It’s never a good thing when you start hurting halfway through your workout. Especially when we’re not talking about that burning sensation as your muscles push with as much force as they can muster. No, I’m talking about actual pain.
Now, let me back up a bit and explain what was going on.
I was doing low bar squats as my new program calls for. I’ve done these before and done them pain-free, but this past Friday, I started feeling some pain around my elbow join, right around my left bicep. I finished the workout and even did my rows despite the pain.
Over the weekend, the pain subsided, so I was good to go. Or so I thought.
Today, I go outside to what I’ve started terming as “The Junkyard”–all gyms need a tough sounding name, right? Well, junkyards aren’t exactly safe spaces–and start training.
On my second working set of squats, the pain returned. Big time.
I finished the squats despite the pain, just trying to make sure I wasn’t doing anything to exacerbate the situation, and then it was time to move on to deadlifts.
The problem was that my arm was killing me.
I sat and thought about it for a bit as I rested up. My thinking was that the deadlift doesn’t actually work those muscles or tendons. The arm doesn’t actually flex during the exercise unless you do it really wrong, so I went ahead and took a chance.
In the process, I set a PR on deadlifts. It’s not nearly enough weight for my satisfaction, but it was more weight than I’ve ever done before, so that’s still a win.
When I came in, I hopped in the shower to clean up, and my arm was killing me. I used some aches and pains body wash, then used the same brand’s aches and pain lotion to try as an initial treatment, then took some pain relievers to try and knock it out.
I also rested my left arm. The last thing I needed was to hurt.
But here’s the thing: I can’t afford to make excuses. If something is injured, I need to work around it. For too long, I’ve allowed my own inability to think through how to train around injuries to inhibit training. As a result, I become detrained and things start to fall apart.
By the time I’m healed up, I’m so detrained that I’m basically starting from scratch.
Unfortunately, I think I’ve used injuries as excuses to stop training because training was just hard. A part of me didn’t like the hardship of training and so I sort of looked for reasons to stop it so I could rationalize my lack of training.
A couple of hours later, as I write this, my arm feels much better. Whether it was the lotion, the pain meds, or it was always temporary is a mystery. I don’t really care right now. I’ll be able to tell later if the pain returns.
Regardless, I’ll be out there tomorrow, training my butt off. I have my upper body exercises tomorrow and I’ll be damned if I take the day off. I need this training.
More importantly, though, my family needs this training. No, they’re not out there with me, but they need me. They need me to be healthy, strong, and ready for whatever punches life is going to throw me, and some of those will be physical in some way. I need to be strong enough to handle them.
So, I’ll train. I’ll do whatever I can to train, even if it’s not ideal. If I can’t press, I’ll grab my dumbbells and do flies and raises if I have to. I don’t want to, but I’ll do what I can. If I can press, I’ll press. And do bench press. If I feel good enough, I’ll do rows too, because as Jordan Feigenbaum asks on a regular basis, “What are you going to do? Not train?”
For me, that’s not an option.
The thing is, this is also conditioning me. It’s training more than my body. It’s training my mind. It’s conditioning me to accept that when things are tough, you find a way. You don’t accept setbacks or difficulties. You persevere and move on despite it.
I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten that lesson a lot through the years. I pushed and pushed to try and save a business. I may have pushed too long because I refused to quit, and while ultimately failing hurt, it was still good for me to learn how to refuse to surrender.
Over time, though, I’ve dealt with a lot of hardship, and it’s easy to bail. It would have been easy to bail and not deadlift today. The stakes were relatively small, after all. No one would really care if I had. I could easily have justified it and no one would have judged me.
Instead, I pushed through, and I reminded myself that I can take it. I can do more than I believe I can.
By now, many people have heard the quote from BUD/S, the school that trains Navy SEALs. “The only easy day was yesterday,” is inscribed somewhere at the school, a reminder that things were going to get tougher each and every day.
When you think about how brutal the training is, the surprising thing isn’t the high dropout rate. It’s that anyone graduates at all.
The reason anyone does is simple. Those that do have a mental toughness most of us, especially me, lacks.
For them, the idea of not completing the workout would never have entered their mind. They’d never have considered it. They’d simply tough it out, do their deadlifts, and move on.
Just like I did.
The difference, however, is they wouldn’t be patting themselves on the back for it. They wouldn’t think anything about it. It would have been just another workout for them.
For me, though, it’s a big deal. I know I’m not one of those guys. I know I couldn’t have made it through BUD/S. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true.
The thing is, I can change it. I can make days like today the norm, not the exception. Today was a good start, but I have to build on it. I have to do this again, and again, and again.
The end result, however, will be worth it.