On my last night in Lisbon (Portugal) I was feeling a little fatigued on my walk home. Lisbon is basically a coastal city that sits on the side of a big hill. The most active parts, historically and today, appear to be along the coast. A lot of the buildings along the coast are historic and there’s a very cool old castle (St. George’s Castle) to explore. There is also a lot of residential, retail and business activity housed in mix of old and mainly modern buildings to the North of the coastline.
I was staying in a very quiet neighbourhood about 4.5 kilometres inland. This meant that I had a bit of a trek to get back from anywhere that I’d visit during the day. I should mention also that a lot of this hill is around 45 degrees — so it’s a fairly steep climb too. For some reason I find it very difficult not to run (up) when I see a hill. So by day two I was was running home — I just couldn’t help myself!
After a week of all that walking and running around Lisbon I was feeling a little exhausted and my legs were feeling the weight and heat of all that exercise big time. All the spring was gone from my step and I really felt like I was struggling by the start of roughly the last kilometre. That last uphill stretch ahead of me almost looked unsurmountable by that stage.
I really hate to finish any physical activity weakly though, so I decided that I’d run the final two junctions, roughly 250 metres each, allowing a brief rest back to walking pace (and to safely cross the road) before taking off again and then ending with a brisk 400m on the flat section at the top to recover before walking back into the hotel.
Well I made it. Two nice 250m uphill dashes at a brisk pace later and I was feeling great and I didn’t die. It’s mad how sometimes, when one feels really tired and like giving up, how a bit of concentration can help one to dig in and squeeze a little more out. The reason I felt so great was because I had achieved something way beyond what I’d first I actually started to doubt was possible.
Obviously I was always going to make it back to the hotel but everyone knows what it’s like to be super tired right — especially late at night after a long day and a longer week of exercise?! We likely all hit points of lower energy like this from time to time but so many of us try and avoid such situations. I believe that, instead, we should all be proactively seeking out such moments as opportunities to build mental capacity.
I actually apply this exact philosophy when out cycling too. There’s a really nasty section of hill between the Radisson Hotel and the top of Mount Merrion Avenue in Dublin (Ireland) which I invariably encounter every day that I cycle (which is most days of the year). It’s a roughly 700m grind at the end of any journey from the North or West of where I live.
Anyone who cycles regularly and lives in South County Dublin will most likely know the section of road I’m talking about. It’s possible to cut off half way and avoid it but unless I’m carrying some mad injury I always make it my business to charge it. It usually feels horrendous, no matter how many times I take it on, or how fit I am, but I always fell great after it too so it’s 100% worth the effort.
I reckon it’s so important to try and find ‘that last section of hill’ every day — some beasting or other that we have to option to avoid but will grow stronger as a result of tackling. I’m convinced that this is the best way to build resilience and in so doing keeps us prepared for the days when we have no option but to pin the ears, dig in and drive hard, forward and up.
Obviously there’s a metaphor in here and the hill can be anything that we might struggle at but know we should be driving through. Have you got a daily ritual that you like to complete to help you train your own resilience or mental toughness?! Perhaps you’ve been inspired to identify something to take on? Let me know!