I’ve made no secret of the fact that, for a little over the past year, I’ve been working out. It’s truly the first time in my life wherein I’ve committed myself to something and have stuck with it. At first, I floundered around, unsure of what I should be doing. But then I began observing others, watching what they did for their routines. And like Donald Miller says at the beginning of Blue Like Jazz, “sometimes you have to watch someone else love something before you can love it yourself.” I’ve found this to be true; at first, I didn’t like the gym, didn’t like exercising. Probably because:
1) It was work; and,
2) I was unsure of myself.
Then as I said, I began watching others, and doing some online research. And somewhere along the way I began to love it–the working out. The stresses and pressures of life, the minor aches and pains, would fade away during that focused time of exercise. I would leave the gym feeling like I had accomplished something. Never was this more true than when I had finished a routine as I worked around some kind of pain. Make no mistake: pains there will be. In fact, there are primarily four kinds of pain faced in the gym:
1) Pain which can be worked through. This is the kind that comes when pushing through a particularly challenging routine, and you want to hit that last rep.
2) Pain which must be worked around. This when we get hurt and have to modify our activities, doing something until we are well enough to resume our former routines.
3) Pain which just plain lays us out. This is when we’ve simply been hurt too badly to continue any level of activity, and must recuperate.
4) The pain of unmet milestones. This is when we set goals and do not achieve them.
During my time in the gym, I’ve experienced all four of these kinds of pain. I’ve experienced the pain of pushing through a grueling set, the pain of having work around an injury, the pain of not being able to workout because I was in too much pain, and the pain of pressing on despite not having reached a goal. Because make no mistake, whatever course of action we set ourselves to there will be setbacks. I’m not sure what obstacles you face, but rest assured whether they are relational, creative, professional, or even exercise-related, there will be setbacks. You will face some kind of opposition, some kind of pain. For me, the first setback in my fitness goals came in the form of something I’d never heard of before:
In my case, I performed a Valsalva Manoeveur during arm curls. Basically, I held my breath during exersion, which caused a precipitous rise in blood pressure. Essentially, the vessels in the back of my head expanded too rapidly into the surrounding meninges, causing extreme head pain. In other words, I felt like I was having a stroke.
The recommended remedy was rest, but I found I could work through the pain, providing I:
1) Took NSAIDS; and,
2) Backed off on the weight.
So I took it easy for a couple of weeks, and then was back to full strength. You might find you’re facing a challenge, and in order to get through it you’ll have to scale back on one thing to focus on another. This is okay. Setbacks happen. It doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. Oftentimes, it means just that; that progress is being made, and you’ve uncovered a previously hidden weakness, or that perhaps you are not fully adapted to the place you find yourself in. Give it time. You will find your equilibrium.
I could continue in describing: lower back injuries, and the financial pain of having to visit a medical practitioner to some relief. Upper back injuries, which slowed my progress in achieving a fitness goal.
You can see the title of the piece there, How To Bench Press 300 Pounds In 12 Weeks, right? It hasn’t taken me twelve; rather, it’s been easily twenty-four (if not more). Setbacks, upsets, incidents, accidents, injuries knocked me off track. These kinds of things will happen to you, too. Count on it. But also decide now that, no matter what–no matter what happens, what people say, what the resistance is telling you–you’ll stick with the program. Whether it’s lifting weights, training for a marathon, writing a book, painting a landscape, sculpting, whatever.
Whatever it is: stick with the program. If one story, or book, isn’t working out, does one quit writing? No. One moves on to something else. Do we quit XYZ just because it’s gotten hard? No. We harden our resolve. Because, just like my goal of benching 300 pounds, whatever it is you’re working on, it will take longer, and be harder, than you anticipated.
DON’T GIVE UP.
Stick with the program.
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