Go Stress Yourself!

I remember running a 10-mile race in the early ‘80s at just over 60 minutes – around a 6-minute pace – which for most runners is actually pretty darn fast. For me, it was an anomaly – a pace I didn’t normally run. And I paid dearly when we got home…uh in the bathroom…both ends…simultaneously… a bit tricky to say the least!

A few summers ago Mitchell and I ran the Spartan Super at Blue Mountain in the Poconos. 8 miles up and down the mountain, crazy challenging obstacles along the way - even a spear throw! It was hot, sticky, and extremely grueling – physically and mentally. 

During the recent heat wave, I ran most days in the late afternoon – hottest time of the day. One day I ran 5 miles at 4 pm with a heat index temp of 107. Nice.

Why do I share this? Because each of these experiences prepares me to win every day by choosing and overcoming stress.

I chose to put myself in each of these situations. Granted, in the beginning, I was not aware of the benefit I’m sharing here. But as time has progressed, I believe choosing to stress myself has better prepared me to handle the stress of life – whether it’s patience needed behind a very slow driver or focus in times of financial risk. 

In his book, Spartan Up!, creator of the Spartan Race, Joe De Sena shared the value of deliberately stressing ourselves – yes, on purpose. Learning to deal with it teaches us we’re more than capable when it arises again. We don’t live in an age that requires us to hunt and fight to survive, not like our ancestors.  Without that forced daily stress, we are less capable managing the little things that challenge us every day. Hit a few hundred burpees in the morning, or kick out a few miles on the bike, swim some laps, push some weights – all that “stress” teaches our bodies what is and is not stress worthy. And it’s not just physical. Hit a Toast Masters meeting in the AM – yep, public speaking - and see how you handle the rest of the day. Cake walk.

Purposeful stress makes our daily experiences at work, life and play more palatable – because we’ve already overcome for the day. What’s another challenge? We’ve already pushed ourselves – and managed through. So unplanned stress becomes more of a challenge to overcome than a problem to fret about. We gain perspective and confidence in the unknown by overcoming in the known.  

So…go stress yourself! Just maybe stop a bit short of my first example above!