Don’t be an idiot

So about 5 weeks back, I came home from The Quad and brought along with me a pair of pushup handles since I had twisted my left wrist pretty bad while doing some non-training related activity. Due to the messed up wrist, I wasn’t able to do many traditional moves and hence was working within what I could do without aggravating the injury. That night was upper body day and so I decided to do a simple push-pull combo. This was the workout…

Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.

  • 5 pushups @ BW + 70lbs
  • Rest 90 seconds
  • 5 bent over barbell rows @ 135 lbs
  • Rest 90 seconds

I usually try and do more pulls than pushes to even out the chronic anterior-posterior imbalance we all suffer from, so every other round, I added in 10 pullups. So overall it works out to be 50 pushups @ BW + 70lbs, 50 pullups @ BW and 50 rows @ 135 lbs. Being 145 lbs, this is a fairly intense workout but by no means crazy. The goal was exerting optimal power within the constraints of proper technique. If at any point of time my technique was compromised in any exercise I decided to stop the step.

The loads felt light and I kept knocking each rep out of the park. Rest periods were perfect and I felt strong overall. At about the 5th set, as I continued to feel great, I very subconsciously decided that I was going to kill this workout. That is when shit hit the fan.

I reached the 8th round and as I was doing my 4th pushup, I felt some discomfort on my right shoulder (possibly from overly compensating using my right side due to subconsciously trying to reduce load on the left wrist). I consciously ignored it and went on to do my final and hardest rep. I grit my teeth through the pain and completed the set in style but after the set, I felt considerable stiffness on my right shoulder. I did some basic shoulder mobility work and expected to feel better. Since I didn’t feel too much better after the mobility work, I decided that for the 9th and 10th rounds I would not do weighted pushups but would do bodyweight pushups instead. Painful and uncomfortable as they were, the last two rounds were  already“step-downs” from my original plan and, in my head, I “needed” to do “at least” this. Not doing the last two sets was not an option (at that time).

So I did about 25 pushups in each round and successfully completed the workouts with 40 pushups @ BW + 70lbs, 50 pushups @ BW, 50 pullups @ BW and 50 rows @ 135 lbs.

I woke up the next morning with an overly stiff and painful shoulder and since then have been nursing that shoulder till date. While I’m not in pain anymore, I’ll tell you I’m well away from feeling a 100%. This messed up my training pretty badly. I’ve met 4 different physical therapists, spent over Rs 8000, taken two non-consequetive weeks completely off from training and am only now slowly getting back to training with a plan.

One rep! Just than one damn rep! If only I had stopped before that rep, I would not have had to suffer for more than a month. I’m such an idiot! Right?

I’m an idiot alright, but it wasn’t that one rep that caused the damage. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t that set or that workout or even the workouts before that. I wasn’t overtrained or fatigued. I wasn’t lacking focus or sleep. I wasn’t eating junk and was by no means weak.

So then, what caused the damage? Honestly, my attitude. My attitude towards training is what caused all this havoc. Let me explain.

Like most fitness enthusiasts, I have a tendency to get carried away when I workout. Though I have solid goals defined for each mesocycle and for each workout, I tend to forget those and get lost in the moment. I try to kill every single workout. If you have been training for a while, you’ll know that’s a recipe for disaster and if you’re brutally honest with yourself, you’ll realize you do it yourself!

In this specific case, my goal for the quarter was strength. Not max pushups or fat loss but strength. And for me to get stronger I need to train very consistently. And for me to train consistently, well, I need to stay injury free. So, though, at that time, that last rep seemed like it was taking me towards my goal of getting stronger, by doing the rep I injured myself which has set me far far away from my goals.

What do I need now? Rehab? A new training plan? Some postural alignment? Sure. I need all of these. But most importantly I need a change in attitude. I need to look at training as training. I need to focus on the big picture. I need to not be penny wise pound foolish. I need to train myself to work towards a larger goal be it strength or long term injury free living or general health.

Similarly, very very similarly, it isn’t that one week binge that made you fat. It isn’t that one cheat meal that made you “fall off the wagon”. It isn’t that diet that made you sick of health and fitness. It isn’t that trip you had to make that messed up all your efforts.

It is your attitude. It is your attitude towards transformations and fat loss and health. Let me break it down further.

  • If you think you can eat junk tonight and “burn it off” tomorrow either by doing some extra reps or extra cardio, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think you can “go on a diet” and lose in 6 weeks what you have gained in 6 years, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think eating well for 3 days gives you the leeway to stuff your face on the 4th day, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think you can just moving your arms and legs for a few minutes three times a week and saying no to cake once a week will fix all your health problems, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think the people who look awesome or perform at a high level or live forever just put in a few weeks of work, you bloody well need a change in attitude.

To help you and I change our attitudes, I’ll present here the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard.

Understand that health or fitness or looking awesome or reversing a disease is a long term effort. You are not going to sport those sexy abs with a 6-min abs program. You’re not going to become an awesome athlete with half-assed mobility work. You are not going to lose (and keep off) those extra 20kg by going on a diet for 2 months. You are not going to live to see your great grandchildren by eating at pizza hut every other day. You are not going to reverse diabetes by replacing sugar with splenda. And we are not going to get anywhere with an attitude that undermines real work.

We are only going to achieve all this by possessing one thing – consistency. Consistent effort leads to sustainable long term results. Period. Be it aesthetics or performance or blogging or cooking or meditation or even life in general, consistency results in excellence while inconsistency results in mediocrity.

And just to be sure you and I got the message, I’ll say it again…

Don’t be an idiot. Focus on the big picture.

Adios!

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7 responses to “Don’t be an idiot

  1. Divya June 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Loved it! Such a kickass post. I really needed to read this coz right now, I’m mildly obsessed (not in a good way, I’m pretty sure) with my workout routine. That aside and more importantly, get well soon 🙂

  2. vikram June 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    brilliant…kickass like she said..thanks raj

  3. Swarna Mani June 20, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Point nailed. Amen !!

  4. Anitha June 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Simply AWESOME!

  5. Karthik June 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Great post Raj. Would you mind posting about anterior-posterior imbalance and things to fix it?

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