The Challenge – Climb a Vertical Mile in 5 Hours

I’ve been climbing the stairs up a mountain for 4 years now. It started as an innocent pastime which turned into, I guess, an obsession. I’m addicted to it. I’ve almost climbed  a million stairs there in 4 years. What a cool thing it is to say it – right? Most of it has been fun, lots of fun. I meet people from all over the world on the steps and hear a little about them and what they’re doing. I’ve met a half-dozen from Hawaii there over the years.

The mountain has 1,237 steps of all sizes. Some are 4 inches. Some are 22 inches high. There are groups of steps that go at 75-80 degree angle up – almost like climbing a ladder. Total vertical height of the top is 278 meters. According to Google’s calculator, that’s 912 feet high. A mile is 5,280 feet.

I’ll have to figure out how many steps to climb on the 6th go round to make a mile. Who knows if I can make it the whole way up the 6th time. I might not have to! 5.8 times up is equal to a mile. Guess I’ll have to do the 6 to make sure I made it.

There is a small group of us that likes to climb the steps repeatedly. Here’s who we are.

  • Alfred – 72 years old and climbing a couple times per week. Alfred has climbed the stairs 4 times back to back in 3 hours.
  • Me – 45 years old, climbing 7-10 times per week. I did 4 times in 140 minutes one time last week when I felt good.
  • Phra Gop – a 23 year old monk at the temple (the steps are at a Buddhist temple) that climbed 5 times with some rest over a day.
  • Phra Pornpitak – a 47 year old monk that climbed 1,600+ times over the course of 16 years.
  • Joe – a 34 year old Brit that teaches English and climbs when he can. More of a soccer player.
  • Jim – a 58 year old Brit that can climb the steps to the top in 15 minutes.

So, with the exception of the monks – we’re a motley crew. Joe and I met up the other day and he got the crazy idea that we should try to climb 5 times up the steps – in a row, in about 5 hours total time.

Me, having just completed 4 times on a whim a few days before said, “Yeah, great idea – let’s do it.”

So, Joe and I will attempt 5 times. If I feel good – my real goal is to shoot for climbing a vertical mile at the steps, 6 times. Yesterday I climbed a 500 meter high 4 km long trail up a mountain that stresses my legs in a different way, to help prepare for the vertical mile climb. I think the 4 times I went up the other day helped. I also climbed 12 times in 7 days last week. I think that will help.

To see information about this Thailand Vertical Mile Challenge (click)

Joe hasn’t climbed much – once per week recently – but he has the advantage of youth and having played a lot of soccer over the years. Anyway, we’ll see how we can do. I did invite Alfred by SMS text message, but got no reply. Not sure he’s up for the challenge, as his knee has been clicking audibly lately. We’ll see! I’ll call him now. If you haven’t seen Alfred climbing the steps yet – check out this video below!

PUSHING Yourself During Exercise [Competition Technique]

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

Competition is a technique to PUSH YOURSELF to the ultimate level of fitness.

This is the last article in the series. This technique can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking and running up steps. Those are the two exercises I do most frequently.
You might be thinking that I’m going to cover competition as in racing or joining friends for your exercise so you can push each other to greatness. That’s an amazing technique, but one that everyone already knows. In this series about pushing yourself past current levels of fitness, I wanted to give you some techniques you may not have heard of.

Pushing yourself through competition goes like this…

Usually, I use this technique when I’m feeling unmotivated or even a little down about the state of my run, step climbing, swim, bicycle ride or whatever I happen to be doing. I realize there’s no spunk in my effort and I need something to pick me up and get me up to at least a moderate pace.

In my mind, I assemble a group of my competition. My running competition? Nope. I blog in the motivational / life development area with Aim for Awesome so my competition (though really they are not directly competing with me) are people like Steve Pavlina; Yaro Starak; Albert Foong of Urbanmonk.net; Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net; Donald Latumahina at LifeOptimizer.org and others. There are so many more. Usually, I name a group of twelve. I know what they look like and I picture their natural running style and abilities based on how well their blogs are doing. Choose competitors from whatever area you are striving to excel in. For me, it’s blogging.

I guess the people I named aren’t really direct competition, but they are my role-models and those that I’m striving to equal and eventually surpass online. They’ve got far more readers than I have and they have a high standard for their writing – one that I aspire to. My writing is obviously different and I’m not sure if it has mass appeal yet – but, I’ll find out in a year or so. Anyway, back to the mind-trick.

