As I type this, I’m about to head out on a morning hike with Jason and our two friends, Alli and (Other) Jason.
Hiking has come to be one of my favorite things about living out here in Poway, our city just northeast of downtown San Diego.
Lake Poway is about a four-minute drive from our doorstep, and it’s surrounded by all kinds of mountainous trail heads that are just challenging enough to make it a great workout.
Last week, on one particular hiking day, Jason and I decided to go down our standard trail backwards, turning all of the many downhill bits of the trail into uphill bits.
Even given our four weeks of hiking these trails multiple times a week, I admit, this particular occasion almost had me beat. With each uphill, my calves felt like they might turn to jello at any moment. My ankles felt like they were on fire. Each tiny step was a laborious task, one that left me feeling more and more depleted every moment.
But, just as I was in the middle of one our longest inclines, I remembered something I’ve been learning through my other exercise outlet, The Dailey Method. I take classes about two or three times a week, and one thing they focus on is alignment and core strength. By contracting your abs or pulling in from the strength of your quads in certain exercises, you can tap into the strength of those muscle groups and your other muscles will follow.
I reminded myself of this in the midst of my slow and painful assent, and mustered my remaining will power to engage my abs and focus on the strength in my quads, not my weaker and already-exhausted calves. Suddenly, my posture lifted, the grimace on my face disappeared, and I felt a new wave of energy come over me. It was working.
By shifting my focus from my peripheral body - though my feet and ankles and calves certainly felt like they needed my immediate attention - to my core body, I was able to find my own power and strength.
And, typical to these thought-provoking hikes, I began to think about how this relates to life.
How many times in our daily lives do we find ourselves in the midst of challenges and struggles and our response is to focus on our weaknesses?
Why is this so painful?... we think to ourselves. But all we do is focus on the peripheral, the things that hurt, the things that feel like they need our immediate attention. I’m not strong enough. I’ll never make it through this. I should just quit.
But, instead of focusing on what makes us feel weak, there’s an alternative awaiting us and it’s where our true power lies: our inner core.
Just like in my story on the hike, the first step to tapping into the power within us is training ourselves to become aware of that core. It’s about constantly asking yourself:
Who am I in my purest, most unencumbered form?
What do I love about my true self?
What would I do if I weren't worried about what the rest of the world thought of me?
Once you can answer those things and start to make this connection between your mind and your spirit, that’s when you’ll be able to tackle the struggles and the challenges with more confidence. That’s when you’ll be able to find a power you didn’t know existed, giving you a source of energy and grit you didn’t know you had. The pain of your ankles and your calves will fall away and you’ll start to think to yourself, I got this.
So, here’s my directive for you this week:
Draw strength from the power that lies in your true self.
Ask yourself those harder questions about who you are really, and decide if you’ve been focusing on what feels painful and urgent on on fire, rather than doing the work to draw strength from your core. (If you need some help along the way, I wrote a book last year called Connecting With Your Core that could help you get clear on what your core is telling you.)
And on that note, I’m off to go climb yet another mountain!