If you want to win and succeed in life you need to try to overcome your mental limits, to push through the pain and reach the top. Yet sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, if the pain is too great, you need to turn back before reaching the top.
There are times when you need to forget about the pain you are feeling, clench your teeth and continue, yet at other times, when the pain is too great, you need to stop and turn back. The smart man can distinguish between the time when he should not give up and the time when he should. This is a vital skill, which will help you succeed in life.
When you are working out (or doing any other type of physical or even mental activity), your body will feel pain, you will be reaching your limits, yet you continuing to push through, forgetting about the pain and finishing up those reps, will be the key to achieving your goals or even surpassing them. Getting big (and gaining weight) means having to go through a rigorous exercise process and not giving up when the going gets tough.
So why am I talking about times when the pain is too great and you should give up? There are two types of pain: the pain you feel when your body is working harder than it ever did before, that is a good pain, and the pain you feel when your body is breaking down, that is a bad pain.
When you are lifting heavy or sprinting hard and you feel you can’t push anymore, using your mind to supress that pain will help you finish up strong, which will give you the ability to lift heavier and sprint harder the next time. That is the key to improving.
However supressing your pain, when you feel your knee or head hurts, when you feel you have been injured, can lead to fatal consequences. The pain you are feeling is your body’s way of telling you that what you are doing is bad and that you are hurting your body. This could mean that your body could break down and stop functioning properly.
For example when you injure your knee and you feel it hurt, continuing to play on that knee, could just aggravate that injury even more and lead to you damaging your knee beyond repair. This in the long-run could take you out of the game for good.
So how do you distinguish between good and bad pain? One way is to ask yourself, what am I risking if I continue? If the answer is that the risk is permanent damage and that risk is high, then you should most likely stop.
Last summer, I went for a hike into the mountains. We chose a hike to the top of a mountain which was over 2500 meters high, with the last part being basically a climb over rocks. I had previously been diagnosed with a torn ACL, however I decided to do the trip anyways.
The uphill climb was quite a challenge. It was a really hot day and many parts of the mountain were barren, exposing us to the sun. As you get to higher elevations, the sun becomes stronger and you can burn yourself quite easily. It also becomes a bit harder to walk, as the air becomes thinner.
The walk on the gravel and dirt path was not that much of a problem, however I started having problems when we got closer to the top. There the gravel and dirt path ended and you had to climb over rocks in order to be able to reach the top of the mountain.
There were a bunch of other people trying to do the same thing as us and sometimes you had to overtake them or watch your back when some people were trying to overtake you. At one point I had gotten a second wind and felt a bit more energetic, despite the thinner and heavier air, and so decided that I wanted to reach the top faster.
There was a lady who was climbing over the rocks quite slowly and I decided that I didn’t want to be stuck behind her and so needed to get in front of her quickly. I hopped on one rock, then another and lastly I had to jump on top of another rock. I got in front of her, but then I heard a pop and felt that I tore something.
The knee is made up of several ligaments and I was afraid that I had torn some other ones as well besides the already torn ACL. I started mentally blaming myself for becoming so reckless and not paying attention to where I was going and also the speed I was going at. The mountains are a dangerous territory and one little mistake could have grave consequences.
However I decided to continue. I was very close to the top and maybe there was no damage, so I decided to go on and try to reach the top. However with each step, I could feel the knee and I was becoming more and more mentally agitated and angry at myself.
I was very close to the top. I was pondering what to do. At that point I decided not to risk it and instead to turn back. I would have loved to have reached the top and feel the pride of a great achievement, as I looked down at everything below me.
But it was not worth it. I was risking aggravating my injury. This could have grave consequences for the rest of my life. One short moment of glory was not worth a lifetime of misery. If I turned back now, I could always still come back and repeat this when I got better, but if I did permanent damage to myself, it could affect everything.
Plus there was still the way back down. The way down was a horrendous journey, since with each step, I was putting a lot of pressure on the knee and it hurt really bad. I felt like I was never going to make it, but pushed on, knowing that unlike reaching the top, there is no other decision, but to continue on down.
At the end, I made it down. Later I had the operation and had to undergo a tough rehabilitation process. In fact, I am still struggling to recover and my knee doesn’t feel as before. However I made the right decision by turning back at that point. Maybe I could have continued and not damaged myself further, but it was too much of a risk.
I hope that when I recover, I can still go back to the mountains and conquer them. I gave up in order to be prepared to fight another day.