Workout of the Day

Uphills and Downhills


You end up with a lot of time to think to yourself on long trail runs, and you get a lot of time and temptation to think negative thoughts on the steep uphills that can easily occupy 70% of your time running on any given mountain trail. This, of course, is a very poor strategy if you have any interest in enjoyment or longevity on the trails. “My body hurts,” “I’m tired,” and “I’d rather be in bed right now” are not thoughts that aide in any sort of forward propulsion or motivation to endure.

Unlike the uphills, the downhills tend to leave you with very little time to think. You’re moving fast, often working through technical terrain, and your mind has little space to be occupied with anything other than how to control your speed, dodge that bush branch, and where to place your feet just right on the rock faces and loose scree that you’re darting towards so that you can stay on your feet. This is the fun part. It all happens in an unthinking rush, it’s exhilarating, and it always seems to be over before you know it.

The thing is, without the uphill, you wouldn't get to the downhill. Thinking about this is a strategy I’ve taken on during grueling ascents. “Sure, your legs are burning, your body is tired, you’re hungry and you could be laying in a soft bed right now, but this is the process to earning your downhill” I explain to myself.

This strategy applies directly to running, of course, but if we stretch the meaning of “uphill” and “downhill” ever so slightly, it’s relevant to any endeavor.

It’s a fairly universal trend that uphills -- challenges physical, mental, or emotional -- earn downhills. And much like the trails, the uphills tend to invite lots of time to think, and lots of opportunity to let these thoughts be negative, to wade around in self-pity, and to give up on yourself, while the downhills tend to just happen, almost without thought or recognition, and they are such a rush of enjoyment or satisfaction or such a state of ease that they often go unnoticed. And thus the strategy of contemplating on the downhills as you slog through the uphills is even more valuable. When you’re tired of spending your afternoon in the kitchen preparing healthy meals for the week, think of your health and energy that you can enjoy, carefree. When your training is exhausting, difficult, frustrating, think of the thrill of being a physically skilled, adaptable, and healthy human being capable of handling whatever physical challenges you take on with relative competence and ease.

Embrace your uphills, earn your downhills.

- PS


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