I had to jinx it, didn’t I? I had to brag about my unbroken exercise streak. Now I’m sitting at an odd angle trying not to aggravate my pulled back.
It’s nothing serious, but it’s put me out of action for a week so far.
I was livid at first. I hated everything about being injured, and I pity the people who had to deal with me during my denial phase. I needed endorphins, damn it, and it sucked having to deal with life’s problems without that sweet, sweet drug.
Exercise turns down the volume knob in my life, and once I lost that control, even the tiniest things seemed like a mood. I’m not exaggerating when I say that working out is like donning a piece of armour, and I’ve been naked for the past week (not literally, fortunately).
But you know what I always say: A bad life experience makes for a good blog post.
Besides, not having to exercise, mop the floor, bathe, and rinse my clothes has effectively cleared up two hours in my daily schedule.
So other than having more time to pout over my disappearing gains, I’ve also started reflecting on the lessons I’ve gained from this experience, and I have to say, it’s not all bad. I think.
Life doesn’t always go as planned
I know that life likes throwing curveballs at people—just because it can—but that doesn’t stop me from being surprised every time I’m socked in the side of my head with one.
Maybe that’s why I enjoy pushing myself. Because I know that life has so much worse to offer, and being in the pain zone is the only way to weather myself against said future events, like a loved one dying, me getting sick, or another pandemic destroying humanity as we know it.
That’s the first lesson I took from this injury. The reminder that I don’t have full control, and that setbacks can very well appear just when you’re feeling your best.
In my case, struggling to get up from bed when I could swing a kettlebell for hundreds of reps just a few days ago. The sooner I accept the inevitability of change, though, the better.
Sometimes you need to focus on what you can do
It’s not all doom and gloom. One good thing about this injury was that it’s stopped me from complaining about all the things I can’t do. So I pulled my back. What now? What could I do today?
Well, I’ve always had bad shoulder mobility (tore both of them during sparring) so now’s a great time to catch up on them stretches. I’ve extended my meditation sessions too. Plus, I’ve been experimenting with different positions, something I’d never have done had life went on as usual. My diet’s tighter now as well, since this is the only other factor that directly affects my performance.
At this rate, it’s hard to say whether or not the injury was a bad or good thing. I’d like to think that either way, I’d be right.
Realise that you’ll never be alone
We as a species have existed for hundreds of thousands of years, and as unique as we’d like to think our troubles are, there are definitely people who’ve been through the exact same thing (or worse).
And that’s a comfortable thought when I’m bored and yearning to go out for a run. I’m not alone, and even elite athletes go through the same thing, like David Goggins did after his leg surgery.
If he’d managed to find the positives in his situation, then there was no way I couldn’t. Plus, he had a beast of a caption to go along with it too.
Everything in life comes down to how you look at it. When the doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to run for a few months, I just said “So?” He was surprised to see that I wasn’t bothered by it knowing how much I ran.
The reason I said “so” was because I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to take myself to a whole new level both mentally and physically. You can’t ever do that unless you are forced to change the very things you are used to doing. —David Goggins
Every day is a new opportunity
I’m still feeling the pain today, but at least I can walk. All I could do yesterday was waddle. Just one week ago I was probably the fittest I’d ever been.
But all the befores and afters don’t matter anymore. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and yesterday has already passed. What I have is today or, more specifically, this moment.
Right now is when I hold the most power to change my life. Not ‘after work when I don’t need to deal with paperwork’, or ‘on the weekends when I have more time’. It’s the constant ‘now’ that offers all of life’s possibilities.
So I’ve stopped dwelling on the better days, and wishing to return to a hundred percent.
I can walk today. So I will.
Times of physical rest is a good time to look within
Wanna know a secret? I’m actually a mental pansy. I always stop a few reps short from the real pain zone, and I have a pretty low constitution when it comes to discomfort.
Which is why being injured has been a blessing in disguise, because it’s allowed me to realise just how much I have to work on mentally.
Like, why do I always procrastinate? Why is it so hard to stick to a clean diet? And why is writing so much harder than exercising?
Just like how our other senses heighten when we’re blindfolded, so too did my mental shortcomings come to the fore once I’d lost the crutch of physical exercise. Sure, it’s not going to be fun, but it’s much better than sweeping everything under the mental rug.
So thank you, bad back!
Beware, it’s very easy to spiral out of control
I forgot where I heard this, but someone once said that we are all one mistake away from being homeless, and I can agree, because I was certainly tempted to slide down that spiral of negativity myself.
I’d dropped my other good habits the moment I got injured. No cold showers, no waking up early, no clean diets, all because I needed my comforts to heal. Someone needs to tell past-me that eating a pint of ice-cream isn’t exactly the best path to recovery. I figured that since I’d already dropped my other good habits, I might as well make my injury time count.
But then it got worse. I actually thought of drinking.
I had stopped drinking the same time I started exercising every day, which was close to the half-year mark when I hurt my back. But I was already eating ice-cream, right? What’s one more vice?
The only thing that saved me was that I hadn’t meditated for the day, and I didn’t want to do that with alcohol in my system. Had I not cultivated that habit, I’d probably have drank all the way till this moment.
Like a chain of dominos, habits can either make or break us. I was fortunate to have maintained a long line of good habits—each acting as a bulwark against my vices.
Because of that, I’ve since taken my habits more seriously, because all it takes is one slip to fully cave in to my lesser self.
Life happens for you
If there’s anything you take away from this post, I hope it’s that you can always interpret the same event from different perspectives.
Sure, I can complain about how I still can’t pick up the kettlebell, but if you look at it from this article’s perspective, it’s also been a time of improvement in my many other aspects of life.
Last week, I saw my injury as the end to my endorphin sessions. Today, it’s a catalyst for this article.
And you know what? Judging from how hard I find writing to be, I’d have to say that that’s a pretty good deal.