Hi everyone – it’s been a couple of months since I kept our twice-weekly schedule of posting going. Lots has been going on, and not necessarily in a good way. Still, we can always learn something from our circumstances. Indeed, if we’re not learning from them, then what’s the point of continuing on, right? We’re just going to be stuck in a place that we don’t necessarily like, but have become regrettably comfortable in. And that’s not what we want: we want improvement.
So let’s talk improvement. Here are a couple of the things I’ve been dealing with since the finish of the Mud Ninja race in July.
- I rather severely jammed my finger. It was painful – as I was doing the warped wall obstacle at Mud Ninja, I did something that caused a lot of pain and swelling in the knuckle of my right hand’s middle finger. Not sure what it was – but it wasn’t great. It’s still healing, too.
- A few days after Mud Ninja, I was at a block party where we had a bounce house obstacle course type thing, and I was doing my volunteer shift as a monitor for it (to make sure the kids weren’t tearing it up or getting too jam-packed in there, etc.). Some kid’s mom actually challenged me to a race in it – and naturally, I accepted. I kicked her butt, but not before she stepped on my right foot and broke my little toe. That also hurt.
- And then, just a couple weekends ago, I was doing some yardwork and somehow got splinters in my shin that took a week to get out. The wound got infected and hurt a lot for a while till they came out (just Sunday, actually). It made even simple walking be a bit too painful.
It’s amazing – you do Spartan Race, Indian Mud Run, Mud Ninja, and all the training involved and nothing happens (well, the finger did, I guess). But then you do all the regular things in life and that’s where you get hurt. Another OCR friend and I were laughing about that just a couple weekends ago.
But here’s the practical upshot. My mood was high after Mud Ninja – I’d done really pretty well, overcoming one of the big obstacles that I’d had trouble with in years past and generally having a really good race. Yeah, I jammed my finger, but that’s a small thing, really.
So I was planning to start training regimens for all the stuff I needed to work on, including focusing more on grip strength and general aerobic fitness. As this was probably going to be my last race of the year due to a jam-packed schedule (plus the closing of doors by Battlefrog), I was entering recovery/refocusing mode.
Then, suddenly, I couldn’t do almost anything I wanted to do. The hand issue made grip work impossible. The foot and leg issues made the aerobic work (running, sprints, etc.) really painful.
And then… depression set in.
Suddenly, all the stuff I wanted to do, I couldn’t. My plans were blown away for a while. For a couple of weeks, nothing was making me happy. Plus, I couldn’t even do the stuff that helps me relax and focus, like slacklining and tree climbing. I started eating like crap. Feeling like more crap. Motivation was out the door.
So… what pulled me out of it? A few things did:
1. I found different challenges to take on.
Okay, so I couldn’t do grasping exercises. I couldn’t run, nor even really walk, without a fair amount of pain (and not the good kind). What could I do?
Well, pushing-type exercises seemed okay. No pain there. So, I joined a hand-balancing challenge on Facebook. A friend of mine is hosting a challenge to work on exercises involving hand-balancing – handstands, muscle-up progressions, things like that – for the month of September. There are a ton of resources out there for doing this, and the muscle work you do in hand-balancing (lots of forearm work as well as the core work) is good for anything you do. I’ve been working on my Crow stance for a while, for example. This is a precursor to doing full handstands and some other stunts in the hand-balancing area. My first video share is below – you can see the basics in it.
I’ve mentioned before that forearm strength is just as important in grip as hand strength, and this is a definite forearm strength builder. Any improvement you can make there will benefit you elsewhere as well.
What this did for me: not only is it a positive workout tool for actual strength- and endurance-building, it’s a challenge and a goal to be overcome. That leads naturally into the second thing:
2. Challenges help cause improvement in your mindset.
You’ll hear a lot personal development gurus and such talk about the importance of self-talk. Keeping a positive mindset when we encounter things in life can really make all the difference in whether we show improvement or whether we deteriorate. And though I’ve been working very hard over the past few years to really keep positive talk in my life and make improvements in my life happen, it’s not 100%.
And having your plans for improvement made impossible (and downright painful) for a while can really give that positive mindset a good shot to the kidneys. But the alternative, a negative mindset, is never going to get you anywhere. It’ll paralyze your mind and keep you wallowing in the problems you’re having instead of keeping you inspired to look for answers.
Now, for many of us, this is a harder thing to overcome than it is for others. The comfort zone of negative thought, even if it’s painful, is still much more attractive to many folks than the possibility of change. Change is scary – you don’t know what it’s going to bring, right? But to accept the negative as more comfortable means a downward spiral. You’re not going to stay in one place, you’re going to keep going down. You’re going to get more frustrated, more negative, more sardonic, and keep heading down till it’s harder to get out.
That’s why taking on challenges is so important. Your sense of accomplishment as you overcome even small challenges is going to compound into more positive feelings. It’s going to slowly and subtly take you from feeling negative 51% of the time and positive 49% of the time to the opposite – 51% positive. Even if those negative feelings are still there at 49%, you’re going to be happy more than sad and feeling stronger and more confident more often than not.
So, if you’re in a rut, and plans aren’t working out the way you wanted, throw your energy and ambition into something else for a while. Pick a hobby and work it for a while if you can’t work out. Find another way to move and work out. Pick up a class. Get into something new and exciting. If there are other people to do it with you, great – that infectious energy is going to help you move forward more quickly. Reach out to friends.
And who knows? Maybe your improvements will cross over into training for your next race or whatever your physical goals are. Maybe they won’t. But what will happen is that your mental training and resiliency will see improvement.
And that can be the biggest part of any challenge.
How do you overcome the challenges to your routines? Share with us below in the comments or on our message board!