When I hear the word endurance I think of sports. I think of athletes who drink Gatorade and push their bodies to the extremes. I think of marathon runners and Sir Edmund Hillary. Incredible people in the peak of physical fitness.
But endurance is not merely a physical thing. In order to persist at anything hard, exhausting and strenuous we must have strong mental and emotional endurance as well.
No matter how many affirmations we say every morning, or how many crystals we keep under our pillow, there will be times in life when we’ll need to endure something painful. It could be heartbreak, grief, anger, disappointment or rejection. It could be illness, depression or anxiety.
- the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.”she was close to the limit of her endurance”
- the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.
Simply, endurance means having the ability to maintain discomfort for as long as possible. It means trusting that the fight will soon be over and all you need to do is keep going. Endurance means not giving up. Your body may be burning, your heart may be aching, but you ride the wave until it passes.
Creativity and Endurance
For a creative person daring to send your work out into the world, endurance is vital. Everyday I send out query letters to literary agents in the hope that one of them will say yes to representing my YA novel. The reality could be that I will get to 100 rejections before I get an agent. It is not an easy process and every rejection stings just a tiny bit. But, the only options are to either give up or to endure.
The acting industry is a fickle wench. I have been at this game for as long as I can remember. Yes, the rejection is hard. Yes, it is frustrating to be told you almost got the lead role. I could throw my toys. I could throw in the towel. But then what? Choosing not to throw my hat in the ring when the cool jobs come up would be just plain boring! So I endure.
Mental Health and Endurance
Endurance is super important when life gets hard. The black dog might show up or that damn tiger of anxiety. Everything can feel heavy and pointless and hopeless.
Mental illness is a disease that can be fatal. That’s where the importance of endurance comes in. During those times, when you are really struggling, it’s important you reach out. Tell a loved one you are not okay. Go to you GP to talk about your options. See a therapist. But it is the ability to endure discomfort that is the most valuable.
When I find myself in that dark place I tell myself that I know it is not forever. I remind myself that I have been here before and just like last time I will get through it. I be kind to myself and take every moment as it comes. When I feel like I can’t safely endure anymore, I ask for help.
Parenting and Endurance
Yeah, kids and babies are cute and parenting is super rewarding. However, raising little ankle biters is not without its challenges!
Nothing is as testing to your patience as parenting. Asking your child to put on their shoes for the seventh time without yelling takes magical self control. Doing it for years at a time with very little sleep takes endurance.
I cannot count the times I wanted to run away with the circus when my children were little and omnipresent. But I didn’t because my kids needed me. I had to find a way to endure the frustration and mind numbing repetitively that came with caring for small “spirited” children.
When we are hurt, upset or angry it is hard to continue with daily life. It becomes hard to be productive or do simple tasks. This is more common amongst Highly Sensitive People.
Basically, the energy we use experiencing extreme emotions is exhausting. But with the skill of endurance we can dig deep, breathe and keep on going.
This does not mean disconnecting from our feelings. It is more about accepting how we feel and choosing to work through it. It means having the ability to sit with our hard feelings instead of choosing to numb them with food, alcohol, spending money, or cancelling the day to watch Netflix.
I was never a sporty child.
In primary school I was always last picked for P.E class and as a teenager my friend and I stashed snacks in our bras so we’d have something to do while we walked the cross country.
I had no desire to endure physical discomfort because I simply saw no point in it.
But recently something has changed.
Enjoying Physical Endurance
I have joined the F45 cult and now I am hooked. Five to six times a week, for 45 minutes, I partake in box jumps, burpees, heavy lunges and pull ups. Yes, it is hard. No, I don’t particularly enjoy it at the time. But after the class I am in The Vortex!
The physical endurance is real. I have to work hard to keep my mind focused enough to make my body keep going. I have to egg myself on, even repeat mantras to distract myself from the burning pain in my muscles. I have to go deep into the zone to push through that fourth one minute set when my body is screaming for me to stop.
Emotionally, I have to work to quiet the voices of self judgement:
“You’ll never be able to do a box jump because you are too unfit.”
“OMG. Pussy! You are too scared to jump up on that box.”
“Does your knee really hurt or are you just slacking off?”
“Everyone knows you are not working hard enough.”
“You’ll never improve. Give up!”
I hear these voices of self doubt but I cannot let them in. I simply need to endure them while I am busy physically enduring the workout.
The Physical/Emotional Endurance Connection
It’s been just under four weeks since I started training with F45. I have never felt so calm in my life. I feel more patient with the kids and less snippy and resentful when it comes to cleaning the toilets (I live with three boys who have bad aim).
Emotionally I feel more balanced. I still feel a range of emotions but when the hard ones roll in I sit with them until they roll out again. I don’t try to hide from them or numb myself. I endure.
Every time I feel a strong emotion I find myself going to the same place I do during a hard workout. A calm zone where I accept each second of discomfort as it comes. It is a very powerful place to be.
Challenging your Endurance Limits
The more we sit in these places of discomfort the easier they become to endure.
When I first started doing planks I could barely hold out for 30 seconds let alone the 2 minute goal. Now I can hold on for 1 minute 30 before the burn becomes too much.
The same goes for emotional endurance. It’s important to know your limits. But I find the more I sit with my discomfort the better I become at it. I hold out. I breathe. I stare it in the face and I take every second as it comes.