And how exactly does my head convince my body that it’s not, in fact, dying?

After a one-week delay due to torrential downpour, the interval bootcamp got started last night. Now, this is a tough workout, and you have to be hardcore to do it correctly. So you might be wondering why rain kept us at bay. It was ironic, really. But last Wednesday, we had rain that actually could have been dumped from massive buckets the entire freakin' day, and then the lightning started. Sadly, it would have been simply foolish to fight Mother Nature on this one. But I digress.

So after our warm-up last night, the sculpettes were skipping on the spot while I explained what we were about to do. I kept reiterating that we do interval training in the fusion class already, that it wasn’t a big deal but that I did want to get all the explaining out of the way first because once we got started there wouldn’t be time for thinking… and despite my best efforts at keeping calm, I could tell I was building it up. Their faces went from giddy nervousness to slight trepidation, and the questions became almost anxious. But there was a really good one. I had just explained that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a mental challenge more than a physical one. That the point of this type of training is to get your body working at physical discomfort – your muscles will be screaming stop; your heart will be screaming “I’m dying”. But you won’t be dying. Your head needs to be cool enough to convey this message of life to your muscles, and to know that you are going to keep going. That’s when the question came, “And how exactly does my head convince my body that it’s not, in fact, dying?”

My answer was met with cynicism. I can’t imagine why. “Go faster.” See, the point is, you cannot - you absolutely cannot - entertain thoughts of slowing down. Once those thoughts are had, you’re toast, your workout is sub maximal. In order to shatter that wall, you have to speed up. The wall can be thin, but as your workout progresses it’s more than likely growing in thickness. And you need to continue to blast your way through it by increasing the energy. You won’t be going faster than you were at the beginning. You might not speed up in real time at all, even if you have already lost some speed. But you will be going as fast as you can in that moment, and it will feel faster because you have pushed the insecure thoughts out of the way, and are once again focusing only on doing your best.

First, though, you need to convince your head that you’re not dying. And that’s done before you start your workout, and during your low-intensity breaks. Any energy devoted to thinking during high intensity training is energy that’s being stolen from doing the high intensity training. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, if you’re a healthy individual cleared for intense physical activity, you might get light-headed. Or even worse, you could throw up. But that’s about it. Those two things will stop you before anything more serious happens. That’s not dying – and I’ve never had anyone throw up in my classes, ever. It’s just the worst case scenario. So are you OK with dealing with a little light-headedness? Yeah? Good. Then decide right now that when the wall comes for you, you will blast through it. You won’t push through it, and for the love of fitness, you definitely won’t “try”. You will blast, you will shatter the wall. Once you’ve come to terms with this, when it comes time in your workout, there is no thinking to be done. There is only one thing left to do – go faster.

Not sure what HIIT is? Check out this fantastic infographic from Greatist.