Limitations: Redefining how you meet them and beat them - Chi Running

Limitations: Redefining how you meet them and beat them

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed May 15th, 2013, 11 comments

Limitations: Redefining how you meet them and beat them

We all feel the restriction of our human limitations. On the physical level, pain and fatigue let us know when we’re getting close to that threshold where, as we go further or push harder, it could mean either a breakthrough or an injury. On the emotional level, it could manifest as fear, nervousness or sweaty hands. I run into it on the mental level all the time when I draw a blank.

But, upon closer inspection, a limitation is really just a doorway into a new experience. The other side of what we might call a limitation is really just unknown territory. We’ve never been there, and in some cases, never even imagined ourselves there.

I once had a teacher who changed my relationship to limitations forever. He told me that every time I come up against what I think is a limitation, I should say to myself, “My current state, subject to change, is……..” and then fill in the blank as objectively as possible.

“My current state, subject to change, is that I can’t seem to break a 4-hour marathon.”

“My current state, subject to change, is that I want to lose those last five pounds and I can’t seem to do it.”

“My current state, subject to change, is that I want to run a 5K with my kid and I can’t even make it across the room without getting winded.”

What I’ve learned from this wonderful piece of sage advice is that, when I can see my limitations for what they are, I have a choice to make; I can either accept the challenge, or accept the limitation. I will never play basketball for the Lakers or beat Tiger Woods in a golf match. These are limitations I have accepted, and which I can do nothing about. But, if there is even the smallest part of me that looks at a limit and sees possibilities, then it becomes a challenge and I no longer see it as a limitation. It then becomes up to me to meet that challenge with all the vision, intention, resourcefulness, and expertise I can muster. This approach reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

As any good strategist will tell you, when you’re meeting a challenge, use what you know to get you to the unknown, beyond your current limit. Being resourceful means aligning all of your available resources and directing them toward your goal…even if that goal lies in unfamiliar territory. This brings up what sounds like a Universal Law: breaking through any limitation requires you to “up the ante” by doing either more than you’re currently doing, or going about it in a different way.

Let’s say you’re trying to run your fastest half marathon, and you can’t seem to break your previous times no matter how hard you try. What’s our “current state” of conditioning? How good is your running technique? What’s your strategy? If your cardiovascular conditioning is limiting you, then you need to improve that before you can expect to do better. What does that look like? It might  mean working to increase your cardio conditioning by throwing in some speed intervals into your  weekly training schedule. It might mean increasing your aerobic conditioning by adding some faster miles (3rd gear) at the end of your weekly long runs. If, on the other hand, it’s your technique that’s holding your back, it means constantly working on improving your running technique so you’re more efficient. It means knowing how fast each mile needs to be in order to beat your old time, and learning how to run faster by relaxing more, not by pushing harder.

Any one of these adjustments to your training might be the key to surpassing your limitation. All of them added together will guarantee it. So, when thinking through your plan for dusting your limitation, it is important to approach your challenge from as many angles as possible. Think about what skills you’re working with and how you can improve each of those skills over time, so that on the day you decide to meet your challenge, you can “just do it.” Not with pain and struggle, but from a place of abundance and confidence.


  • injury-free running,
  • race training,
  • trail running technique,
  • training

11 CommentsLeave a comment below

Grannie Annie Singer May 16th, 2013 12:27pm

Next month I will be 70..yes 70 .this article
could not have been read at a better time.
Saturday is the Brooklyn NY Half Marathon
My current state is I don’t think I can finish
under 3 hours..subject to change is I will try
to maintain a steady pace the whole race to
come in just under three hours.  Skills I have
..I have completed a marathon in all 50 states
so half a marathon is no big deal..25,000 runners beside myself are running that day all
with different states..Thank you for article..

This was just what I needed to hear today. I’ve been battling a running injury for a couple of months now.  It has been very frustrating at times. Your article helped me to see that instead of feeling limited by it, I need to view it as a challenge! Thank you!

hope r glover May 16th, 2013 02:29pm

It is good to read such positive things to help one push forward. I have been a runner for well over 20 yrs. and would love to beat my PR more often I feel this will help mind over madder. Thanks.. HAPPY RUNNING EVERONE.

Barbara McCormack May 16th, 2013 05:10pm

I’ve been training for my first marathon & 8 weeks out was diagnosed with a melanoma which has also appeared in my lymph system! I am now facing surgery to remove the lymph glands in my groin & many many limiting beliefs that go with stepping into this very scary medical vortex ! Your article has appeared in perfect time to remind me how to navigate the next leg of the journey!
Thank you & all suggestions appreciated xxxBarb
Barb McCormack

Keith McConnell May 16th, 2013 11:30pm

Stimulating thoughts re. the everyday opportunity to go beyond my limitations - it can be done!

I thought this was excellent and just what I needed today.  I have been stuck when I focus on my physical limitations and so far not getting down the midfoot strike when I walk.  The reality though is I have learned better posture through the chiwalking dvd a friend at physiotherapy loaned me and lost 53 lbs in over 7 months so far through walking and diet.  I hope to get the midfoot strike down in the near future and continue walking my way to better health.

Having trouble with my lean while running on treadmill.

Hi Hal,

For tips on how to practice ChiRunning on the treadmill, check out Danny’s article:

Hope this is helpful!

Hi Darlene,

Congratulations on your weight loss and your return to health. ChiWalking is a practice, so just keep focusing and Body Sensing and it will come.

Take care,

Hi Barb,

So sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. However, following the principles at the heart of ChiRunning and ChiWalking can really help get you through this rough time.

One of Instructors wrote about his experience with prostate cancer that you might find helpful:

Specifically, he talks about creating the conditions for energy flow in everything you do: exercise, nutrition, your mental and emotional health, etc. If you can’t continue training for your marathon, ChiWalking is an excellent and gentle way to stay fit and clear your mind. It’s also a great way to hone your technique, so when you do return to running, you’ll be even stronger at it.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery,

Ellen Mangan Jun 1st, 2013 02:44pm

Thank you for this. In a way it’s what I’ve been working to shift in my life, but it’s never been anything fully articulated.  This is perfect:

“But, if there is even the smallest part of me that looks at a limit and sees possibilities, then it becomes a challenge and I no longer see it as a limitation.”

Posting this one up to remind myself.

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