Why We All Need To Learn How To Pace Ourselves
The art of living just to die another day and the perfect workout to learn it.
“One day, you are going to drive yourself crazy.” This was told to me after my aunts found an 8-year-old me brooding on my own after getting a test back. I didn’t think I had a reason to be celebratory so I decided to “punish” myself by being miserable.
In my young, malformed mind, I had always believed that if I worked hard, some “supreme being” would reward me for it. During the A’Levels, I “studied” by staying up, staring at my textbooks, depriving myself of rest and much-needed sleep. I sat for all my papers, mentally exhausted. Even if, my brain had the materials, I was not in any condition to use them.
When he found out I had been sleeping just 4 hours each night, my best friend told me off. That woke me up. By then, it was too late. I had already completed all my papers. As predicted, I fared abhorrently.
Today, I am constantly pacing myself. Instead of busting 100% of my guts, I usually clock in at 75%.
This is a great source of frustration to the husband, who is also my boot-camp trainer. He can’t understand why I never “go all out”.
Well, for someone who exercises almost every day of the week, going all out at a single workout session just doesn’t make sense. I need to leave something for the rest of the week! Spinning, running, rock-climbing … I don’t live to exercise; I exercise to live.
And this same wisdom applies to just about everything in Life. Always leave something for the swim back. It doesn’t make you weak, soft, or unambitious. It means you are playing a longer game, where the winners are the ones with the tenacity, grit, and resilience to outlast everyone else.
If you ever need to “learn” how to pace yourself, a workout to try is Stages Flight. It’s a 45-minute spin-class that starts with a 3-minute FTP (functional threshold power) Test. During the test, you cycle as hard as you can manage so the system can then calibrate your goals according to how “strong” you are. Everyone’s different so, how hard you end up having to cycle for the remaining of the workout depends on your FTP number.
Throughout the workout, the intensity changes. The blue and green zones are the easiest, while the maroon and purple zones are the hardest. You need to adjust your speed and power in order to reach the zones displayed on the screen.
I’ve been doing Stages Flight for a year now and I’ve found that the middle zones — yellow, orange, and red — are often the most difficult to keep up with. Long stretches of orange are also mentally demanding because while they don’t require much power, they will burn your legs.
Initially, I struggled with the yellow and orange zones. Then I discovered my own “hack”. The instructor may tell you to go as hard as you can during the FTP test but really, the sweet spot is one where your legs have to be pushing down on heavy pedals but not so heavy until you can’t go at a reasonable speed. The best description I can come up with is …
Imagine you’re being chased down by a psycho killer and you’re in slightly muddy terrain. The ground is sucking your legs down but you should still have enough lift and motivation to run.
Tenacity needs pacing, and for you to find the right pace for yourself, you are better off trying to beat your personal best. Instead of pitting yourself against someone else, go at your own speed, work with the power you have inside you, and learn to enjoy personal victories.
24 down, 39 to go