Tolerance – Achieving What You Thought Was Impossible

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When you do a search for the meaning of tolerance you see phrases like ‘capacity to endure’ and words like ‘fair’ and ‘objective’. When it comes to fitness, my angle on the topic is that tolerance shows us yet again the amazing ability of the body to adapt and become better. What a gift that is from mother nature or God or whatever your beliefs.

Tolerance is what happens when you ask your body a question it is not quite ready to answer, and the sweet spot that ensues in the time immediately after yields a kind of magic. This is where there is a reorganisation of the organism at the cellular level which allows the body to be ready to step up and handle or tolerate that same difficult question thrown at it the next time round. That question might be: can I pull my body up to look over the wall for my kids ball he just kicked? The attempt sees us momentarily peering over as our arms give way rather quickly. Now thanks to an enthusiastic and maybe even talented young boot we get to repeat this move each day we spend hanging out. What we soon notice is we can hold ourselves up there a bit longer until even a one arm hold seems like a possibility (even though that might be a tad optimistic).

But the lesson here is that what once seemed hard or even impossible, provided we go about it the right way, becomes 100% do-able. How cool is that? The trick is that we need to keep overreaching a little so we can tolerate higher levels. The good news is that this process can go on most if not all of our lives. 90 year old men in research settings have been shown to increase their strength with the right progressive overload. Of course there are limits to the ‘stimulus-response-adaptation cycle’ because world records don’t keep getting broken by the same person…….. BUT the take home message is that tolerance should be our temporary state, our brief moment or period of time for a self congratulatory and metaphorical pat on the back only to look for more challenges when we are ready to go again. After all, it has been said that Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Helen Keller.

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