“Life is like a 10-speed bike. We all have gears we never use.”
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that one of my themes is
how we can fruitfully apply lessons from outstanding performers in other disciplines — whether artists, musicians, or athletes — to our writing. With this in mind, I’m always on the lookout for tips that we all might be able to use. That’s why I was excited when I saw the headline, “How to Push Past the Pain, as the Champions Do” in the Health section of The New York Times.
The article did not disappoint! While we’re not dealing with extreme physical pain in our line of work (well, maybe a sore butt from sitting too much!), advice on pushing past self-imposed limits is definitely worth paying attention to. How do elite athletes keep going when their bodies are screaming, “Stop!”? Can anyone push themselves to the edge of their capabilities or is this ability reserved for top performers? Here’s what experts and accomplished athletes say:
If you think you can, you can: Mental tenacity — not sheer stamina — is key to the ability to manage and push past physical limits. “The mentality was I will do whatever it takes to win,” said one marathon winner. “I was totally willing to have the worst pain. I was totally willing to do whatever it takes to win the race.”
Accept the pain as the price for improving: As athletes hone their skills, things don’t get any easier; they have to train constantly and still cope with pain. But their ability to accept this reality — to embrace it instead of fighting it — is what allows them to improve their performance. They feel the pain and do it anyway — and that energizes them.
Fight through fatigue: To keep going and motivate themselves, elite athletes have to resist the feeling that they are too tired; instead they have to push into a higher gear rather of pulling back. They actually overcome their fatigue by concentrating on increasing the intensity of their effort. And they have to learn to pace themselves: to find the balance between pushing too hard and underperforming.
Something to think about in the coming week!