|Halfway Between Pain and Pleasure||Nov 21, ’07 11:27 PM
Last night, as I was trying to execute a complicated pose in my yoga class, the instructor mentioned something that caught my attention. She said, “find that point between pain and pleasure in your stretch.” A few of us gifted with more lively imaginations giggled, but it was the perfect way to describe that asana, and that got me to thinking what a very thin line it was between the two.
I also recall reading a study published in a magazine a few years ago about the so-called, elusive “runner’s high.” Curiously, it could only be achieved at a pace that was neither too easy nor too difficult for the person running.
Is this how it should be? Is this the key to finding balance in everything we do? Is this why the Buddhist teaching which shows us “The Middle Path” so important for us to understand?
In sports, if you slack off and have too many easy days, you can’t expect a good result. But if you push way too hard, you can either get injured or will be just plain tired on the day of the big event and can’t perform as well. And if you still insist on doing this over and over it would surely lead to extreme fatigue and burnout.
When is enough enough anyway? Sans a heart rate monitor, speedometer, power output meter and other training devices, are we all equipped with an inner alarm that tells us when to keep pushing and when to stop?
Of course we are. We are the masters of what is good for us. Now if only we would listen. I myself have wasted many a racing season because I would foolishly ignore my intuition and follow what others are doing because it sounded like it worked for them. Comparing yourself to other people too much can be detrimental. And this goes both ways—for I discovered that for me to do well I would have to do more than the normal share of long workouts, whereas for some people, short and sweet seems to do it for them.
Lance Armstrong (and just when you thought I would go through this whole article without mentioning him, eh), while being interviewed for a major international publication once, was asked what sort of pleasure he derived from all that hard work which he put into his training and racing. He couldn’t understand the question and requested for it to be repeated a couple of times. It wasn’t till later that the interviewer realized—pain was Lance’s pleasure. Again, very thin line. Driving himself onto this extremely high threshold makes sense to him though, and we all know that he has reaped huge successes for believing in himself, trusting in his instincts and ignoring the naysayers who kept telling everyone what could not be done.
Find your balance. Strive to be the very best version of yourself because you just might be surprised how far this will take you. Testing your limits can be a truly rewarding endeavor. But most of all, take pleasure in the whole experience.
And if doing what you like the most means eliciting stares from strangers who conclude that you are one of the crazies from your weird whooping and grunting sounds on the treadmill, then so be it. Hey, they called Galileo crazy once but he was on to something wasn’t he?