There are few things in our world that we can genuinely call infinite. I know some math lovers would disagree, but that’s not my point. I’m talking about down-to-earth kinds of things. Although it’s tempting to think that our minds are infinite, they, too, have physical limits. Much like a computer can only compute to its CPU limit and retain information to the limitations of its memory, our bodies have those unbreakable boundaries, as well. The question then becomes, how remote are we from those limits in our day-to-day life and is there any benefit in tip-toeing ourselves toward them? Can something change if we do, and is it always a good thing?
The Science of Growth
If you think about your life and break it down into ten-year increments, you can see the different stages of your development as a human being. Although you might not remember much from the early stages, you’ve seen it around you.
Children grow in front of your eyes, and their development is evident because there’s such a disparity between when they are in their first few years versus where they get to be at a later time.
The more time passes, the more that gap closes, and there comes a time when it becomes unclear if a person has completed a stage of growth below the average or above the norm.
When you’re a baby, it’s pretty easy to spot. If you’re able to push yourself to walk, that’s a stage of growth. When you start grabbing things and throwing them around, it’s another stage of development.
That kind of process continues for the remainder of your existence. At every stage of your life, you encounter new challenges that require you to make an elevated level of effort.
Some of those challenges are physical, while others are mental or emotional.
As humans, of course, we grow in all aspects (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), and the way we can balance our growth in those areas will define who we are to become as we grow older.
Our bodies and minds have a certain natural momentum. So long as we feed ourselves, they’ll grow as part of the natural development that occurs in any living thing. But that growth will only continue to a certain point, which is different from person to person.
Some will grow taller, stronger, heavier, and others will be slimmer, shorter, faster. Some people will quickly grasp concepts such as math and physics, while others will be more inclined toward imagining impossible worlds or masterfully manipulating colors and sounds. None of these are mutually exclusive, by the way, and some people may have all of them, some none, and everything else in between.
The point is that without any intervention, our bodies and minds will establish their growth limit to the point where there is no additional challenge.
To make a more direct analogy, if you design your life so that you never have to lift a weight above 5 pounds, your arm muscles won’t need to develop beyond that, and they’ll stop at the limit of the current level of challenge.
Who’s The Boss, Your Mind or Your Body?
Because growth requires an elevated challenge, the question then becomes: who’s the driver? Is it your mind that rules the body or the other way around?
There’s an interesting connection between our minds and our bodies, and the way we make that connection will define who’s in the driver’s seat.
Our bodies, of course, include the brain, but the brain does a lot more than exist inside the skull. The brain’s ability to create and imagine abstract constructs and thoughts makes it look like the brain is always in the driver’s seat.
The truth is that our body will determine what the brain will do more often than not. That’s because our body lives through habits. Whatever you often do enough will define what your body becomes accustomed to, which later translates into feelings.
When you sit on a comfortable couch covered by your favorite blanket, you feel nice and cozy. Your mind acknowledges that and will remind you to go to that place.
Over time, your mind learns what the body loves and starts to pull you there over and over again. It keeps doing so without understanding if that action harms your body because your instincts cannot “feel” the future pain it might lead to. All your mind cares about is an instant pleasure.
Hence, as you may imagine, this is also the birthplace of bad habits and good habits. We all know that these drive critical parts of our lives, so getting a handle on them is of paramount importance.
The Mind Over Body Mantra
If the body drives the mind to pleasure and comfort, when does the mind come in? If you think about history, there is no shortage of stories that depict how the mind managed to take hold of the body and make it push beyond any comprehensible limits.
From horrific stories such as those described by Viktor Frankl about how people survived in concentration camps during World War II to modern-day stories of people pushing through terrible times, we know that the mind can command the body and keep it alive.
Of course, in the context of this article, we are not talking about life and death situations, and the examples are only to show that it is possible. When in a corner and with no other options, your mind can drive our bodies to do things we thought impossible.
So, the question then becomes: why can’t we do things like that when there is no emergency or dire situation?
It’s not only an emergency that makes us defy limits. Passion does the same thing. Take the case of Mark Goffeney, who was born without arms. Growing up, he loved guitar, so he decided to play it . Of course, since he had no arms, he had to improvise, so Mark played guitar with his feet.
Could other people play guitar with their feet regardless of having arms or not? Most likely. Would they do it? Probably not because they don’t have to.
What does that tell you about the power that our minds have over our bodies? In some sense, we can think of it as infinite, and all we need to do is figure out a way to use it as if it was endless.
How Pushing Your Physical Limits Helps You
When you become aware of the powerful cycle of mind èbodyè mind, you’ll realize the immense potential for growth that exists in pushing your physical limits.
There is no better place to train your self-discipline, diligence, and perseverance than through strenuous physical activity. That’s because there’s an immediate observation and a direct correlation.
So, by organizing your life in a way that often requires you to challenge your physical self, you are training your mind to do the same. In turn, your mind will buy into it and begin to feed you the motivation you need to keep going.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to take that drive and motivation and apply it in other parts of your life. That sounds like a win-win already. Of course, there’s a catch. Pushing physical limits is not only tricky, but it could also be dangerous if not done correctly.
So, let us look at ways to accomplish that safely and without putting yourself at risk.
5 Tips For Pushing Your Physical Limits Safely
Learn what it takes
Pushing your limits is not the same as being reckless. Before you undertake any activity, you need to learn the basics, understand the risks, and develop some skills around it.
