Everyone knows Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and The Hare. Long story short, the hare shoots to an early lead, too over-confident, he sleeps. Meanwhile, the tortoise keeps going at a slow, yet steady pace. He never quits, even in the face of certain defeat. Akin to your fitness journey, are you the tortoise or the hare? Are you all about the fast results? No thought about the future, just the here and the now? Confident that your body can withstand whatever you throw at it? Crashing out in a blaze of glory? Or are you like the tortoise, sometimes slow but definitely making steady progress, despite setbacks, despite injuries always moving forward. Planning for the long term, not sacrificing the future victory for short term glory.
Fitness should be a life long commitment, not something that you do just to lose a few quick pounds, then never think about again. Sadly, the truth is to see life changing and lasting results, you must be willing to stick with it week in week out, month to month for the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean you should be exercising to the limit every single day of your life, in fact the total opposite. In order to keep coming back month after month, you have to listen to your body and recuperate and recover. Let injuries fully heal before attacking your body. Don’t look for a quick and easy solution, these generally never work and only set you up for failure.
“Pain is only temporary. Glory lasts forever.” Sadly, this is hardly ever the case. And in reality, its most likely going to be the polar opposite. Niggling injuries today turn into chronic injuries tomorrow (if you’re lucky). Injuries can’t be treat by burying your head in the sand and training through the pain and ‘manning up’ may make you look tough now, but may lead to a premature end to your exercising lifestyle and a not so tough reliance on a walking stick. Now, don’t misinterpret this as a reason to never push yourself or your boundaries, but you have to learn your body and how to recognise the difference between an actual injury and the straining and toiling after a heavy weight. Only you can truly know this and if in doubt play it safe and see a qualified professional. (Most of the times it’s painfully obvious)
The ghosts of injuries past can really come back to haunt you. I’m only 24 and already have injuries that affect my workouts. Both shoulders have been cracked due to gym accidents, as well as skateboarding, snowboarding & skimboarding incidents (notice a link?). In my youthful stupidity, I saw a doctor (only after several incidents and my workout routine was being affected) who prescribed pain killers and rest. I only took half of his advice. Pain killers and no rest. I thought I could push through the pain, continued training (I guess those pain killers were effective) and a couple of months later, the pain just got worse. My shoulder injury was now interrupting my sleep, I found it extremely hard to raise my arms above my head. Eventually, I saw a physio and got treatment, started taking fish oil & glucosamine and the pain became manageable. From then on I would have sporadic shoulder pain along with a marked decrease in flexibility & strength in my shoulder joint… Nothing a 21 year old can’t get over and manage right?
Fast forward a few years I’m still on the supplements and as the weights being lifted has increased & a new focus on powerlifting training, the pain in the shoulders has started to come back. However, being older and wiser. Instead of pushing through the pain (and chasing that 300lb bench today rather than tomorrow), I did (and still doing) lots of research and have for the time being, stop putting any heavy loads on the shoulder socket. My current upper body workout routines focus on rehab & prehab shoulder exercises & movements, high rep lifting to get the blood flowing through the ligaments & scar tissue, lots of pulling to strengthen the back and rotator cuff, foam rolling, self myofascial release & stretching just to name a few. I tested the shoulder joint during the bench a few weeks ago and although I’ve lost a bit of strength, I’ve lost a lot of the pain that once occurred during the bench.
The pain is still there and sadly, short of surgery, I don’t think the pain will ever go away completely. However, with not only keeping my future lifting career in mind, but also my future health. I have chosen to not ignore the pain and train through it, or simply stop training altogether. I’ve done the research and am implementing a plan that is paving the path to recovery and a successful lifting career with minimal pain.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. — Amelia Earhart