I picture each person close to me and running with me at first. We’re all in a group and none of us is feeling all that great. This makes me realize, I can beat all of them today because as bad as I feel, I’ve been running all my life. I can crank it up a notch and drop some of them right now.

I go just a little bit faster and see who starts to drop away. I see who picks it up to match me. There are some fighters in the group and I know I’m going to be kicking my own ass to get going as fast as I need to in order to beat them. After the first couple slow slightly I devise a plan. I say to myself, “Around that corner is the slight upgrade. Pretend to go slow right now and then crank it up just around that corner to a 75% effort and see who drops!”

And so I do. I drop a few people there. Steve Pavlina, Yaro Starak, Darren Rowse, Donald Latumahina and a couple others are still with me. Damn they won’t give up.

Depending how I feel I’ll either map out a long-term run strategy where I gradually pick up the pace dropping off everyone except Steve Pavlina or I’ll do some mini-bursts of speed usually up hills to drop people. Steve is great at the high speed, long distance, but I use hills to wear him down – the up and down wear him out. I love the hills so that’s where I destroy him.

Ha, it sounds funny as I write it but! I’m not joking at all. This is a very powerful technique that I love to use. I combine this mental competition with both positive self-talk and with self-coaching to bring out the best in me on bad days. Almost always it succeeds in motivating me to go faster.  Sometimes Steve wins and I vow to break him the next time we run. Sometimes Darren Rowse pulls away and beats both me and Steve. Sometimes Donald comes from behind in a surprise pass that leaves me dumbfounded until I regroup.

Though I haven’t read about any top runners at the international level using mind games to push themselves to greatness like those I’ve written about here, I KNOW they must exist. I guess if you had some really good techniques that you could call on during your deepest moments of suffering during hard exercise that would make you crank even harder you’d keep those a secret. Top secret.

I don’t have many secrets, so I shared the few techniques I use that came easily to mind. As I experience more or as I remember more I’ll post them here to help you take your exercise to a new level.

I use this Competition technique for pushing myself harder about once a week on average. One key to using these techniques is not using them every time you exercise. I use each of these techniques maybe once a week on average. But, sometimes I plan stage races where I race the same group of people over 3 days. I might even include Lance Armstrong as a runner in the pack. I visualize snapping his persistence like a dry twig as we push up a long hill…  haha.

Eat my dust Lance!

So then, try this technique as you need it. Be creative with your own ideas and let me know if you come up with anything cool that I can try while I run or bike.

Best of Life!

Vern

My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Want to Start Running in 2018?

Boy running at beach.

Want to Start Running in 2018?

This article will answer questions like:

  1. What is the start-up process that will give me the best chance of success if I want to start running?
  2. What are some reasons people run?
  3. Why does Vern run?

This article will not answer questions like:

  1. Does “running away from something” count?

People start running for many reasons.

Most of us see running as a tool to keep us under a certain weight that we have in mind as a goal. Some people run to compete. Some people become runners to gain strength and endurance in other sports they’re playing since running has great cross-over benefits.

I’ve run most of my life. I’ve also run for many reasons. My reasons for running seem to change over the years.

I’ve been running since I was six years old. My mother signed me up to play soccer that year, and that set the stage for the next twelve years. I played on regular leagues during the summers and the fall. I grew up in Pennsylvania, so the winters were too cold to play, and a time of rest. I’m so glad there was a rest time!

Up until I was eighteen years old, I only ran when I played soccer. I ran nearly every day. If it wasn’t practice it was a game. If it wasn’t a game, it was a basketball game or an indoor soccer game that some friends and I put together. I didn’t run for pleasure because I ran so much for sport.

Running was an integral part of my life, though it wasn’t for fun, it was out of necessity for playing the sports I was involved in. The idea of running a marathon never entered my mind up to this point.

In my twenties, I became a triathlete and competed in many races including bicycle and swimming races. I loved to exercise, probably because I had already become pretty good at it since I already had twelve years of intense training behind me. In my twenties I really came to love the competition and running, exercise of all sorts became pure pleasure in itself.

In my thirties, I ran to keep my weight down. I am 5’11” and my usual weight in my twenties was 165 lbs. In my thirties, I crept up as high as 180 lbs. and I didn’t feel too good about me at that weight. I ran to lose weight so I could keep eating pizza and spaghetti.

In my late thirties and now – my late forties, I asked myself why I’m still running every other day.

The answer surprised me.

I’m not running for health. I’m not running to lose weight. I’m down to 155 right now and feel great about my current body weight. I’m not running to compete. Besides a yearly run up the mountain here in Southern Thailand I haven’t raced in years. I’m not running to look good. I’m not running to avoid death by staying healthy. I’m not at all concerned about death anymore.

