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7 Soft Ways to Push Hard

Are you in it to win it?

Nowadays, the rats are rattier, and the damn race is on. There quite literally is no rest for the weary — our daily lives move at light speed, and we as a society are dedicated to harder, better, faster, stronger. (Thank you Daft Punk and Kanye for your anthems of a generation!) With mile-long to-do lists, dreams and desires for our families and ourselves, not to mention the added pressure of today’s high standards and low-levels of support, it’s a wonder any of us are still standing at the end of each day.

There is only one way to get to whatever goals you have, and that’s to push through to the other side.

But there are plenty of times when your drive is driven off by any number of distractions, disappointments, and disasters.

The other day in spin class, I had one of those moments where I got to the core of how to push, and it came from a surprisingly soft place that I landed upon after taking seven distinct steps to clear the decks for the final push to a triumphant ball of sweat and clarity. Here’s how to go from good grief to sweet relief:

Shift it: This was the easiest stage to identify, as I’d mounted my stationary bike thinking about the long string of people, places, and things I had to show up for later that day, only to realize pretty much immediately that I was tired. Exhausted even. This was definitely no way to get ye olde motor running — and so, I immediately began to shift those thoughts right out of my head, choosing to focus instead on the easy thump of the warm-up beats.

Stuff it: Although it’s really easy to say you’re going to move your focus from one thing to the other, the reality is that it’s hard to keep your sights set on getting through to the other side without stumbling over obstacles that are set by others or, more often, by your own silly self. Imagine that you grab those blocks and stuff them one by one, deep into your socks (or spin shoes, depending on where you are). Give it all satisfying stomp just to keep that shit from popping back up.

Rest it: This is something that trips most of us up. In the flow of a spin class, for example, there is no point where the instructor says, “Aww, sweetie, you look like you could use a break. Let’s all grind to a halt, take a big swig of water, and relax.” If anything, it’s the opposite — s/he spends the entire time egging you on, making sure that you don’t ever let up. It’s up to you to regroup when you need to. And that doesn’t mean stopping dead in your tracks; it just means taking a few deep breaths and giving your fight or flight impulse a little respite before continuing on. (A note on cortisol and the “fight or flight mode” we so rely on to push through — get conscious of that, because that is a state of stress, and it’s really not healthy. A short rest to reset is key, as once that cortisol drains, you’ll feel much more energetic.)

Love it: The fastest way to fill up your fuel tank is to remind yourself that you love what you are doing. And if you don’t, pull the hell over and get out. Now.

Rock it: Of course spin class has the decided upper hand when it comes to rocking out — there’s always a bumpin’ tune to carry you through. But you can be your own DJ– tune into what turns you on, and everything flows from there. This was very literal in my spin class analogy — all it took was mash-up that included the catchy chorus from And She Was by the Talking Heads:

“The world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was)
The world was moving she was floating above it (and she was) and she was”

And you know what? When I rocked it, letting it all pour out and with no time to think about anything, and I just… was. Give it a whirl, and while you’re at it, crank up the volume.

Will It: Your will has a power all its own, and it lies somewhere right outside of that proverbial comfort zone. At any given time, little voices pipe up, urging you to drop the quest, still the journey, and turn away from the task at hand. Will is what drowns those voices out in a sea of confidence that springs from being clear on the bigger mission. Take, for example, what got me through the spin class in question…

Jeggings.

That’s right, my will to spin on and burn 500 or so calories came from a purchase the day before of soft, comfy, slimming black jeggings. Those jeggings could take on a platter of deep-fried Twinkies and never look back. Paired with the fetching, flowing blouse I also bought, I could easily hide at least one spare tire. (Might even conceal a whole truckload of spare tires, actually.)

It takes a lot of will to ignore the siren song of jeggings.

Goddamn you, jeggings! You are the anti-push, and the bane of modern womanhood.

And so that soft excuse for not working hard is exactly where I kicked out the jams and got through the toughest part of the class.

Kill It: The seventh and final stage kicks in once you’ve pushed your way through all the others. With nothing left to lose as you careen to the finish line, it’s the perfect time to let every last shred of whatever you’ve got go. When you go in for the kill that in that final push, the end is swift and fueled by a jolt of adrenalin that accompanies the knowledge that the end is near… real… and finally, here.

So if you see me lacing up (well, velcro-ing up) my spin shoes and giving my jeggings a swift kick aside, just know that pushing hard doesn’t need to be a strain. There’s no pain. Just unfettered satisfaction thanks to all of the gain.  

Photo use & copious inspiration courtesy of Blazing Saddles.

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