Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Flesh is willing, but the Spirit is weak

Yeah, yeah, I know. That's not the way the parable goes. Jesus is freaking out, and asks Peter and the two sons of Zebedee to stand watch with him in the garden of Gethsemane. And when he comes back, he finds that Peter is asleep, and gets pissed and says "What you couldn't stay awake for one freaking hour?"

Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

How does a heathen like me know this? Well, duh, I was raised a Lutheran.

The parable has nothing to do with what I'm going to talk about. But it has embedded itself, like so many passages, in the public imagination. I think it is now thought to mean that the body is unable to resist the temptations of the flesh. Which, of course, is silly. The mind is the weak part of the equation. 

Which brings me to the actual point, at least in terms of exercise. Now that Spring has arrived, I've taken up my serious and consistent efforts to counteract the body softness that winter inactivity brings. Which is to say, I was still active during the cold weather, but not nearly so as I am in the warm weather. I really need to do something about that...

Yeah, I know I said as  Northern European type I really love Winter and getting out in the cold, but that's only so long as you got someplace warm to go back to and lay about in cozy comfort. I'm a stupid barbarian, but not a masochist.

Anyway, I found out pretty quickly that, despite my cold weather efforts, I am once again in terrible shape. I tried a good brisk 3 mile run and, oh man, it was torture. It's going to take at least a month to get back to where I was in November.  

But it's not really my body that is out of shape. It's my mind. 

I've let my brain go soft. I know this because, when I stop, barely able to think about anything except drawing the next breath, within minutes, I'm fine. So, it's my perception of exhaustion that has changed, not any form of physical exhaustion. I've known this for years, which is why I chastise myself all the time for whimping out when I quit.

Well, now sports physiologists are backing up my pet theory. Aren't I smart?

As you can see here, Dr Sam Marcora of Bangor University has disproved the theory of muscle fatigue, and shown that is your perception of effort that limits your performance.

Obviously, there's good reason for this, same reason we have pain. It's a little cushion provided by evolution to keep the body from injuring itself, or rather injuring itself further. Nothing wrong with that, but it does limit us.

So, I've got to work on hardening myself mentally. Working on my stick-to-it-iveness, work on my tenacity, pump up my resolve, get my gumption up to snuff.

Here's to you doing the same this season, nugget.


  1. Oh man, me too. I have been so lax about going to the gym this winter, about walking. I don't run but I can (could) do a brisk walk all day. Gotta get back to it.

  2. See, that's the thing. I've been using the elliptical and treadmill at the Wellness center all winter - interval training, sprints, you name it.

    It's still not the same as pounding pavement outdoors, because you unconsciously slack off.

  3. I have a treadmill in my living room...it's nice when I need a walk/run, but I'm no where near where I would like to be...my daughter-in-law wants me to do a mini-triathlon with her in August...guess I better get busy, eh?