My answer to myself for “WHY” I was running was really surprising!

I’m running because when I run, I feel a control that is entirely self-generated and self-perpetuating.

I love control. We all do I guess, but I really love it. I’m not speaking of control over others – I really don’t like to exert my influence over others if they have no want to change. I am a horrible salesperson. I don’t sell well.

I don’t like control over the person I love. In fact, I abhor it. I think that would be a horrible relationship in which I wanted to control what we did and when we did it, how much we did it… who we saw, what we ate, what movies we saw. That’s not a relationship to me.

The control I feel when I run is something entirely different. It is a very positive feeling. It is an experience where I have told myself what I’m going to do, I have scheduled it, and I am going to do it. There’s no doubt of that. I am in control of my mind that has its own desires that sometimes show up right before I go running.

Making myself run, insisting on running regardless of backlash from other thoughts I’m having, is a form of discipline I guess. I don’t accept the emotional mind’s excuses about the body being tired, a little bit sore, having better things to do, etc. There is nothing better to do because I already told myself I’m going to exercise. I like to show my emotional mind that my logical mind is the boss. I don’t want to hear any whining about what else the body could be doing.

It sounds almost schizophrenic, right? Hey, wait a second, I did have a great aunt that lost her mind in her eighties… So, well, maybe I’ve got that to face later on. I’ll think more about it then!

There is no question, the body is running every other day – whether it’s raining or sunny, hot or cool. It’s running. That’s what we do every other day. There’s nothing to talk about – no questions, no excuses. The body is running on that schedule until I decide it isn’t. It’s not a decision that will be made before a run when the mind wants to bail out ‘just for this one time.’  The decision to stop, if there ever is one, needs to be made with some advanced planning. I don’t think I’ll ever find a good reason to stop – so it’s likely to continue.

Beginning to Run

As you start to run, you’ll find out, it’s quite a game you’re playing. I think I have a good way for you to get started if you decide that is what you want. As I said you can run for many reasons. But, you only need one.

Before I start to run on a schedule I’ve created, I know the body might not feel like it. In fact, it probably doesn’t.

Why would it? It hasn’t been running before and it needs some time to get into the routine – to condition the muscles, ligaments, tendons, breathing system and energy stores to meet the demands of running.

I like to trick the body and the mind into it.

If my logical mind told “me” that I’m starting to run again, naturally, the emotional mind and the body will come up with excuses.

I don’t listen.

Instead, I convince the body and emotional mind that it’s nothing big. “We’re not really going to run,” I tell them.

There’s not going to be any competition. We’re not running races. I’m not starting triathlons again! The body is relieved at this. The emotional mind doesn’t believe it though because it has been through this charade before.

I then tell them… “We’re going for a walk in the park. That’s it. We’re walking. Any running that takes place is just a bonus. In fact, we’re NOT running unless everything is a green light and all three of us (Logical Mind, Emotional Mind, and Body) are ready to go.”

I go on, “There’s no reason to run yet. We’re starting out. We start out walking. Regardless if the logical mind wants to run 3-5 miles immediately like it used to, we are just walking the first couple times.”

So – going to the park is not in question.We’re going.

But, whether we run, and how much we run, that IS a question. And, it doesn’t really matter since the logical part of my mind already won the game by making us all go to the park when I said we were going to. The logical mind is in control and that makes it happy. It’s good for me to keep this part of the mind happy since it seems to be the one that is most responsible for my state of mind. I need to nurture my logical mind and make it smile more than the other parts.

We Arrive at the Park to RUN

‘We’ meaning, my logical mind, my emotional mind, and my body.

We stretch a little bit. We see how the body is feeling. Stretching the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, back, lower back, groin, triceps. We swing the arms a bit as if warming up for swimming. An inventory of the body is taken as I’m stretching lightly. If there is some pain or a lot of tightness in the legs or even in the neck – I’ll likely just walk that day. No sense pulling anything. Just starting out you can expect to pull some muscle, nerve, ligament… something, unless you’re very careful and attentive to the body.

I do make the body go somewhere, but I don’t make it do something if it’s not ready. Likewise when I was competing – I was very aware of every little pain in my legs, arms, back, neck. A little pain can quickly become a major pain that knocks you out of the running game for two weeks or more. Then you need to start all over and re-motivate  yourself. That should be avoided when at all possible.

