Here in these CXP Zen articles I tend to predominantly cover the ‘Rest & Recovery’ side of things; however, one thing that is absolutely essential to your Health & Wellness [overall] is having the right *mindset*.
Now, I’m not gonna lie – I thought I had this article all figured out [ahead of sitting down to write it], but I have procrastinated for daysss… Suddenly, today I’m hit by a wave of inspiration by some serendipitous and curious sources! So, forgive me for what is about to be something of a “stream of consciousness” / “brain dump”, but I know you’re gonna like how this all weaves together in the end, and hopefully, you get something of a ‘eureka moment’ too.
So, when it comes to our Training, we always want to be diligent and careful not to overdo things! It really is a balancing act; after all, too little exercise can lead to a level of de-conditioning that ultimately just results in degenerative health issues. Too much (or too intense) exercise [done too often] can lead to debilitating problems – look at Rhabdomyolysis… I could do a whole article on that alone!
Fact is, it doesn’t even matter *what* you’re doing to stay active. You could be clapping and stomping through 12hrs of Flamenco sessions per week; “kippin’ ‘n’ cleanin’” through 10hrs of CrossFit; wading up and down the pool day-in, day-out. However, the crucial thing is to listen to your body!
The body is incredibly intuitive, and inherently responsive. If you feel something is ‘off’, then stop! Assess. Think about what else you could do so as NOT to aggravate the problem. Think: preventative measures. I’ll give you a personal example from just the other week:
I was in the gym and it was Leg Day! Now, if you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I Deadlift a fair load, I do plenty of Plyometric work, and I’ve got a fairly “beastly” Leg Press (for a guy my size anyways). Now, it was on the latter that I suddenly felt something on the verge of going wrong, so I abandoned the exercise almost immediately.
See, as I sat there with the [Incline] Leg Press ready to roll, I push off, but as I’m about to move the Safety Bars aside, I’m starting to bend at the knees – into the flexion phase of the move – and my Patellar Tendon (located right at the front of the knee cap) just developed this sharp, searing pain.
I had about eight plates loaded on either side (approximately 720lbs – not my best, but still reasonably heavy); so I decide to “take my body’s warning into consideration” and give it another go, but this time, at a weight I know I could do for 30+ reps (just three plates on each side – so, 270lbs)…
I get the same pain as I’m about to push off.
I humbly get up, strip off the remaining plates and move on. Strength Training was *not* on the books that day, but I was able to crack on with some [tentative] Bodyweight-based exercises such as Bulgarian Split-Squats, Lunges and Standard “Air Squats”. I’m still not sure what was wrong, but it was all about *Mindset*.
Thing is, I could have easily freaked out and just stopped the workout all together. After all, back in my Track & Field days, I did tear my Medial Ligaments (on the knee of the same leg that was giving me grief). But that was over a decade ago, and I’ve lifted tons of weight since.
I knew I had to be calm, not jump to conclusions, try to adapt the exercise (and subsequently, the workout) to tend to the issue, and then – most importantly – take measures [post-workout] to remedy the problem.
When I got home, I rolled up my basketball shorts on my [dodgy] leg and lathered my entire knee in Tiger Balm (my go-to ANY time I have a twinge/pain in my muscles/tendons/ligaments). I then relaxed in front of the box watching America’s Got Talent… Don’t judge! (No pun intended!). Every time a commercial came on, I made a point of getting up and moving – a quick trip upstairs / a walk around the kitchen / etc; the point was to keep it moving. It was a little painful, but I knew that just sitting there all night would make it seize up, and it would only get worse.
You have to have the mindset of being fearless! All too often people will get an injury like that and insist that the best thing they can do is just REST… but by ‘rest’, what they mean is: an excuse to be bed-ridden for as long as possible.
Now, I’ve referenced this before in a previous article, but it’s worth bringing up again…
The philosopher Plato talks about “the healthy condition [being] undermined by inactivity”, and he offers up a beautiful analogy when he says, ‘Need I speak further of such things as stagnation in air or water, where stillness causes corruption and decay, when motion would keep things fresh…’
The latter quote has struck a chord with me ever since I first heard it, and I’m a firm believer in the notion of “Active Recovery”! Thing is, it is when we stop all together that we start to simply… well… wither away.
See, I was watching Shark Week today, and one of the amazing new discoveries that they uncovered about these incredible creatures was that when they deep dive to depths of over 600ft they will actually *glide*!! Sounds like something you’d expect to hear a bird doing; after all, it was previously thought that sharks simply can’t ‘stop moving’ – to do so would surely result in their demise. But alas, in a bid to conserve energy, they will in fact simply ‘go with the flow’ (so to speak).
