Know Your Limits, But Don’t Get Discouraged

Recently I caught an episode of the Extreme Makeover Weight Loss show. I don’t really watch those “Biggest Loser” type shows anymore for a lot of reasons but I watched a few episodes of this show. One in particular was about a guy who started out in the 400 pound range. He lost a significant amount, then fell off the wagon and gained back a bunch of the weight. The personal trainer had him doing interesting but in my opinion, dangerous workouts.

First, he had to climb over 100 flights of stairs at a tall building in Chicago. This poor guy was like 380 pounds and doing something so strenuous I thought for sure he was going to have a heart attack in that stairwell. He looked woozy by the end.

Second, his trainer took him and his brothers out for a 100 mile bike ride. Really? I scoffed at this and immediately lost respect for the trainer and the show. I don’t think the show has integrity or realism, but more on that later. It was a hot summer day, about 100 degrees in the sun but the trainer said “it will be 110 degrees biking on this hot pavement.” Really? You’re taking a morbidly obese man who hasn’t exercised at all in three months out into 100+ degree weather to bike a century with no training whatsoever?

Can you guess how this ride ended? Around mile 30 he started to fatigue and feel the effects of heat stroke. At mile 40 he was incoherent, delirious and suffering from heat stroke so badly they had to call 9-1-1. He was hooked up to oxygen and fluids and the bike ride was over. DUH. I was irritated with the show because of this and it brings me to today’s important topic of knowing your limits.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a goal or event and lose perspective on our abilities. Especially when we are big weight loss losers. It’s easy to feel overly confident because for once we can do something wonderful! We aren’t picked last for the team, we can run! We can bike long distances! Woo hoo! And the tendency is to bite off more than we can chew. I know I’ve been guilty of that.

I trained for Hood to Coast for a year. I was a fairly new runner but I was feeling confident and strong. I was running a lot. I thought I would be unscathed running something as epic as Hood to Coast. My longest run while I was training was about 8 miles without stopping or walking. That’s pretty good, but not good enough. My mileage for Hood to Coast was 17 miles. I should have been clocking in over 20 miles a week before the race and my weekly mileage was more around 15. Not good enough. I ended up injured.

I learned from my mistake with Hood to Coast and knew my limits when it came time to do the Portland Century. Was I conditioned for 100 miles on the bike? Sure–in a way. My fitness level is strong. But am I bike strong? Not really. I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough the complete the 100 miles without hurting by the end. That’s not fun. My weekly mileage on the bike was hovering around 65 miles and I knew that wasn’t enough training to do 100. I switched my miles to 72. Not quite a Century, but it’s still a great accomplishment. And I don’t regret that decision at all!

I see a lot of people in the blog world making this mistake. They are new runners and they sign up for a half marathon as their first race. Don’t get me wrong, I commend their enthusiasm and determination. I just silently worry about their bodies holding up. Why not start small? Do a 5k, then an 8k, then a 10k…? There is something to be said about working up towards a big goal.

Besides risking injury, you are robbing yourself of the joy of getting better and challenging yourself. Last year I biked 55 miles in Reach the Beach and this year I did 72 miles in the Portland Century. I was SOOO happy! I did 20 more miles this year without any issues. Awesome! That means next year I can totally rock 100 miles! And I’m looking forward to it.

There is something really special about challenging yourself to try harder, do more, bit by bit. It’s why training for things is so fun. You start small and work up the ladder. You earn that big accomplishment by the end!

That does not mean you should be discouraged, or feel less than someone else who is doing more. I did not feel like less of an athlete because I biked 72 miles instead of 100. I still felt like a rockstar at the end! Don’t get discouraged that your abilities are not quite what you expect them to be. It takes time. It takes training. You’ll earn it.

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with this? Do you know your limits?

6 Responses

  1. I completely agree with you! I think sometimes these TV shows push these people past their limits simply to make interesting TV. And it’s so dangerous! I think it makes some people, even I’ve felt this way, feel like they’re not pushing themselves enough. And maybe they’re not, but you also can’t push yourself to the point where you need to call 9-1-1!! I trained for my first half after doing a 5k, an 8k, and a 10k. I progressed slowly, and i’m a slow runner at that. Now I’m training for another half and contemplating a full…but I’m honestly going to take the training as it goes and see how far I can go. I may not make it to the full, and i’m OK with that, because I’d rather do it right and remain injury free!

    1. Yes, I think the TV shows are unrealistic–especially Biggest Loser. If it’s dangerous, it’s not healthy.

      I have fallen victim to thinking my abilities were more than they were. I think I got sucked into the running blog world where people were running marathons all the time and made it seem so easy. They weren’t sore, they didn’t get injured…so I can do it too? Right?? Um, no…

  2. Yikes. Those kind of stunts would only happen on reality television. I would hope that there’d be some kind of disclaimer, like the old “don’t try this at home.”

    I hear of a lot of relatively new runners who get injured and then discouraged and stop running. I don’t know if it’s because they were pushing too hard. I credit my kinda low mileage (especially compared to some of the running focused bloggers out there) for avoiding injury. I do feel that fatigue in my legs when I try to exert myself more. I know I can’t do 50-60 mile weeks and stay injury free. I’m fine with my 25-35 mile weeks.
    cindylu recently posted..The new girl

    1. I was pretty new to running and was plugging away injury-free. I discovered the running blog world and was wrapped up in that. It seemed like everyone was getting injured. I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t. Then about two years later I did get injured. I don’t know that I did anything “wrong”, so to speak, but all of a sudden I had to reevaluate my fitness. How important was it to me to be able to run 25+ miles a week? Or was it more important to NOT be injured and be able to do all kinds of fitness — even if it means running less? That’s what I decided.

  3. Your post could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve been working out for 2 years now, but never took up running until recently. I despised it!

    Once I finally jumped over that mental hurdle, I ran 2 miles which was a huge accomplishment. That was 2 weeks ago and I’ve been running ever since. Yesterday I completed 3 miles for the first time ever. I felt great for the rest of the day, I “get” why people run now.

    Then came the “I wonder how much more I can do?” feeling for today’s run – then I read your post this morning. Once we realize what our bodies can do, we naturally want to see how far we can push them, it feels great to accomplish what we previously thought was impossible! But, I’m dialing it back until 2 miles becomes a breeze, then upping my mileage. Thanks for reminding us to take it slow!

    1. Hey Rae! I’m glad you found some value in my post. Lucky timing.

      Congrats on learning to run and finally liking it. I liked it from the start but I struggled. It was really, really hard for me. But those times when I started to improve and see my ability grow, I got so excited! The feeling of accomplishment is addicting.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge