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Find Your Limits to Push Past Them

Often in life we discover we can do much more than we first believe. Sometimes we make this discovery by chance, and other times it’s forced on us somehow.

The third category is by choice, when you deliberately go further, do more, try harder, or just discover that the limits you thought you operated under are not as fixed in place as you believed.

This can be a lot of fun. Story below. ⬇️


Last year I went to run with James “Iron Cowboy” Lawrence, who completed 101 full-distance triathlons in 101 days. (His goal was 100, but he added an extra day at the end because, well, why not.)

James had previously completed 50 of these events in 50 days in all 50 states. From the earlier attempt, he had a theory about how to train for the new project.

Basically, he believed that he’d prepare his body for the second half of the challenge (days 51-100) through the work he did on days 1-50.

This is counterintuitive to what most people—including me, until recently—believe about high-intensity activity.

I always thought that you couldn’t just keep doing the same hard things over and over—you had to rest and recover from each one before making your next attempt.

What James showed me and many others is that this is not always true.

Yes, there ARE limits. Ultramarathoners aside, most of us can’t run for twenty-four hours at a time. And no one could run twenty-four hours straight over and over.

But that’s an extreme example. The point is that although real limits exist, a) you won’t know what yours are until you approach them, and b) to approach your limits, you have to operate differently than you normally would.

In Which I Start Running Every Day

I’ve been thinking of James because of STEPN, my new running app / financial obsession.

I first wrote about STEPN in the context of New Money, a topic I’m researching for a book. Since then I’ve received a ton of emails from people who want to start getting paid for running (or walking) around the neighborhood.

Side note:

Like everything else in the world of crypto (and plenty of stocks, too), the value of STEPN tokens has dropped quite a bit recently.

Sadly, I’m no longer earning $300 or more on every run. But guess what! I’m still earning $150-200. Is that the worst thing in the world? Especially considering the fact that I used to run for $0, I think I can deal with it.

Anyway, back to the story.

I’ve been running ~40-45 miles a week for the past couple of years, but it’s usually spread out across a typical marathon runner’s training schedule:

  • One long run every Sunday (12-18 miles)
  • One midrange run every Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday (9-10 miles)
  • Shorter runs on other days (3-6 miles max), along with yoga, HIIT class, and some strength training

Now, because I want to maximize my daily earnings through STEPN, I’ve been running ~7 miles every day, at least most days.

In switching to this model, I discovered two things pretty quickly.

The First Discovery: Running Every Day Is Hard

Running every day instead of almost every day feels a lot different! The total weekly mileage isn’t much more than what I’ve been used to, but that schedule is optimized to allow for rest after the long run. There’s a cycle to it, and I also tend to do most long runs at a slow pace to minimize the risk of injury.

Going out every day for a considerable distance (at least for me), the lack of recovery was tough. I definitely started feeling it after a few days.

On the Sunday after running ~7 miles a day for several days in a row, I struggled the whole way. Keep in mind I usually run farther than 7 miles on a Sunday, but this time I was tired from the start and never really improved.

Afterwards, I fell asleep on a towel on the floor of my apartment. I felt a bit better after eating, but then took another hour-long nap that afternoon. Clearly I needed to take a break.

I told myself that I’d have to change up the plan a bit. In my old age, I need those recovery days! On Monday, therefore, I told myself I’d take it easy and just go for a long walk.

And that’s really what I intended. But then…

The Second Discovery: It’s Actually Okay! (I Think)

I went out the next Monday around noon thinking that I’d mostly walk. First, I decided, I’d do a very easy recovery run for a mile or two. I often do that on rest days to prevent my muscles from getting too sore.

This time, I ran two miles in circles around the park … and I felt fine. So I ran another mile, and then another—and eventually I hit 7 miles!

Somewhere around mile 4 or 5 I realized I could do it, and I wasn’t nearly as tired as the day before.

The next day I had an mid-morning flight to Atlanta, so I got up early and went outside. My plan this time was to do a few miles, then walk a couple more when I arrived in ATL. Once again, however, I felt great and just kept going.

It helped that my breakfast delivery from Door Dash was a little late, so I had to wait downstairs on the driver for ten minutes. Thanks to STEPN, I could cover the cost of breakfast ($28!) if I ran for those minutes, so that’s what I did.

I ended up finishing my 7 miles just as the driver pulled up. Once again I’d gone further than I’d planned, and I felt fine.

In Which There Is a Lesson

That’s all I have to say about running, because the real lesson is about much more. The real lesson is about limits!

Whether it’s my switch to running every day (at least for now) or something else entirely, you may be selling yourself short.

You can’t find your limits without approaching them. And that’s hard, because approaching limits can feel risky, maybe even dangerous.

But again: do you want to test your limits or not? If you do, you first have to find them.

You have to ignore—or at least push aside—conventional wisdom and maybe even your own long-held beliefs.

Maybe all this time you could have been doing something much more (or just “much different”) than you thought.

Find your limits, then push past them.


P.S. In addition to the Iron Cowboy, I’d be remiss to not mention my friend Emily Rudow, who once ran 70 half-marathons on 70 consecutive days. She followed this up with a five-year streak of running every day, usually at least 5-6 miles. 😳

I’m not a real athlete like James or Emily, so I don’t compare myself to them. I just find them inspiring, and I thought about them through the two discoveries.

Images: 1, 2, 3