Back Against the Wall: Overcoming Cardio Limits

I’m learning a lot about myself in the last couple years about how I best can summon the will to “survive” physical challenges. One of the things I learned is that I’m much better at overcoming in the quiet of my own mind. So, for example, for me, a 20 minute 3-mile run is about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It requires being in extreme discomfort for about 15 minutes (the first 5 minutes are manageable). But I accomplished it several times last Spring and Summer. On the other hand, I seem to be incapable of doing the same on the mat in grappling with lots of people around me, coach yelling, uncertainty of what the goal and time are, and many other factors coming into play.

In the latter case, I feel like my back is up against the wall and every second in that state wears on me mentally until I start quitting a little, and once I start doing that, it’s over. I’m not sure I’m explaining any of this well enough, or whether people experience similar things. Of course, I’m becoming a better and better grappler, so I find myself put to the test less and less cardio-wise which in one sense is good, but in another I know that there will always be guys especially in competition that will push me to a place where all I want to do is quit. I can overcome that when I’m alone on a hard run, but I still can’t do the same on the mat.

Jared told me a while ago that it’s something I have to find inside myself: the will to overcome the exhaustion, the fear, the uncertainty. It all sounds awfully dramatic. It’s not, in the larger scheme of things. But I find the same situation plays itself out in the rest of my life in my work, in my reading, etc.

I’m not sure why my mind takes on challenges much better in isolation, but perhaps the key to my success in competition (and in the rest of my life) is in finding the kind of focus that is equivalent to isolation.

PS: I mean isolation in a positive productive sense (as in distraction-free, flow state) not in the melancholy existentialist philosophy sense.

0 thoughts on “Back Against the Wall: Overcoming Cardio Limits

  1. zegrapplez

    hard to admit, but nerves are a big deal for some, if not most, competitors.
    in Judo and BJJ the tension is manageable, but in MMA, i’ve found it can be almost the end of the fight.

    1. Lex Post author

      Yeah, I think a lot more is at stake (in terms of potential damage) in MMA.

      By the way, you have a really solid blog. Do I know you in person? In either case, I’m instant fan 😉

  2. Scranton MMA


    Just identifying that is a big step and you can then work on that going forward. In training first you can try to just block out as much as you can.. the pain, the voices, your breathing.. whatever is distracting you… as you get better and better at this you can learn to let certain things back in like your coaches voice, your breathing, etc

    Also the better shape you are in and the more you push yourself into that zone the more comfortable you will be dealing w/ it.

    Good Luck.


    1. Lex Post author

      Thanks Tom. I’ll keep at it. A little progress every day right?

      I like the new site (or at least new to me). The swag is sharp looking 😉


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