The Art of Enjoying The Burn
After inspecting my ankle, the doctor told me to strengthen it by doing a hundred calf raises a day. I try to do them whenever a few minutes present themselves: when soup is heating, coffee is brewing, or something is downloading.
After a few dozen reps, the calves really start to burn. I hadn’t done calf raises for years, and it turns out my relationship to that burning is very different than it used to be. Having done a fair bit of weight training since then, I hadn’t quite realized that I now enjoy the burning sensation of fatiguing muscles. I’ve come to know it as the feeling that goes with getting stronger.
I used to hate this same feeling. It was the feeling of slogging through the final laps in gym class, dying to hear the buzzer go. It was the feeling of awkwardly holding up a plank while I waited for my dad to put in all the screws.
Interestingly, the physical side of this muscle-burn feeling is the same as it ever was. It’s still uncomfortable. It’s still a relief when I can stop and rest. But my psychological relationship to it has completely reversed.
Instead of trying to escape from, ignore, or stop the burning, as I once did in Phys Ed class, I settle into it willingly, like the heat from a sauna. I let it build and intensify as I push on, without trying to defend against it, and that intensity is exhilarating. Even though it burns, it feels like strength, capability, progress.
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