Shaming Yourself! is the third article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series about helping you get the most out of your self during physical exercise.
This is a series on motivating yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking or running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.
Some psychologists say that “shoulding on yourself”, saying “I should have…” is not a good strategy to go through life. But, this is different. This is shaming yourself, it can result in pushing yourself harder during exercise.
How it works is this…
At some point during a run or a bike ride I might notice that I’m in a comfortable spot and just sort of going through the motions. I feel good, there’s no injury that’s holding me back. It’s just that the body and mind can get to this equilibrium state that is just too comfortable. If you don’t notice it you might go through a whole hour like that. If you really are clue-less you could go through a whole month of runs like that.
Running in an equilibrium state is OK and you’ll still benefit over the course of doing it. But, why not push it if you’re feeling really comfortable? For myself, when I notice I’m feeling really good, relaxed, and steady I start to compare myself to other runners – usually older people or kids. Here’s the way it happened the other day.
I was on the second time up the 1,237 steps at the temple. The first time was amazing, I ran up 1,000 of the steps and walked about 200. There are some steps that are too steep to run safely and a fall might mean serious injuries. So I ran up in groups of 50, 70, 100, 80 steps and stopped to catch my breath after each run. I was doing 4 steps a second and by the time I did 80 of them I needed a breather. It was like interval training. I haven’t done it before but it went really well. I was surprised I had the energy to run up them like that.
Then, at the top I was even more surprised that I felt good. My legs were pumped up more than they’d ever been after climbing the steps. I went quickly to the bottom and re-assessed. Yep, still feel great. I started up again at a slow pace. My thinking was, “If I can just do one more up-down that’d be my hardest workout on the steps in 6 months.” Well, I went mindlessly up to step 500 when I realized. You’re way too comfortable. You ran these steps last time – can’t you run them again?
My mind doubted I could.
I shamed myself. My self-talk went something like this…
Man, you’re climbing these steps slower than some middle-aged Thai women do it. What the hell Vern? It was true – I’d seen some 40 year old women go up faster in certain sections than I was going. You’ve been up this thing 270+ times, you can’t pick up the overall pace and go faster than this? I realized I was too comfortable during the first 500 steps and just happy to go up and down at a slow, meaningless pace.
Run up the next 60 steps to that next level. You’re a *$$&@! (bad word for wimp) if you don’t. Did you come here to exercise or coast through the last 30 minutes up and down?
I ran up the next 60 steps and stopped to catch my breath. The next group was only 45 steps. Run up the next 45 and see how you feel – hell, you just ran up 1,000 of them, what’s 45 more?
I ran up the next 45 and caught my breath. By then my heart was going strongly, my legs were pumped and I felt really good. I kicked myself into high-gear again after the first 500 slow paced steps and now I was ready to see how far I could push it again. I ran up the next 85 steps. Caught my breath. Ran up the next 120. Caught my breath… and so on. I ran up the rest of the steps (737) except the 40 dangerous ones.
It was an awesome, awesome day on the steps. Twice up and I ran up 1,700 out of 2,474 of them.
I sometimes catch myself going at a pace that a grandmother could hold. Sure it’s after I’ve already done something intense and that I felt great about, but still… the idea that any old woman or little kid could run at the pace I am, climb steps at the pace I am, cycle at the pace I am is totally unacceptable for any amount of time. I shame myself into kicking it up a few notches. Almost always this puts my body into a state where I can really push myself further, much further than the mind had resigned itself to.
Try shaming yourself! It works!
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