So we’re at the park and we start walking. When I’m just beginning a new running program, I go to a place where there are very few people. Usually, there is nobody around. That’s good for a couple reasons.

Number 1 – I am embarrassed that I’m not running five to six-minute miles anymore. I’m running like ten-minute miles now! That’s what it feels like anyway. I’m not sure exactly what my pace is because I’ve never timed myself running so slow. What is the point? I know I’m doing grandpa miles and I don’t want anyone to see me doing no better than a senior citizen.

Number 2 – I am walking. Sometimes I’m running. I’m running until I don’t feel that it’s fun anymore and then I’m walking until my Logical Mind makes the body and Emotional Mind realize that there’s really no reason not to just keep running. It’s FUN. There is nobody around to be critiquing my progress. I like that.

If it’s not fun then I’m walking. Seriously. You must make exercising fun. If it isn’t fun, then you’re doing something that you shouldn’t continue.

If you’re running – walk for a bit. In Thailand there is no shyness about this. They run 100 yards and walk 200. They might alternate like this for a mile or they might go five miles like that. There is no competition among Thais when they are at a public park running with a hundred other people. They aren’t embarrassed to walk for a while!

That’s where I got this idea, Thailand. If nobody else is embarrassed, why would I be?

No matter what, it’s fun to make yourself go to a park and walk around and look at people and give yourself some quiet time to think about things on your mind. It frees the mind up from doing work and logical things and gives it some space.

Your emotional mind is also happy because it’s seeing people and experiencing the outdoors. The body is happy because it feels like it is accomplishing something even just by walking one mile. The logical mind is happy because it knows this is all leading to something. It is leading to being able to run longer and longer distances and more feeling of control over the emotional mind and body! The logical mind is really psyched to be out there even if we’re not running all the time. It will come… it will come.

Don’t let yourself have any expectation about what you’re going to do when you go to the park. Tell your body and your Emotional Mind that you’re going to the park to give the brain a REST! Look at it as a positive – a reward. That way, you’re definitely going. You deserve a reward, right? That’s what I do… it makes it so much easier.

Just go to a park where there are not three hundred runners and just walk. That’s it… walk. If you feel like it, run for a bit. Only run if it’s fun. If your mind or body is really rebelling and starts telling you – this is no fun at all, stop and walk. Don’t run again until you really feel like it and all parts of the body and mind are “GO!”

When you stick to a schedule of going to the park for a period of time you’ll notice that you’re running more and walking less. It might take a few weeks, or you might jump into it sooner. There will still be days that you don’t think all systems are “go” and you walk the entire time. No worries. You might walk for twenty minutes and decide that your body isn’t up to it. Maybe a muscle or one of your joints is feeling worse as you walk. No matter, go home. Don’t put any requirements on your visit to the park.

The whole thing about exercise is that it must be fun. Don’t do it if it isn’t fun. If you go at a very gradual pace, I think you’ll find it is fun. If you try running for two months and you just don’t like it – even if you’re running ONLY when it’s fun for you and walking the rest of the time – you might want to switch to a different exercise. Or, you might want to realize that walking can do it for you too. Whatever reason you had for wanting to start running – can be the same reason to get on a walking program instead. No worries, don’t set up something in your mind that says:

I MUST BE A RUNNER!

That’s ridiculous musturbation. There are runners, walkers, tennis players, racquetball players, bicycle riders, hikers, climbers, soccer players, swimmers, surfers, bodyboarders, windsurfers, kitesurfers, stationary bike riders, stairmasters, rollerbladers and skateboarders. Exercise is exercise. I don’t think it matters much WHY you are exercising – you can get the same things from any of the sports mentioned.

For me, running is special, because it’s just my body and mind against the elements. I am making the body run up hills, down hills, through woods, into areas I’ve not been. Running is an adventure. It’s accomplishment. It’s power. It’s control.

Did you ever hear of fartlek running?

Parkour?

I’ll have to write more about those fun types of running in another article.

For me, running is pure bliss! I often imagine that I’m passing people as I run. I use this imagery that I’m passing all the people that I want to surpass with my business goals and my personal goals. I’m blowing right by them because some of them are standing still. They’re standing still because they probably don’t run. I see them up ahead of me and they’re going so slow… I’m going slow too – but you know what? I’m passing them!

This is another reason I like to run when there’s nobody around… I talk to them as I pass them, these imaginary business competitors. Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk, Hugh Howey, Lee Child.

I’m the master of this race… and there can be no other winner.

I am ALWAYS the WINNER!

Best of Life!

Vern