It started off easy, but it was about to get much harder.

I jumped on the assault airbike and got my first twenty calories done. I held a fast (ish) pace, which took about a minute.

Next up was Ella. She had fifteen calories to do, which also took about a minute. Whilst one of us worked, the other rested. So, we both worked for roughly a minute, followed by a minute of rest.

Before we started, I wrote ‘500 calories’ on the chalkboard. Next to it, I also put ‘1000 calories?’. We had to hit at least 500 total calories to complete the workout – 1000 calories as a stretch goal.

I was anxious before we started. But, I figured I can do most things for a minute. I mean, it’s just a minute – followed by a minute’s rest. It’s going to take a while, but it won’t be that hard.

My 20 calories slowly got harder and harder. They went from easy, and not thinking too much about them – to actually needing to have a strategy for them. Jump on, and push hard for a few seconds to start with (gets the revolutions per minute up quickly). Hold the first 10 calories at a set pace. Then, another short burst for a few calories, followed by seeing the rest of the calories out at the set pace. Towards the end of the workout, I had to put my head down for the last few calories, giving it my last effort to complete them. VERY different to the first set.

It was the same for my rest periods. They started off with me standing around and slowly getting my breath back. I quickly had to come up with a strategy to recover and get my head in the right place for my next go on the bike. 15 secs of leaning against the wall, letting my breath come down. A quick sip of water, and then 30 secs of walking around. Then, about 15 secs of getting my mind ready for another minute.

We hit 1,000 calories in 73 mins, 21 seconds. It’s one of the hardest workouts I’ve done – second only to a 2K row.

I tried to convince myself it was OK to stop when we hit 500 calories. I did that about twenty more times on the path to finally hitting 1,000 calories. Each time the thought popped into my head, I reminded myself of how great I would feel when finished.

And that’s exactly what happened. I felt really good about myself immediately after finishing. It lasted for the rest of the day. I did something hard, which by the way – I tried to talk myself out of a lot of times. I was as proud of my mental toughness, as I was the physical accomplishment. I proved I could push through something very hard and finish it.

Here’s some proof that it was quite hard 🙂

I go through some of the same process at work. I’m often involved in things that are ambitious and hard. I help teams and people change direction, and do things differently. It takes a lot of convincing, and over-communicating key messages. Plenty of difficult conversations. It’s super fast paced. And it takes an enormous effort to build momentum, after which holding onto it can be fragile and difficult.

Why do I bother doing it? I could find easier work. Money hasn’t been a key motivating driver for quite a while.

I do it for much the same reasons as why I pushed through the air bike workout. It’s rewarding to do difficult things.

It might feel like a slog at times when you’re in it. But, that’s often the path you have to go through to achieve something meaningful. That’s where the growth and learning happens. That’s where you continue to build mental toughness, confidence and resilience. And that’s how you get results you’re proud of.

So, the question is – how often are you doing physically and mentally hard things that make you feel uncomfortable? Is it enough?

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