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The Challenge of Challenging

My most recent YouTube video documents a self-inflicted challenge I completed a few days ago. (More on the ‘self-inflicted’ part in a bit.)

The challenge, conceived by David Goggins, is called “4X4X48” and it goes like this:

Run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.

So…I started on Thursday (May 7), running 4 miles at 8 pm. Then I ran 4 miles at midnight, 4 am, 8 am, noon, 4 pm etc. and continued this schedule for a total of 12 sessions, ending Saturday evening.

Goodness gracious.

My decision to do it came down to a simple “well it’s not like I don’t have the time.”  Perhaps not the most sound platform from which to jump into this type of challenge, but alas…

It was rough. At times more rough than I imagined, though at times not as rough.

The most interesting part for me, and one of the reasons for this post: the last two runs were about as good as the first run, pacing-wise and energy-wise.

Allow me to re-state that once more for effect.

The LAST two runs of the challenge (miles 40-44 and 44-48) were about as good as the very FIRST run (miles 1-4).

In other words, if this challenge were all or even mostly about the physical, the last two runs would be the hardest by far. Clearly I was more tired and more spent by that time for sure (ask my wife, she’ll tell ya).

But, like most ‘physical’ challenges, it wasn’t much about the physical.

It was almost entirely mental.

As you might already know, my coaching/training focus is on the everyday. The mundane. The ‘being a healthy, happy person,’ rather than accomplishing a short-term goal like the 4X4X48, races, or even diets.

But that’s not to say I don’t loves me short-term goals. In fact I my approach (that I live by) sets people up extremely well for short-term goals. As in…learn how to be mentally and physically healthy in general, and you can afford to jump into the short-term challenges.

But there’s a hitch to taking on these types of challenges – something to be aware of.

The hitch: Simply deciding to take on a challenge is, well, challenging.

Sure there’s the difficulty of the challenge itself, but on top of that is the challenge of choosing to take it on in the first place.

In some ways, this choice against our nature.

I’ll put it this way: We weren’t built to run 50 miles ‘just for the heck of it.’ On the contrary, we’re built to survive – to use our physical and mental capabilities to stay alive.

Fact is the 4X4X48 challenge had absolutely nothing to do with my survival. I didn’t even run anywhere. I ran the 48 miles on a treadmill for crying out loud.

This means I wasn’t running 48 miles out of necessity. This means I added this fairly intense amount of stress to my life by choice. Kinda odd when you think about it, no?

So, not only was the challenge stressful, but many times (and I mean, many), I had to contend with the voice in my head asking me, especially during the 4 am runs, “Why the f&$# are you doing this?” Why would I choose to get on a treadmill when my family was upstairs, cozy and asleep?

And now, the conclusion…

Challenging ourselves in the modern world is a battle. A battle we can either choose or not choose to fight.

It’s THE battle between our higher and lower selves. Between our conscious decision to take on a challenge and the voice in our heads that will always try and convince us to play it safe. Between pushing through fear and giving in to fear.

As it pertains to a happy life, the only question is this:

Who wins the battle?

Sid Garza-Hillman

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