“Endurance is a decision, not a quality.” ~ John Munger
What is endurance? How does one endure? How much can one endure?
These questions have entranced me for much of my life. It’s what drew me to Vipassana meditation almost 20 years ago. It’s what captured my imagination and my body when I discovered my love of bicycling in 1999, and then triathlon in 2005.
The official dictionary.com definition of endurance is that it is the fact or power of enduring, or bearing pain and hardships. It goes on to say that endurance is the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions. It is stamina, to have a lasting quality or duration.
Take that in. Breath that in. Allow that to exist within you. Within YOU.
As a person who has survived two rounds of breast cancer, has successfully lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 40 years, and as someone who survived childhood sexual abuse and emotional abuse, I deeply relate to this word. Often I reflect on my, and our, human ability to endure, and to do so in the face of many challenges. To endure what has been given to me in this life and to do so with a positive spin.
Like dance teacher and dance learner John Munger said, “Endurance is a decision, not a quality.” Meaning that each of us can decide to endure, we can choose to have the power and strength to continue despite fatigue, stress or adverse conditions.
After crying for a few days upon receiving my second cancer diagnosis, I realized I had a choice. I sat in meditation for nearly a full day and contemplated how I would move forward. I remember hearing a wise inner voice gift me the insight that I had the opportunity to CHOOSE.
I decided I would learn all I could about how to best navigate this diagnosis. I relied on my cycling and triathlon strengths. I stepped with intention into changing the rhythm of my life. This was the point that I gave up most processed food. I gave up dairy, meat, gluten and most alcohol. I learned how to cook. I slowly settled into the new focus of my life.
I also gave up unhealthy relationships with people who were fun-cell-suckers, meaning they sucked the joyful, positive energy out of the people they came in contact with, in this case they came in contact with me. The friends who made it through my friendship trimming are people who love to take care of themselves and the world we inhabit. As you might suspect, many of these people also happen to be endurance athletes.
When I’m training for and competing in an endurance sport event, such as a triathlon or Tour de Cure bike ride, I remind myself that my ability to endure physical discomfort is enhanced by my ability to survive all that I have survived. When my legs are burning and I want to give up, I breathe into my endurance skill. It is a mental skill. It’s the stories I tell myself during those moments of burn. I take a deep breath and sink into my power and ability to continue. To continue one more moment. And then another moment. And another.
I’m writing this in early April of 2020, as COVID-19 is blasting the United States, where I live. I am healthy and strong at this moment. This is an Ultra Endurance event, it’s going to take a while for this pandemic to end. I find that I am relying on my ability to endure in the face of adverse conditions.
Please, allow yourself to draw on your inner wisdom and strength. Allow yourself to slow down and dig deep to your endurance athlete self. Breathe into yourself. One moment at a time.
Let me know how you’re enduring. I like hearing from you.