MIND, WORKOUT / 7th March 2016

‘Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.’ Napoleon Hill


Considered by many to be one of the greatest writers on Success, Napoleon Hill provided the catalyst for this week’s post as he got me thinking: why is it important to believe that in the face of a setback or tragedy, something bigger and better is around the corner?

Two weeks a go I lost someone very close to me. It was unexpected and the shock still ripples through me. Some days have been easier than others and at times like this hindsight has a funny way of creeping up on you. ‘What if he had seen a doctor sooner? What if he was on medication to control it? What if he had by-pass surgery to prevent it?’ As human beings it is natural to apply logical explanations that provide closure to our loss or setback. However, it doesn’t solve the problem or make everything ok. Should we not consider as Napoleon said, the seed of an equal or greater benefit?

For the record, of course death does not carry a seed of equal or greater benefit, but I use the example because it forced me to think differently about my own recent setback. If you have followed my posts lately, you will know I have been suffering from wrist tendonitis, which I ignorantly assumed was an injury I could heal with time and a little rest. I chose not to visit my physical therapist and last week I deadlifted thinking it was getting better…. until I woke up the next morning. At that point I realized I needed to see the professionals. When I did see my physical therapist his diagnosis was clear: severe tendonitis. I am under strict orders not to do anything in the gym involving my hands, until further notice. To those who know me, you will appreciate just how devastating that is. I love strength training and there is not a runners high in the world which compares to a PR on my squat or deadlift.

So here I am being told I cannot do what I love, how is there possibly any upside to this? Much like oil prices, my progress will surely tank (forgive me for the analogy, I work in Finance!)….

Not necessarily, and here is what I learnt:

Lesson 1: Do not assume you know your body better than anyone else

The adage ‘listen to your body’ is true, don’t load 225lbs on the bar if you’re hungover and can’t squat your own body weight. That is common sense, but I took the concept too far and thought I knew what was best for my wrist. I diligently watched PTs on Youtube dishing out rehab advice and repeated their techniques. I borrowed a friends Electrotherapy machine and almost electrocuted myself (true story) trying to stimulate blood flow to the sight of my injury. What I learnt from this experience is ALWAYS consult professionals in the case of your health. If I practice what I preach in Pushing for Health, then I definitely slipped up here.

Lesson 2: Time

I train with intensity. I adopt the mindset, diet and planning athletes follow and that’s how I like it. But it leaves little time for much else. Working a full-time job and working out is not easy come easy go. Many a time I have overlooked social invitations because it interfered with my ‘routine’.  I’m not knocking it, this is my prerogative and I own it (besides, I did my time partying, I’m kinda done). I like being driven, focussed and setting goals for myself. However, the forced time out from training has given me the time needed for a clearer perspective. Being healthy is not just physical, it’s your mental state of mind too.  What’s the point in mastering your workouts if you can’t master your mind. Increasing my meditation and time spent reading, I have truly begun to see things differently. What I may have perceived negatively in the past is now a sign or a signal for better things to come. Napolian Hill also discusses this in the ’12 Laws of Success’ . Hill asserts:

‘Failures see the hole in the donut, Successful people see the hole but the area outside it too’.

Lesson 3: I was overtraining

Linked to lesson number two, I can look back at the last year and safely say I overdid it. Not because I was in the gym all hours but because I convinced myself I must drip of sweat or lift heavy every session to get stronger. When you exercise, your body releases free radicals and oxidative stress occurs. Typically this is offset by the release of your body’s own antioxidants, but over-training can prevent those antioxidants from kicking in. The net result: a higher risk of injury and in the worse case scenario Adrenal Fatigue where athletes can literally become bed-bound. Being a Type A personality in my training was the problem. Now that I can see the damage it can do I am learning to take a few days off and accepting that doing thirty minutes on an exercise bike is enough. I am well and truly humbled to the side lines.

Lesson 4: Try new things

As much as I love all things iron, it’s no surprise that strength training takes its toll. Professional lifters suffer injuries all the time but their income derives from it so you give them a pass. What is my motive? Is performing a Squat with 225lbs on my back paying the rent? This is actually a tricky one….On the one hand, there is no financial incentive in driving myself so hard, however the life lessons I have acquired through training are things I wouldn’t change for the world. Yet, when your forced out you should try new things, and in my case call it fate or serendipity but I met a Pilates instructor at the gym on Friday and we are planning on doing some core workouts this week. Who knows, I could develop a love for Pilates? Point is: take your injuries as opportunities to better yourself in something new. As they say, if it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you.

Lesson 5: Stop seeing your setback as a setback

Once I realized that my injury was actually an opportunity my outlook changed.  This is the most important lesson I learned. When you consciously acknowledge that behind every setback, adversity or failure is a lesson and opportunity for growth then you build on that foundation and lay the seeds for success. Until you open your mind to the idea that a setback is actually an opportunity, there will always be a limit to your success in life. 

I leave you with this one question: How do you see the donut ? The hole or the ‘whole’.

RIP Uncle.