The first time I set a goal to do 100 pushups in a single workout it seemed like a lot. I had my doubts that I could get there without a lot of burning muscles and shaky arms and I wasn’t looking forward to it. At the time I would have considered 200 pushups rediculous.
A few days later when I set a goal to do 200 I had the same thoughts that I had the day I set out to do 100. Doing 300 that day would been a rediculous goal.
A few days later I set a goal to do 300 pushups. I had the same thoughts then that I had when I set out to do 100, and then 200. The difference this time was that 400 didn’t seem rediculous at all. I started to see that it was just a matter of time. I set a goal to do 1000 pushups on my birthday on the 26th of June this year. It sounded reduculous but not as crazy as 2000. That’s simply impossible, or is it?
Over the past few months, since I started doing these workouts where I set a number goal of reps for an exercise, I have learned more about my mind than I have about my body. Figuring out my body is easy. Push it each set until it won’t do anymore and it will adapt to handle the workload. That means muscles get stronger, bigger, they gain endurance, speed, flexibility and so on. If I feed my body enough good nutrients, rest it when needed, keep it hydrated, and look after any bumps and dings along the way, it will adapt to whatever I do and that spells improvement.
However, getting my mind to do what I need it to do is another story.
To create a situation in your training where your body has to adapt to something, you have to push past what is comfortable. When we experience discomfort the natural response is to stop doing whatever is creating that discomfort. For years I have conditioned my brain to work to a point where things get uncomfortable, do a couple more reps, then stop and rest up for the next set.
The kind of training I am doing now does not use discomfort as a marker telling me when to stop. Now the sets end when my muscles are completely unable to complete another repitition with good form. The tricky part is that my brain wants to stop long before physical failure so it tells my body it’s done when it really isn’t. I have to over-ride my brain and keep going in order to make the progress I know I am capable of making.
There is no easy way to do this. You can’t get around the discomfort. You have to decide before you start the workout that you won’t quit until your body can’t do another rep no matter how much it burns. You have to embrace the pain because the pain mean progress. This way of thinking and training is working for me, everything is improving. I am recovering faster, I’m leaner, my muscles are bigger, they are more dense, stronger, faster, and each workout my numbers are going up and up because pushing through the pain feels normal now and doesn’t cause near as much distress.
My brain has adapted and now it get’s excited when my muscles start to burn. I slow down the reps then and grind them out one at a time, shaking, sweating, muscles on fire, until my body can’t complete a full rep. I rest briefly, then do it all over again, until I hit that prescribed number. I hit 1007. I will hit 2000. After that who knows. I can do whatever I set my mind to, I have proven that to myself.
And in the end that’s been the greatest benefit from training like this. I’m not afraid to push the limits anymore, and progress keeps coming as the limit keeps moving up and up.
I’ve realized there are no limits, unless I put them on myself. That’s how human beings work.