I confidently stepped up to the bar to deadlift 275 pounds. It’s a weight I’ve pulled before without much drama. However, there was only one slight problem this time. I’d never deadlifted sumo style before and other than watching few YouTube videos, I had no real idea how to do it.
After four sloppy reps, I felt something “pop” in my back. Little did I know that after years of abusing my body with less than optimal lifting technique I had herniated three disks in my low back at that moment.
You could say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
This set me up for a year of pain, heartache and physical therapy visits that involved doing unmentionable things to stability balls and getting wrapped up in resistance bands. It was kind of like bondage, but not the fun kind.
I had no one else to blame other than myself.
Let my pain be your gain and learn from the mistakes that I’ve made in 25 years (give or take) of lifting weights. It’s better to learn from some else’s lapses in judgement than to have a lapse yourself.
1. Excessive ego
Ego can be a great thing when the ball is in your hands and the game is on the line. However, it can be detrimental in the weight room when staring down the barbell.
Excessive ego can lead you to performing difficult exercises with excess weight to try to impress your friends or the hot gym bunny/buff guy checking you out from the treadmill.
Or maybe you’re trying to convince yourself to attempt a one repetition max even though you’re feeling like crap. These scenarios can lead to injury (see story above), impede your recovery and make it difficult to get out of bed and go to work.
You may get away with this scot-free or you may end up making your physical therapist a rich man. Roll the dice enough times and you’ll eventually end up on the losing end of the equation.
Fix this by………
Don’t get me wrong, a certain amount of ego is a good thing but you can also have too much of a good thing. Before you perform any new or difficult exercises or attempt a one rep max, quickly check in with how you’re feeling.
Did you get enough sleep?
How’s your energy level?
Are you dialed in?
Do you REALLY know what you’re doing?
If the answer is yes to all the above, go ahead. If you’re unsure or answered no to any of these questions, you’d better reconsider picking up the barbell. Your bank account will thank you.
Have you encountered those people who say ‘I should have’ or ‘I could have but then so and so got in the way.’ Excuses, excuses, excuses. When it comes to exercise, staying in shape and being healthy, excuses don’t cut it.
You know what does? Staying consistent. Because exercise can be as simple as strapping on a pair of shoes and going for a stroll. Even walking has tremendous health benefits and is simple, easy and doesn’t lend itself to excuses.
I bet people who are wheelchair bound would love to go for a walk.
If you pick up and put down a few weights, even better. Strength training helps us retain muscle mass and keeps our bones stronger as we age, because let’s face it, we’re not getting any younger.
Your health doesn’t need excuses; it needs action and consistency.
Fix this by ………
Setting realistic attainable exercise goals. You may want to lose 30 pounds of fat or gain 10 pounds of muscle in the next two months, but if you have 30 hours of overtime work coming up or 10 projects in your in-box, your original goal is going to get buried.
Realize that your goals are still attainable but it’s going to take you a little longer. Being flexible and adjusting your timeframe and goals will help keep you on the path to being more consistent.
Doing a little exercise over a long period beats doing a lot of exercise over a short period time, every time.
3. Your exercise routine and lifestyle don’t match
We live in a 24/7 nonstop over scheduled world. We try build a career while we juggle family, and then on top of all this, we must deal with our day-to-day dramas.
This can push your exercise routine down the priority list because you just don’t have the time to get after it. This may lead to discouragement or quitting exercise altogether.
If your current program requires you in the gym for one hour four times per week but you can only spare two hours per week, it’s not going to work. Any time you can make for exercise is a good time, even if it’s for 10 min.
Your health depends on it.
Fix this by………
Set aside some time in your schedule for exercise. For example, I set aside 75 minutes three days a week to strength train. I check my schedule for the week and then work around it.
Then I input this into my Google calendar and treat it like an appointment I cannot miss. You may not have this much spare time to exercise, but you can follow the same principle.
Go ahead and plan your schedule and try to find at least 20-30 minutes on most days for exercise.
Investing in a calendar and thinking like a traffic light will also help. These two unrelated items could set you up for long term success. (1)
Let me explain.
The calendar gives you an idea about where you want to go (and what lies ahead) and the traffic light analogy lets you know if it’s time to go, proceed with caution or come to a complete stop.
Green light periods are the times when you’re not so busy. You can attack your goals and training with intensity and focus because you simply have the time and energy to do it.
Yellow means caution. If you’re a parent and you have the kids home during school holidays, it’s probably not the best time to start a new fat loss program.
Red, of course means stop. Things like surgeries, death of a loved one, divorce or moving house are all consuming and deserve your full attention. Doing a little exercise will help with the stress but trying to lose 30 pounds with a new workout/diet routine is not going to happen.
Picking the times to attack, slow down or stop can be as simple as buying a calendar and thinking like a traffic light when you schedule your time.
Checking in with yourself, being consistent and having realistic goals will set you up for long term exercise success. Doing a little over the long haul will help keep you healthy for life.
1. Before we go. An ongoing philosophy of lifting, living and learning- Dan John, 2016.