E2: How does someone start the path to wellness?
Rich: Don’t overthink it. Just begin.
How does someone continue the path to wellness, or success? Don’t overthink it. Just take the next step, whatever that happens to be today.
It’s starts with a decision. A willingness to change – not for others but for yourself. Because optimum health (or success, or your dream life) isn’t for people who need it – it’s for people who want it. Follow the decision by setting a long-term goal, and then identify interim “stepping stone” goals towards that end that are achievable. Then execute this plan with consistent small “doable” actions taken on a daily basis. Because small steps, over time, move mountains.
Rich, on mental attitude during long distance events:
They say that ultra-endurance sport is 90% mental. And I believe it.
So I try focus on what is right in front of me to do and blocking out everything else – whether it’s getting to the next landmark, mile marker or even just making it to the next lamp-post as the fatigue becomes almost unbearable.
During training as I ramp up for an event, I will repeatedly log some very long sessions (130 mile rides, or 40-plus mile runs), which of course prepare my body for the vast race distances involved, but more importantly they train my mind to become comfortable with prolonged discomfort.
What I take from this is that getting through long distance events (like life!) is largely about being willing to tolerate the discomfort of effort, fatigue, and sometimes perhaps even failure. Clearly, training is needed to develop the physical stamina required and to figure out what works in terms of fueling the body along the way, but the most important aspect of training (90% according to Rich) is the psychological adjustment to the pain and becoming willing to live with it until the finish line approaches.
He also talks about the importance of cultivating a meditative practice.
Beyond the physical acclimations of training, a huge aspect of my regimen involves retooling my mind to turn off the chatter and anchor in the present moment and find power in the “now” (to coin an Eckhart Tolle phrase).
For me, the long sessions are like extended active meditations, periods in which I become so focused on rooting myself in the present moment that I lose thought altogether, and time literally begins to vanish, the hours passing like moments.
And when not training, I find a consistent active mediation practice absolutely essential. As I have learned the hard way, the mind is not always your friend. And in ultras, it can bury you, attacking you with fierce negative impulses. So mastering the messages your brain sends you – rewiring it to reinforce positive outcomes rather than negative failure impulses – is a tool I cannot emphasize enough as a staple in my program.
The whole interview, carried out over four days, is very inspirational and well worth reading. Here’s the beginning.
And I’m looking forward to reading his book, Finding Ultra, when it becomes available May 22 of this year (2012).