Thin Air

This blog was originally published on June 14, 2017.

I have a hate-hate relationship with the stair master…yes, I said it.

I hate it and (judging how I feel when I climb off that treacherous machine) it surely hates me.

If I don’t have time to take a class at the gym, I usually do a 30-45 minute mashup between the treadmill, the elliptical, and the StairMaster. I always save the StairMaster for last because I typically feel as though I am near death when I get anywhere near that machine. I usually only last between 3 and 7 minutes before I tap out.

I’m not sure if it was my workout playlist, my good night sleep, or the perfect weather we’ve been having, but last week I walked into the gym and thought to myself, “You know what, Ness? You’re a BEAST. This StairMaster ain’t got nothin’ on you! We’re doing TEN MINUTES!”

Instead of warming up on the elliptical or treadmill, I headed straight to the StairMaster. Now, I should have taken the trail of sweat leading up the machines as a foreshadowing of the sheer intensity that was about to commence.

I started. Level 6. Playlist on full blast.
60 seconds in…my breathing picked up
2 minutes in….my sweat was about to break
3 minutes in…” Oh my God, what was I thinking? Let me take a break”
5 minutes in…sweat is dripping from my face
6 minutes in…I feel my the blood pumping in every vein in my body
9 minutes in….I’m literally leaning on the handrails as my feet keep walking
10 minutes in…it’s over

You ever have that feeling that you’re gargling your heart when you work out? Take that and multiply it by 10. I needed oxygen. I needed fresh air. Heck, I needed a stretcher.

I hastily made my way to the ladies’ room with just enough pep in my step not to cause the folk at the gym to become nervous. There was no one in the stalls, so I was able to pace the floor and attempt to calm my body down from the utter shock that just took place. As I walked out, my heart was still beating in my ears, so I went to the front desk and inquired about their outdoor track. The kind greeter motioned to the door that led to my freedom…I mean the track.

I walked outside and saw the track surrounding the field the greeter mentioned. Now, I passed that field many times before, but never noticed the paved asphalt around the perimeter of the field. I began to calm my breathing down with every step. It was a gorgeous day and the morning temperature was still on the rise. There I was, with my fresh air and my thoughts. It was so peaceful.

Then it suddenly hit me: I needed the StairMaster.

You see, I have nursed that machine for years with the same time and same level. But when I decided to challenge myself without warning, I was pushed into a new territory that I would have never reached without being forced into it. That outdoor track quickly became my sanctuary as I was able to listen to podcasts uninterrupted, take in the beauty of the outdoors, and be surrounded by the few other guests who merely smiled at me as they power-walked past. I immediately told Siri to write a note reminding me to share this moment with you all.

There’s going to be a time when you feel like you should go after something, but all the limitations and even previous experiences may try to stop you. Know that you’re going to need whatever that obstacle is to push you into new heights and unseen territories.

I have two good friends that have multiple degrees and licensures – including 6 bachelor’s degrees, 4 master’s degrees, and 2 doctoral degrees between them. They travel the world, are pretty much debt free, and have owned a few houses and cars in their lifetime. Yet, it was about 2 years into our friendship that I knew of any of their accolades because of their sincere humility and utter appreciation for human character. To be honest, I still don’t know everything. One day, we were talking about success and separation and they looked at me and said, “You have to know that the air is thin up here.”

The higher you climb, the more discomfort and even pain you may feel, but it’s only temporary. Your body will adjust to the new altitude. If you’re (like me) gasping for breath as you’re on the cusp of your next internal milestone, just know – you’re in the right place.

Breathe easy, my friend.

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