When I go running I hate hills. Even the littlest hill makes me strain. This is certainly an affect of my mindset, thinking that it will be hard or more difficult makes it harder. However a long flat distance seems much easier. Even after a recent hiatus from running I was able to go out for my first run and cover a distance just under 2 miles. (I know this doesn’t seem like a long run to most people but for me, 2 miles took some training)
This long flat distance is like a plateau. Because it continues on in the same way, I can continue on doing the same thing. This accomplishes something. It allows me to cover the distance I want to cover without distraction. I become familiar with my route and can excel at running it without injury. I know what I’m doing, I know that I am able to do it, I know how far I have run. My belief in my ability to run increases and I can increase my distance. In the long run (pun intended) this plateau allows me to increase my health, my self-esteem.
Living in Spokane means I can’t plateau for long. Downtown Spokane is a valley with a river running through it creating tumultuous though beautiful terrain. This valley has a hill both north and south. Eventually I have to run up a hill. No more plateaus for me. It’s difficult, I have to change my timing. It’s uncomfortable, my breathing changes and this is often the time my knee or ankle will hurt-as if the hill wasn’t punishment enough.
Of course this accomplishes something. It causes me to bring my focus back to my stride, my breathing and my body. It challenges me and increases my understanding of my own endurance. It makes my breath control better and makes the flat area seem more inviting when it might otherwise seem boring. It also means I run down a hill, eventually.
From my house there is a hill in every direction – literally. No matter what direction I choose I have to run up a hill on my way out and run up a hill on my loop back without exception. This has forced me to leave my plateau.
We plateau in our Aikido training all the time. This is the time it is most important to come to class. To face the repetition, face the challenge, some days even the most basic technique may seem a challenge. But without the plateau to increase my self-esteem I’ll never be prepared for the hills or challenges related to training. A lot of students get frustrated at this time “plateauing.” It’s hard (just like running) but I need to remember this is a time to practice without distractions and avoid injuries.
No matter what Aikido class I go to there is a Sensei there – no exceptions. Senseis are just like hills. They force you to come back to the basics, regain your focus, concentrate on your breathing, your stance, build your endurance. They are challenging you-forcing you to change your timing, to struggle. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes Sensei yells at me to bring my mind and focus back, I might even feel embarrassed. But after all that’s what hills are about, increasing my understanding of my own endurance.
We all have something to overcome whether it be a struggle in our personal lives, an Aikido test we’re preparing for or a physical challenge of our own. The time on the plateau is what gets us ready but the hills are what will get us through these challenges. Now of course this means that to be prepared I have to run up the hills, not run away. I have to meet my Sensei’s challenges not brush them off or avoid them. So just keep training; plateau or hill they both accomplish something.Mary Tracey shodanRoshikan Dojo