We are exploring the theme of “change” as a team–and we are looking through a variety of “lenses” at what this means for us as we each deal with diabetes in our own way. I’ll kick things off…

This morning I did something very unusual. Well, for me, it was a BIG change. I went running–that’s right, on purpose! Before you runners get all excited and label me a “convert”, please understand that this is just cross training for the Team LivingVertical 2014 LEAD expedition. It’s a necessary evil. Just kidding. Sort of.

If you haven’t yet guessed, I am not a runner. When I lace up my kicks and start going for it, I begin hating life within a few short moments. It’s not like climbing which makes me feel alive–running makes me feel like I am dying. As I was doing my best to embrace this process as a “good” thing, I was struck with a relatively interesting thought: suffering, self denial, discomfort, inconvenience are all necessary to create the benefit of fully appreciating and understanding ones fitness and health.

"Up early". "Running". Words which DO NOT often apply to me. Time for a change!
“Up early”. “Running”. Words which DO NOT often apply to me. Time for a change!
I posted a version of this musing up on the Facebook Page and it spawned some discussion–some agreeing, some dissenting.

First off there is the obvious fact that suffering makes you appreciate what you have. For example, being out in the elements always “improves” the comforts of home by simply changing our attitude toward what we take for granted. The process of running, no matter how hateful at first, will ultimately benefit me through improving my metabolism, cardio-function, insulin sensitivity etc–and it will improve my climbing abilities on some level–assuming I continue to push through the part where I hate it.

photo 4

Beyond this, however, it occurred to me that it is only through significant challenge (this is a more objective way of saying “suffering”, just so we don’t wind up playing semantic tiddlywinks later in the comments section) that we gain awareness of how complex our bodies are. How they respond to changes in our sleep. Our diet. Our thinking and emotions. I know that without diabetes, I would not have the awareness of how these variables produce measurable change in my performance.

But even beyond diabetes–try sitting in a chair all the time. Don’t break a sweat. Avoid physical effort at all costs. Suddenly being fit or healthy loses a lot of value. You can be dehydrated, sleep deprived, weak, poorly nourished–and still get by without a measurable incentive to change those things if your lifestyle is sedentary. If you’re not taking on challenges that make the fitness matter–tangibly–then what’s the point? It’s really hard to prioritize fitness that you don’t test-and it’s hard to test anything without pushing it to the limit.

photo 1

I’m speaking from my personal experience, because for the last several months, that has been my life. Recently, I embraced change and I got off my behind to start dedicating time to training. I began to make better food choices. I began to feel the difference between 5 and 7 hours of sleep in a very real way. Drinking nothing but coffee and coke zero began to exact a very painful toll on me as I attempted to climb or run–so I began going to bed earlier. Drinking more water. Eating (and drinking!) less junk–and feeling the benefit in the moments of hateful exertion.

It’s surely a process. I know that the point of suffering is to gain durability and transcend the discomfort. Push that limit. Then, start over and push that new limit further. Change is a constant. Pushing limits is a constant process of growth. Few things provoke my ire more than when people say (in response to what we are doing here, with climbing) “Oh I could never do that. That’s for extreme athletes. I’m not at that level. I struggle with basic fitness–I’m not like you.”

Newsflash: I struggle all the time.

Headline: It’s not pretty or easy–I have just accepted that struggle as part of the process.

Pushing limits is pushing limits. As your limit changes, you will always be pushing it. That means if your limit is taking the stairs at work three times a week and you are bumping it up to five times a week, you ARE getting after it as much as we are when we go hundreds of feet up a wall or into the wilderness to explore unclimbed routes. That means we are working on the same project as long as we are pushing BACK. Don’t EVER diminish your struggle because of how you think it measures up to someone elses. I am guilty of that a lot. I always feel like a slouch because I feel like I don’t climb “hard enough”. I need to not do that–especially since I am asking you, my esteemed reader not to.

From the beginning of LivingVertical and Project365 I never aimed to inspire people by being a “great athlete”–because as compared to other climbers I am mediocre, sometimes just a little better on a good day. I’m not being modest. That’s a simple fact. Go into any climbing gym and you’ll find a handful of climbers who can send 5.12 with regularity. I’ve climbed two 5.12s in my life and both were gargantuan efforts for me. The real takeaway is what WE are doing together, every time we face our limit, whatever it may be and say, ‘yeah, I know this is going to suck but I am still going to try again’.

photo 2

Agree? Disagree? Can’t decide? Sound off in the comments below–after subscribing to the LivingVertical YouTube Channel!