Levels of Tiredness
I was on the track team in high school. I ran 110 and 330 hurdles, part of the sprinting team. Our practice and training consisted of different drills designed to test and push our physical limits. It also provided me with insight about resilience that I carry with me and still use today.
The concept is about the different levels of tiredness.
- Your muscles feel tired and achy;
- You can feel the weight of your muscles hanging off your bones;
- Your posture begins to droop and hunch;
- Your head will lean or tilt to one side;
- You may feel a cramp developing somewhere, which further impacts your posture;
- Your breathing becomes labored and heavy;
- You may even begin to wince or have a pained expression on your face.
This is when the desire to stop, take a break, and drink some water is at its highest. But you’re actually very far from being truly tired. Like any barrier, it becomes stronger as you approach it. If you keep going, though, there will be a release as you break through.
- Your mind focuses on the one thing you’re doing: running. All other thoughts drop away;
- Your posture straightens, your form improves. You’re lifting your knees higher and taking longer strides. You’re only using the muscles absolutely necessary to maintain your form;
- You’re running significantly faster than before;
- You’re now taking strong, deep breaths at regular intervals;
- Your body is operating like clockwork: a well-timed, well-oiled machine designed for efficiency;
- The pain and discomfort has given way to tingling in your fingers, toes, and head;
- The complaints give way to confidence and focus.
During this stage, every once in a while, the tiredness and achiness will pop its head back up. At any of these points, we can choose to honor it and stop for a break, in which case all the pain, complaints, and bad posture will come back. During our track practices, however, once we hit the last lap or the home stretch, we were told to punch into overdrive, which led to my discovery of:
- Your breathing has reached a physical limit; you cannot breathe any faster or deeper;
- You notice your feet aren’t touching the ground very much. You feel like a bird flying through the air;
- Your legs, feet, and arms are moving so fast that you begin to imagine that they’re more like wheels.
- The tingling has spread all over your body and now feels like numbness everywhere. You can hear the wind whipping past your head;
- You feel like you could keep going like this forever.
Notice that last one: you feel like you could keep going like this forever. It’s a feeling. You’ll notice all the pain and discomfort come back once you cross that finish line. It was all pushed aside because you decided there was something more important to do, but don’t worry, it’s still there. Even though you feel like you can go on like that forever, you actually can’t. It’s dangerous. Take it for what it is: a temporary pushing aside of warning signals so that you can accomplish something important. My least favorite part of running track was once I crossed that finish line and stopped running. Oof.
How This Applies to Life
When we encounter something difficult or challenging, we might first come up against a feeling of being tired. This is the first level of tiredness, the first wall, the first barrier. At this point you have a choice: if you’re committed to keep going, know that you still have 2 more levels left. You’re actually just at the beginning, but the beginning is when the complaints and desire to stop are strongest.
If you’re not committed, then stop and take a break. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to take a break and right to keep going. I’m saying you need to pick your battles. I choose to take a break all the time. But, because I know that I still have energy left after experiencing my complaints and desire to stop, I’m solid in knowing that whatever I choose is an actual choice; that I didn’t stop because I doubted my ability.
If you’ve never pushed past this first level of discomfort, you may stop because you don’t think there’s anything else beyond it other than just more pain and discomfort. This is where it’s valuable to explore pushing further, even if it’s not something you’re terribly passionate about. The self-discovery alone is worth it. If you do this, be in the mindset that you’re learning about yourself. You’re trying it out. The point is to see what it’s like, not necessarily to be successful at reaching your goal.
Parents of newborn children are very familiar with the different levels of tiredness. Their commitment is strong, and what they’re working for is worth it. These are the situations where it’s most useful to know exactly what you’re capable of.
In my personal relationships, the ones that I hold a strong commitment to like my partner or my sister, I’m more willing to keep going through the pain, discomfort, and complaints. I know I have more. What’s more important is that I know it’s not just me doing this; they’re also doing the same. There is an experience of partnership and teamwork. When I’m dealing with my reactions, it’s difficult to also deal with theirs. It would be like trying to carry someone else as I’m running. It’s twice as much weight, but it’s not just twice as hard. It’s more like 5 times harder. I need to know that when I’m over here dealing with myself, they’re over there dealing with themselves, and we can come together with the security that we’re both working on this together.
- Have you experienced different levels of tiredness/challenge/discomfort before? What are those different levels for you, and what do you experience?
- Have you ever chosen to keep going with something when you really just wanted to stop or take a break? How did that choice impact your life?
- Have you ever stopped or taken a break when your commitment was strong, and now regret it? How did this choice impact your life?
- What would it be like for you to truly know what you’re fully capable of such that continuing or stopping was always a conscious, intentional choice, rather than a doubting of your ability?
- Or if this is currently what life is like for you, what’s your life like now?
Please tell me what this blog brought up for you, I’d love to know!
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