I have recently read an outstanding and very inspirational book titled the “War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. The theme of this book is to help identify resistance, teach you to overcome resistance, and then inspire you to reach your full creative potential. While this is a book on writing, if you think about it, we all experience resistance on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it is a never ending battle but definitely a battle we can win if we know the rules of the game! Resistance is the force that tells you to watch Jersey Shore Marathons on a Saturday afternoon instead of finishing that basement remodel you started last year or why you would rather look at people’s random photos on Facebook instead of going to the gym. Resistance is a powerful force, so therefore, it is as equally important to be able to clearly identify resistance, because you must first be able to recognize your enemies before you can defeat them!
This book inspired me to look at the reasons why people self-sabotage (resistance) their health and fitness goals! Being the head trainer of CKO Seattle, I have had the privilege of having hundreds of conversations about peoples fitness goals. The flip side is I have also seen many of the same people make very good progress in the short term, only to come up with some reason (excuse) as to why they have stopped coming in on a regular basis. So why talk/blog about a negative force like self-sabotage instead of a positive “you can do this” type talk/blog? Well because everyone knows how to achieve great results in the health and fitness world, take a second to think about it… yes that’s right, workout and eat healthy on a consistent basis. It is really that simple, however, very few individuals are able to keep this pattern going for any significant amount of time. For the majority, resistance will eventually win the battle of wills. I would like to discuss the most common self-sabotaging behaviors I see in the fitness world with the hope that once you are able to recognize these behaviors you will eventually be able to overcome resistance!
Before you read any further I want to be 100% clear that if you have, or have had, a serious injury, you should always seek a doctor’s approval before participating in our kickboxing classes or any other physical activity for that matter.
Part 1 Injuries:
Injuries can be annoying if minor and devastating if serious but just about any injury can be overcome and even healed completely with smart exercise! But unfortunately too many people like to play the “victim” card and are “defined” by their injury. A very common example of this is a client telling their trainer that they tore their ACL 3 years ago playing soccer and they haven’t worked out since the injury. While the different types of injuries you can experience is nearly limitless, lets discuss an ACL tear because it is very common, fairly severe (requires surgery), but absolutely 100% recoverable. I personally know many people that have made 100% full recoveries in 7-months to 1-year and similarly I know just about as many people still using their ACL injury as an excuse for being inactive 3- 4 years later. Let me be clear, I am not judging anyone who has or has had an injury, I am just making the point that with just about any injury, you either find people who naturally healed themselves through smart exercise or you find people that use the injury as a crutch and an excuse as to why they are no longer active.
An injury becomes a form of self sabotage when you forgo all physical activity exercise because you are “injured”. With the exception of being in a full body cast, having a broken arm does not prevent you from walking/running and or doing leg exercises. In fact we recently had a member that broke his ankle rollerblading, and instead of feeling sorry for himself, he was back in the gym a couple days later in an ankle boot and all. (That’s a real trooper!)! Again the point is that life will always throw you curve balls and it is up to you to take those curves in stride and continue to move forward regardless of the situation.
How does exercise help you overcome and injury? Exercise is a form of physical therapy and speaking in a very non-scientific terms exercise helps speed up the healing process as a result of muscle/body part stimulation and the old “if you don’t use it, you lose it” motto that we all know is true. Think about this; for most of human history, humans did some sort of physical labor nearly every day, be it stalking big game, fishing, gathering fruits, nuts, veggies and/or moving “camp” to a different location. While this work may not be as hard a running a marathon, it can be easily assumed that our ancestors were in some sort of constant movement for multiple hours a day. Fast forward to today’s society and now you don’t even have to get out of your car to obtain our species most precious commodity, food. No wonder many have become fat, dumb and happy. Zombies anyone?
When we are fat, dumb, and happy or bodies literately goes into a “relaxed” state, we have a constant food supply, we have shelter, we have access to clean water, our daily lives require very little if any physical activity, so on a cellular level there is no sense of urgency to repair these nagging/serious injuries. Our body literately becomes lazy all the way down to our cells. Our body is a product of our environment and it makes small adaptations (Epigenetics) based on the environmental input received. When we exercise we break our body down, then our body responds/adapts by repairing itself slightly stronger so it will be able to handle a similar work load in the future. The same goes for an injured area, if you continue to use the injured area (smartly), your body will make repairing the injury a high priority!
How to smartly overcome an injury:
- Step 1 – Stop feeling sorry for yourself – Obviously you know your body better than anyone else but it is never a good idea to play the “victim card”. Why? Because odds are very high that there is someone out there that has overcome a very similar injury despite being given worse circumstances. While cancer is probably not considered an injury and Lance Armstrong is probably not the most popular person today, cheating or not (everybody was “cheating”), he is a great example of overcoming a major setback. You sit home feeling sorry for yourself or get back on that “horse” and win the Tour 7-times in a row.
- Step 2 – Learn the difference between discomfort and pain – This is probably the most important step. We can easily push through discomfort, that’s how you get stronger and that’s how you heal injuries. If you really think about it, experiencing some discomfort no matter the circumstances always results in personal growth. Unfortunately, many people have become so sedentary and so out of touch with their own body that they can no longer tell the difference between pain and discomfort. The second they feel discomfort they freak out and immediately stop. Yes if you feel pain you should stop but discomfort is that environmental input/stimulus telling your body that it needs to get stronger. There is a very fine line between discomfort and pain but if you have great body awareness (it still boggles my mind that people are unaware of their own bodies) you should know the difference between the two.
- Step 3-Start out slow (don’t expect to pick up right where you left off).
- Step 4– Gradually increase the resistance and intensity.
- Step 5 – Continue to eat healthy! One of the worst mistakes people make is letting an injury propel them into a downward spiral that ends with eating so called comfort foods such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, pizza, cookies, etc. Re-read step 1!
- Step 6 – Stay positive and keep pressing forward!
Injuries can and will happen but they are never an excuse to stop exercising completely. You should always get clearance from a doctor but at the end of the day an injury is just a road bump at the very least or a detour at the very worst on our continuous health and fitness journey.