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“Know your limits and ignore them!” was the motto emblazoned on the back of my Div I freshman year rowing shirt. Our novice coach – a blond 6ft tall, eyes always hidden behind mirrored sunglasses, unsmiling, former US National Team member – encouraged us to live out those words so she might consider us for the first boat. I went for it, and ended up having surgery during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year to make it possible for me to walk without pain. I continued to press my limits for 4 years of college rowing, but knew I couldn’t consider pursuing further rowing as I nursed nagging back injuries with the help of almost daily sessions with the athletic trainer. I was outwardly very fast and fit, but held together by a team of people who kept my body going with tape, STIM, ibuprofen, ice and ultrasound. I disregarded the limits my body was communicating to me and was experiencing the consequences. 


Limits are a curious thing. A limit is a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass. We have choices around some limits, and some are set for us. As a kid my parents and the structure of school set limits for me. They decided when I would go to bed, what was for dinner, how many desserts I could have in a week, and what I would spend my time doing during the day. As a parent I now set those limits for my kids. 

Most of us looked forward to the day of being an adult where we could make our own decisions! I can have ice cream for dinner if I want! I can set so many of my own limits! 


In college I disregarded a lot of the messages my body was sending about limits in pursuit of a goal. I was capable of so much more than I thought I was, and I was amazed by what my body could do. Also the limits were real. To keep my body going I had to create a whole other set of limits – we drank no alcohol, I went to bed earlier than any of my college peers, and we met regularly with a nutritionist. 


Limits are containers that give us the necessary boundaries, security, predictability, impulse control, and structure to handle the chaos of life as it comes.


We need limits and boundaries to get stuff done, and they cannot be dependent on motivation alone. It’s still surprising to me that I’m an adult and have the responsibility (and the privilege!) of setting limits for myself and for many of the people that live in my house. 


On the regular we have conversations about limits. We think about goals and what kind of limits need to be in place to help us reach them. We talk about what we’re experiencing and if any of the negative stuff might be caused by patterns of ignoring limits. 


Here are 3 limits I’m working on in this season:

My mood is affected by being outside – I’m trying to log 1000 hours outside this year. 

Addiction is a real thing in our family history – we drink limited alcoholic beverages on weekends (not weekdays).

I want my body to work for the life I am living, so I focus on quality at the gym and pay attention to little hurts. Currently I do foot strengthening exercises daily to work on range of motion and balance.

At Tradewinds our coaches pay attention to how your body is moving, and make recommendations to help you move well and respect the limits of your body while challenging you to reach for new goals that expand your limits but don’t ignore them. If you want to have coaching about specific movements, set up a PT session; or schedule a nutrition call to talk about food limits.

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