November 24, 2004

Dig Deep

"C'mon! Dig Deep! It's only three minutes of your day, you can do it!"

Those were the words to the class from our spin instructor yesterday morning. There we were, a small group of five, taking a spin class at six in the morning. Now we're being asked to "climb" hills at fifty percent resistance. For those who've never taken a spin class, this is akin to climbing a very steep hill and giving it your all.

But it was those two words, "dig deep", that got me thinking.

Dig deep. What does it mean? To challenge yourself, push yourself harder than you think is possible. Sure, sometimes. Where does one dig deeply into? One's inner reserve, a place which often goes untapped in many people, people who quit when things get tough. But really, how does one determine to dig deep? It's really a mental challenge, in my experience. I'm not just talking about an exercise class, either. There are days where I "dig deep" and I'm surprised by the reservoir of energy and determination I find to continue on with whatever challenge is in front of me. I can peddle harder and faster, hike uphill for miles and hours, make a scary move on the crux of a pitch, or stick out a work situation that is pretty hideous. But there are also the days where I'm a complete whining wuss. I can't peddle all-out for a minute; my body might be capable if pushed, but the brain declines to do the pushing. There are days where I'm wiped out to the point of being non-verbal. I've bailed from a climb by getting too sketched out on the crux: even if I could get my body to work through searing pain and make the move, my brain is telling my body, "You're not going anywhere".

I'm fascinated by the concept of pushing one's self. To summit or scrape over that mental hump that tells me "you can't do this". Intrigued by the ease one day and the impossibility the next. How does one build mental stamina? It's not like a muscle where enough repetitions will strengthen the mind. Or is it? If one reaches in and is repeatedly surprised by what can be accomplished with a little extra determination, does that lead to a greater ability to have the mental fortitude of tapping those reserves? Does one need to have a reserve to dig deep? Or can you dig, come up against nothing, and still have the energy to try again and again?

Does it boil down to a personality type? Is it about being stubborn?

Let's use bouldering as an example, shall we? I've watched people make a half-hearted effort on a problem, make a couple moves and fail, and then quit. Walk away. Done. Then I've observed other people work a problem until sore and fingers bleeding and still not have worked it out. They're determined to try again tomorrow. What's the difference? Is it desire? Determination? Inner resolve? Hard headedness? What? What is it? And furthermore, why can it be there one day, and not the next?

I don't have the answers. If anything, all I have is more questions. Currently, I find myself digging deep every morning I wake up. I'm working day after day without time off, trying to squeeze in the gym, sitting in two hours of traffic each day, and trying to keep it all together. These past few days, I've noticed it's becoming increasingly difficult, because my reserves are low. I'm tired, exhausted even. With what needs to happen in 24 hours, sleep is what gets whittled away. As such, my reserves are getting low, my body achy, my mind not as sharp, and my nerves a bit shot. And yet, this is how most Americans live. Why is that? Oh jeez, this is getting off on another tangent alltogether; maybe a topic for another time. But all I can say is when Courtenay asks us to dig deeper, if only for three minutes, if one isn't feeling centered or taking good care of one's self, it's a lot more challenging to dig. And even more frustrating to come up against zero.

1 comment:

Kasmel said...

Yeah, damned good writing. I don't often enjoy reading other peoples personal insights on this sort of thing. I usually, *(being nuerotic and all)*, find fault with petty details like how someone uses metaphor and such.
Good to hear a dissertation on determination...;)