When you have a short intense burst of exercise such as sprinting you generate energy for this anaerobically or without oxygen. The difference between the oxygen the body required and what it actually managed to take in during the sudden sprint is called oxygen deficit.
Not only are you out of breath while you are in oxygen deficit, but you are in a little bit of pain. You lungs are working harder and they burn. Your heart is working harder and it is pounding. Your muscles are working hard and asking for oxygen but not getting it so they are generating lactic acid (causing them to break down). And your brain is trying to balance an equation that doesn’t balance. It hurts.
The question is: what does one do when this happens? Some people can’t take the pain and just stop running/exercising. Some people figure out a way to run more efficiently – taking longer strides and deeper breaths. In other words, they take their foot off the gas. Some people confront the challenge more mentally. They balance the achievement and the cost and decide the pain is worth it until after the race is done or the burst is finished when they will get a chance to recover. (For those who care this is called Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Essentially it is just breathing heavily even after you done running.) This group basically temporarily ignores the pain.
A couple interesting things about oxygen deficit. One is that by being put into oxygen deficit the body actually gets to be more efficient over time. The lungs get better at extracting oxygen from breath. The muscles don’t need as much oxygen to produce at a high level during the burst. The heart doesn’t need to pump as hard to distribute the oxygen. This is how an athlete gets better. This is how performance improves.
Another thing is the brain, from prior experience, gets to understand that oxygen deficit is a temporary state and does a better job handling the pain. In some instances, the brain actually gets to like the pain. This is a form of runners high.
So oxygen deficit is how an athlete knows they are going all out. It’s way of defining the edge.
Now where do you think I’m going with this analogy? This blog is called Brooklyn Startup. This is a way for entrepreneurs to put into context the pain they are in. Starting a company is hard. You are short on money. You are short on support. You are short on bandwidth. You may even be short on talent.
The question is what does the entrepreneur do when this happens? Let’s hope the answer isn’t to stop or take your foot off the gas!