harder on my body than going up was. I debated quitting as 42 was still an impressive number. As I was thinking that I remember a friend of mine, Ricky Purdy, had posted on my Facebook that he once did the hill 75 times.
Ricky is a physical specimen, a jacked personal trainer and solid purple belt in brazillian Jiu jitsu. He is not exactly a guy you say well if he can do it, I can do it. I did tell myself however that if Ricky did 75 I had to at least make it close. When I got to the bottom of the hill this time I felt a sense of determination fueled by almost an anger. My mantra had now shifted.
Now when I ran up the hill I repeated “I am a monster, I will make it up this hill”. I repeated it in an angry-ish tone in my head. I get chills thinking about it. The phrase I am a monster to me is a confidence builder. Monster meaning unique, strong, sometimes crazy, pinnacle creature. If I was going to continue up this hill I needed to build my confidence and this phrase did it.
As I got through my 50’s running up the hill it was a real battle. I had to start power walking up and a few were straight walking as I would cramp up right away. The really cool part about this stage was there was no more fighting about quitting. I was possessed with the goal of at least beating Ricky. With every journey up, my confidence grew. That was a very needed stage as going down really became painful and taxing.
At 60 I took another break. I need some sort of fuel. We went to the little convenience stand again and this time walking was very difficult. I decided the best thing I could get was a hamburger and only eat like a third of it. I sat down waiting for the burger and in that down time kept thinking about how the fuck was I going to get to 100. I could barely walk.
My girlfriend was incredibly supportive at this time again. She decided to skip her Jiu Jitsu class to stay with me and encourage me. This love was very powerful. When we got back to the hill the bugs were starting to come out. The sun was much lower, and it had a different energy. At this point I knew I was going to beat Ricky whether I had to drag myself prone up that hill 16 more times.
Again, the first hill back was surprisingly easy, then the next ones were nightmares. My quads cramped now every hill. I could only run 50-75% of the hill and had to pause for a bit and/or walk the rest. My posture was being broken down. My calves hated me. I had entered into a new mental place. A place that I needed to explore and had been too long. This place is where you grow mentally. I was pushing my fear fence way out and giving myself some more room to operate.
I write about this mindset in my book on habit formation. The mindset I am referring to is when you give yourself no other choice but to accomplish the goal. When there is no other choice your conscious brain shuts off. Your ego shuts the fuck up. It’s just your subconscious brain doing what it knows it has to over and over to get the result that will happen. I had programmed my mind that I was going to at least beat Ricky’s 75 times up the hill. I know he is a monster, and I have now proved I am too.
The physical pain was dismissed to the side. There was no reason to focus any energy on that. The cramps were overcome and appreciated. 61-75 sucked as I look back on it, but during I just became a machine.
On the 76th one something magical happened. I became excited. I had my girlfriend film this one as I was super proud of myself. Fuck yes! I allowed myself to take in that excitement. I didn’t feel anything but excitement going up that hill. At the top I mentally reveled in going up that hill 76 times. That excitement turned to a sharp ankle pain as it gave out on a step. On my way down the steps, very gingerly, I began to worry about my health.
As I look back 75 became the new goal and 100 was off in the distance. After achieving 76, the next times up the hill were incredibly painful with cramps and difficult. I had given myself a new goal and once accomplished lost the mental why so the how became too much to endure. It was now basically dark and I was borderline injuring myself. I made the decision to cut myself off after 80 times up that stupid hill.
While I did not hit my arbitrary number goal, I did accomplish the ultimate goal I started off to do. I challenged my spirit. I challenged myself mentally. It was now confirmed in my own mind that when I need to be I am a son of a bitch and capable of taking on any task. Reflecting on the stages of my mindset was tremendously valuable. I successfully completed the real task, and I am proud of that.
I am writing this blog 2 days later. I can barely walk. My calves are the worst followed by my quads. Every step I take I get the opportunity to be grateful that I don’t have pain in movement normally. I get to be reminded that I am mentally tough. I certainly don’t condone somebody doing something like this as it is clearly not great for your body. I do however preach to take action on your life and to improve yourself via action.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and share in my experience. Until the next time.