How Do You Challenge Yourself? Is It Always Painful?

I have talked about this before, but I climb a set of stairs in Grand Rapids for exercise. It is part of what Craig and I call, “David’s Loop” – a walk that begins in front of David’s house, down the hill into town, over a bridge and past the statue of Jerry Ford in the park. (I have pepper spray, we vary our times and we don’t carry cash, so don’t get any ideas…)

Are Challenges Always Painful?

The walk ends up at the stairs, and although Craig seems to do it without too much trouble, David and I struggle a bit. Whenever David says he doesn’t understand why it doesn’t get easier after all the times we have scaled its heights, I say, “That’s the thing with cardio – when it feels good, you have to do more. It’s supposed to hurt.” I learned this from my best friend Kim. The kind of person who, when I tell her I am tired, says, “Run (walk, climb) faster.” A theory I have never fully understood, but which seemed like the right advice to give David anyway.

It’s raining this morning and I slept in, but yesterday I was on my own and I climbed the stairs three times. Three times. I had great music in my earphones and there were a lot of super fit types on hand for inspiration. I observed that everyone has a different approach to conquering this challenge.

There was the dude (tool) who ran it, and stopped occasionally to do pushups on the stairs. And the blonde in Lulu Lemon with the topknot and the determined look, getting it all done without pause – at least five times. There was the woman who treated the climb like sets at the gym, resting between each go-round and furiously texting (help me?). Oh, and a guy who broad jumped the whole way. And the woman who was clearly there because her husband suggested it – he was all stretching and light-footed.  She paused at every landing and didn’t even try to look like she was not going to need the EMTs.

The bottom line is that every single person on the stairs was breathing hard at the top. It was painful for everyone. No matter what level of fitness…

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done…

I believe that challenges are always painful. It’s what makes them feel so good when you’re done. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is quit drinking. Bar none. It’s not just the quitting, but all the bells and whistles of alcoholism that goes with it. Making amends, putting shame and guilt on the back burner, restarting a life that seemed to be unresponsive…

But you have to accomplish a challenge your own way.

And I am always annoyed when I think someone is pushing their agenda for sobriety on me, as if there is only one way to get sober. As if, my way is doomed to fail because I have not followed some hard and fast rule. It’s like the guy who is broad-jumping the stairs telling me that walking the stairs, or even pausing on each landing, doesn’t count. As if EMT girl and I are not working hard enough.

That is not to say that a well meaning suggestion (or one of those staircase, sitting elevators) is not welcome, when the going gets tough.

Today I’m not drinking because it’s a challenge.

How come you’re not drinking?