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How far can you go? Pushing the limits of mental barriers to achieve more

We’ve had our rowing machine for a couple of years now and I can’t say I’ve been a fan. Ironically, when I was younger I was a coxen for a couple of rowing teams so I definitely understand the mechanics and that it’s a fantastic all around metabolic exercise. However, I’ve never really seemed to get into it as a go to cardio exercise.

Recently, that’s changed. Due to my ongoing Achilles injury I am a bit limited as to the amount of cardio I can do that puts direct weight on my ankles. Running and walking too far is a bit of a problem and so I am limiting my weight bearing exercise for Taekwondo training. Remember those flying kicks?

So I decided to get back on the rowing machine, as well as some swimming to try and get my fitness levels up. In the past, a 20 minute row or 30 minutes at the maximum was the most I could stand to do. Things start hurting, upper back, lower back, posterior and sometimes arms and joints. This time however it was different, for two reasons.

  1. I think all the weights exercises that I’ve been doing over the last year has made my whole body stronger, so rowing is easier on my legs and upper back.
  2. I read ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins.

Have you read this book? Long story short, out of adversity Goggins decided to see what he was capable of and started developing what he calls ‘the calloused mind’. He used this mind set to complete a number of what seemed like impossible achievements at the time.

In short, after reading his book I was confronted by the fact that my mind has not been very ‘calloused’ in the past. I am the first one to stop once I reach the ‘pain’ point either because of physical discomfort, or mental boredom.

So this time, when I got on the rower, I thought. “What if I don’t stop? How far can I go?”

So the first session I aimed for 30 minutes, didn’t stop and did 46 minutes (because I wanted to go just that little bit further than 45.)

Then I did it again. By the third day I did 50 minutes.

On the fifth day, I had the day off work so I had more time during the day. I decided to see if I could go for an hour. Then I discovered something amazing that I never would have found out if I hadn’t tried this experiment. Our rowing machine clocks out at 59:59. You can keep rowing but the controller stops counting up. Who knew?

It’s a tiny thing but it opened my mind. What other things had I been missing out on because I hadn’t pushed hard enough or tried long enough? What other secrets are out there to discover? How many push-ups could I really do? How long could I really hold a plank for and will I really be able to do the side splits?

I never really believed that once you push past that discomfort barrier that there is a place where your body feels strong and limitless but I now know it’s definitely true. It’s a heady feeling and I’m keen for more.

And then? For me, who has always seen running as the ‘I can’t do that’ unattainable goal? Maybe I’ll try that too, once my Achilles heals. Who knows how far I could go?

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