Some morning are just damned rough. This cold just lingers and lingers, and my night was a sea of dizziness and sniffles, turned to headache and coughing this morning. I slept in hours late, but still feel ragged.

I like to try and work past such feelings, but my first run of morning frog stands made my arms feel like overstuffed sausages about to burst. My joints hurt, and I just want to call it quits for the day. So, off to make coffee. I console myself that I’m sick, and I can catch up on my workouts tomorrow. Except I think I may have said that yesterday. And I know tomorrow is the start of two months fulltime work, so I’ll only have morning time for a blog post before I get out the door, and night time will be mostly writing.

So, after a bit, one more try at a frog stand. Better. I can find my balance easier, I’m able to stabilize into the position better, but still lacking in stamina. Well, no point in torturing myself. Exercise volume is always a good thing to fall back on. If I can’t hit my goal, I do more of something easier. So, sets of Air Babies. Awkward at first, but they are more of a balance than a strength move, relying on bent instead of straight arms, so I can get into them easier today. Less effort means I can do more, and doing more gives me a better chance to discover what it is my body might want to do today. I can only pull out a smidge more exercise, but even that little bit makes me feel better. Not a lot better, but some.

The body and the brain sometimes communicate poorly. Most people doing a set of pushups will quit, and say they can’t do anymore. They feel pain and exhaustion in their arms, and at a certain point it becomes too much and they quit. Willpower, they think, is the secret. If only they had enough willpower to overcome the weakness of the body, they could push past it’s whining complaints and achieve what they want.

The real secret, though, is that it is willpower that makes us quit. The body is quite capable of doing pushups for a lot longer than most of us can imagine, regardless of our condition. The brain is what makes us quit. The muscles send their dutiful signals to the brain, the body reports on resource usage and storage depletion, and our brain evaluates all of that, reporting it’s findings as feelings of euphoria, discomfort, exhaustion, and out and out pain.

Strength comes from the power of our brains. The more the brain becomes involved in muscle contraction and fiber activation, the more weight can be lifted. The more the brain ignores the signals of exhaustion and pain, the farther the cyclist can push his pace. So learning to be more fit, and more capable of different actions requires that we learn to ignore all the patterned responses of the brain. The brain wants to optimize us for what we do every day. If we spend hours sitting, it will argue with us about the need for jogging. Much in the same way that we don’t see what’s going on around us as much as we perceive what the brain tells us is around us, we only know what the manager part of the brain tells us about the body.

So I fail at the frog stands, but a few sets of air babies is pretty easy, and actually fun. Now I’ve gone from frustration to a sense of playfulness in my workout. In the end, I wind up playing with air babies longer than I planned to do frog stands. And I finish the workout by breaking my personal record for holding a frog stand. Body power over will power. Perception is the best skill to work on.