If you want to lift bigger weights, run longer distances, or fast for a week, first learn how to do those things safely. Every activity has a set of rules and best practices. Get yourself informed before you leap headfirst.
It’s also important to understand where you stand and where your starting point is. That is not to say that you need to adjust that limit to fit your current ability but to understand the current situation.
How much weight can people of your weight, height, and age lift regularly? What is the distance people of your fitness run ordinarily, and how fast?
Understand the basics. The better informed you are, the more knowledgeable you’ll be. Not only will this provide you with a level of safety, but it will also shatter any fears you may have.
Once you know your starting point, you’ll use it as the base from which to grow.
Test your limits
I’ve hinted at this above, but it bears going more profound here. Every time you want to push your limits, you must first understand your current limitations.
That’s why most workout routines ask you to take a fit test first, as they want to know your starting point.
From here, you can assume that the only way is up. To ensure that, you also need to track your progress. For every activity where you want to push your physical limits, keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to give you the information you need.
Also, as you are testing your limits, you’re starting to adapt to that activity and figure out your points of weakness and strength.
For instance, if you want to start running, you might discover that you have a bad knee or other ailments. In that case, go back to step 1 and adjust.
Again, this is not a way to find reasons not to do it; it’s another way to ensure that you are doing it safely.
Push a little over your limit
Once you know the limits and understand what it takes, you’re ready to start pushing those limits. The best way to accomplish this is in small increments. If you try to do giant leaps, like going from ten push-ups to one hundred in one day, not only will you hurt yourself, you’ll also be disappointed and more likely to quit.
Instead, push the limit every time by a little bit. What you’re looking for is to be slightly outside of your comfort zone but not so much to hurt yourself. A little pain is okay, and it’s necessary for growth.
To get your body to adapt, you need to push yourself outside of that comfort zone just enough to establish a new limit. Your body has strong momentum and won’t give in that easily, and you may need to go back again and again to that limit and keep pushing it.
With every push, it will get easier and with every effort, the invisible line of the comfort zone will expand. With it, your self-confidence will also grow, and you’ll be more confident that you can take the next step.
In addition, your body will continue to get stronger and, as a result of that, will withstand more and more discomfort. Soon enough, you’ll even crave that discomfort because you know it means results.
The best example of this is training for a marathon. During this type of training, you run various lengths during the week, and then, on the last day of the week, you add one mile to your previous longest run. That last mile, no matter what it is incremental to, will feel hard. However, that particular mile won’t be that bad anymore in the weeks that follow, but the next one will.
That’s how pushing the boundaries in small steps helps you grow.
Have a mentor
On this journey of pushing your physical limits, there will come a time when you’ll feel ready to give in. It’s normal, and it could happen either one day when you pushed yourself a little too hard or some other time when you wanted to break a limit but you couldn’t.
In those moments, it’s vital to have a support system. That could be a group of people or even just one person who is invested and ready to be there for you.
When it comes to sports, being part of a group provides excellent motivation, knowledge, and support when you feel down. Also, seeing others’ progress acts as a motivator and will help you get going.
I highly recommend having this kind of support in place even before attempting to push any of your limits. The last thing you want is to try to find someone when you’re already in a bad place.
Find your tribe or mentor early and use them as a second screen; it will help tremendously.
Adapt your mindset
Last but not least, you must adapt your mindset to the idea that pain is okay. We’re all used to running away from pain and chasing pleasure. Sometimes, the avoidance of pain is often interpreted as pleasure.
But to grow and change, you need to remind yourself that some amount of pain is perfectly fine.
That’s why I started this list with two points that help you start on this journey safely. When you do so, you give yourself peace of mind, and you’ll be able to adapt your mindset a lot easier.
We are, of course, talking about pushing your physical limits here, but when you learn how to accept pain in the context of your physical self, you’ll be able to extend that mindset to other parts of your life. You’ll find yourself able to withstand mental and emotional pain; you’ll become more resilient and less willing to stay put in the confines of your comfort zone.
Lastly, you will develop the capacity to recover from pain faster, and you will feel your growth even more so than before.
Pushing Your Limits Will Eventually Demolish Your Limits
They say that the sky is the limit, which is the same as saying there is no limit. Of course, there are limits, but what this cliche hints at is to think as though there were no limits and try to go there anyway.
When you push yourself to overcome physical limits, and you practice that over and over again, you teach yourself how to be consistent, resilient, and how to persevere.
Your mind pushes your body, and your body teaches your mind. It’s an ever self-feeding mechanism that you must first gently kindle and then keep it going bigger and bigger. The momentum will be there every time you push yourself again and again.
With every bout of intensity, you’ll be able to get on a new, higher, more robust, better path of consistency and then repeat the cycle.
So, let’s go! What limit will you push through today?
Other Resources on Pushing Your Physical Limits
- What elite athletes do to push themselves beyond the ‘limits’
- The Science of Limits – How Far Can You Really Go?
- Your Physical Limits Reveal Your Mental Limits
- How to Push Beyond Your Limits and Achieve Your Biggest Goals
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Do you ordinarily find yourself stuck in the “comfort zone”?
- What methods do you use to push yourself physically?
- Do you find a strong connection between pushing your physical limits and breaking your mental limits?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!