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa… Hold up Chris! You just told us to keep moving – not simply ‘glide’ (i.e. do nothing and let the [proverbial] current take us where it may). Well yes… but ultimately, what we’re talking about here is: Efficacy.
Truth be told, this revelation about the sharks actually evoked memories of the movie Rocky Balboa – Sly Stallone’s re-saddling of the world’s most legendary [fictional] Boxing Legend; you know – where he goes to the dog pound to pick out a pooch, and he selects the old, haggard looking one. He justifies his choice by highlighting how smart the dog really is in conserving its energy – only moving when absolutely necessary. Later in the movie though, the dog is running alongside him and showing that even an “old dog” still ‘has it in him’.
Thing is, neither the shark nor the dog in these examples simply sit around and do nothing. They instinctively know when to keep movement to a minimum, and when to keep things moving! So, when we talk about “Beast Mode”, there is technically another side to this coin, if we take the metaphor to another level…
In life, you should strive to have the mindset of a Warrior – attacking your Fitness with purpose and determination; asserting discipline with your Nutrition; having the savviness to gain an ‘Edge’ [using Supplements that are safe and effective]; and having the resolve and reserve to respect your Rest & Recovery.
Two other things that came up just today tie into the latter, and form the basis of the last thing I’m about to get into…
A friend of mine who teaches Mixed Martial Arts posted a brilliant quote on Facebook which read:
A Student said to his Master, “You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?”
The Master replied, “It is better to be a Warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war”.
See – for me – I would rather be capable of defending myself than get my butt kicked because I didn’t know how.
I’d rather be capable of doing a dozen pull ups with strict form than get stuck in a life or death situation where the difference between living or dying depended on my ability to pull myself out of a ditch or a hole or a burning place.
I’d rather apply moderation to my eating habits in order to remain in a healthy condition than continuously overindulge and wind up with health complications.
I would prefer to be courageous in my handling of injury – no matter how big or small – than be overwhelmed by it, thus giving way to potential worsening of the problem.
I’ve torn muscles and ligaments. I’ve broken bones. I’ve had operations and surgeries. Reconstructions and concussions…
On the subject of the latter, a friend of mine [who is a former Pro NFL Player] recently suffered a fairly severe concussion; having had my fair share, I have been giving him tips/advice on how to “train the brain” to improve his recovery. And one thing that came up in one of those conversations [just today] was how impressed he was by how much time I dedicate to learning new things and staying educated and up-to-date on everything that I teach (here on CXP).
For me, it is another simple principle that I take to heart and apply to every day that you can easily translate/transpose into your daily routine:
It is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on the principle of incremental self-improvement. In other words, making small improvements every day that eventually – down the road – lead to an intrinsically innovative evolution of the self.
Typically, this is a concept that spills over into the business world; you’ll find plenty of Six-Sigma-following companies out there (using the basic ideas of Defining / Measuring / Analyzing / Improving / Controlling) who also implement the practice of Kaizen; the idea being that they apply Six-Sigma through their daily work and small habitual tasks.
Certainly, I like to spend a little time each and every single day to learn a little something to improve my knowledge base, boost my skills, and hold myself to the highest standard in my profession!
Now, translated to what we’re all about here on the CXP blog…
Think of my last CXP Fitness article (on Micro-Loading) – the whole idea is that you make tiny little adjustments every time you hit the gym, and as the weeks pass you’ll make impressive [and potentially faster] progress than doing things the “standard” way.
Regarding your Nutrition – making gradual adjustments to your eating habits will result in replicable and sustainable changes when compared to just making cut-and-dry, overnight, drastic changes.
With Supplements, you can gradually introduce some basics (like a Multi-Vitamin or Omega-3) to fill in the holes in the proverbial boat [of your Nutrition].
But with more relevance to this particular [Zen] article…
You need to listen to your body – it truly knows best!
You want to be calm and collected in your mind, and in your approach to things when glitches occur.
You want to be methodical and precise in the measures you take both on a preventative level, as much as on a remedial one.
And if you do happen to incur a more serious injury, you must take small steps every damn day, keep moving forward – never backward – and you will ensure the best possible chance of not only a successful recovery, but a swifter one to boot!
Whether you break a bone Boxing, rip off a callous Bouldering, get a bruise during a Spartan Race, develop a whopping blister Dancing… Get into the right mindset! Be patient. Be fearless. And continue to set yourself goals to get back to what you love doing!
Well, I hope that all made sense! Like I said at the start – that was a bit of a “brain dump”, but I hope it gets you thinking. I hope you look at your Recovery between workouts as a reason to stay active, not an excuse to be lazy. And if you’re staring down the barrel of Recovery from injury, then remember that you are stronger than you can possibly imagine, so dig deep, have faith, and put one foot in front of the other.
I look forward to catching you again in the next post, but in the meantime, remember: Love Life, and Love Yourself!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO