In today’s BBTL book entry, Chet writes about fatigue and its true cause.
As it turns out, the 100-year-old science behind muscle fatigue doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. “Oxygen debt” is a major contributor when we “hit the wall” in times of heavy exertion and fatigue is no doubt physical. But there’s a good argument to be made that the brain plays an even greater role.
A newer theory around fatigue suggests that the brain acts as a “central governor,” actually regulating the recruitment of muscle fibers in order to protect the body from overexertion. And it does so when it receives the physiological signals from our muscles. In other words, fatigue is not a direct result of depleted muscles, but rather a result of the brain’s interpretation of the signals our muscle send.
Chet’s writing indicates he’s most in line with this second theory. I tend to agree. If I’ve learned anything from Chet and the reading I’ve done this past decade it’s that our mindset, our minds, our brains play an outsized role in what we can and cannot accomplish. As Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Consider this story, which I included in a blog post more than eight years ago. It’s from a book titled the Art of Expressing the Human Body, by martial artist Bruce Lee and fitness expert John Little. Little writes:
“Bruce realized early on that in order for us to fulfill our physical potential, we had to approach our exercise endeavors progressively and fight against the desire to pack it all in and retired to the sofa and the television, where we could escape from our “duty” of self-actualization by partaking in the opposite — that is, shutting off our minds and allowing our muscles to atrophy. Lee wanted to learn as much about his mind and body as possible. He wanted to know what he was truly capable of, rather than settling for what he already knew he could accomplish. As a result, he had a keen eye for spotting people who were selling themselves short by either slacking off in their training or by underestimating what their true capabilities were.”
A student of Lee’s relates an interesting story that perfectly illustrates Lee’s attitude toward progressive resistance in cardiovascular training, as well as his refusal to let a person underestimate his own physical potential:
“Bruce had me up to three miles a day, at a really good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes — just under eight minutes a mile. But this morning he said to me, ’We’re going to go five.’
I said, ‘Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a hell of a lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.’ He said, ‘When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.’ I said, ‘Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.’
So we get to three, we go into the forth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart is pounding, I can’t go anymore and I say to him, ‘Bruce if I run anymore — and we’re still running –if I run anymore I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.’ He said, ‘Then die.’ It made me so mad that I went the full five miles.
Afterward, I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, ‘You know, why did you say that?’ He said, ‘Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.’”
Now, that’s some harsh, CCD talk, but some deep belief, too. Lee had a point to make and he didn’t shy away from making it – the mind is a powerful influencer. And beyond the fact that we will only accomplish what we believe we can, the bad habit of setting limits in one area of our lives will surely seep into others.
So, leader. Are you putting limits on yourself, or do you believe you’ve got more to give?
Do you think you can or think you can’t?