We all have experienced situations, circumstances, or even periods of time that we perceive to be terrible. Just absolutely, flat out, awful. Oftentimes, we allow these perceived situations to hold us back, while in reality they are the very things that can propel us forward.
The thing holding me back at this very moment, literally exists in my back. I have a herniated disc between my L5 and S1 vertebrae. As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, I realize that this is a byproduct of years moving incorrectly as a collegiate and professional basketball player, where abuse to joints through jarring repetitive movements, without correction, is the norm.
Truly, this is one of the most humbling obstacles I've ever dealt with. Yet, I don't embrace the vulnerability of writing this for you to feel sorry for me, quite the contrary actually. I write this because I know I'm not the only person out there who has or currently is struggling with something that feels debilitating, injury or otherwise.
The Objectivity of Pain
Pain is an interesting thing. Back in April when I hurt my back the first time, for apparently no particular reason, I became an empty shell of myself. I caught myself feeling sorry for myself as I would lie on the floor in excruciating pain, unable to stand up. Or when I would drop something on the floor and stare at it, because I knew there was really no forgiving way to bend down to pick it up. This, by the way, makes you very crafty with your toes and shimming things up walls.
At the worst points of my pain, I couldn't sleep. If you've ever experienced sciatic pain before, I am giving you a sad look through the computer, because it is NOT fun. If you've been so lucky as to not feel sciatic pain, let me describe: imagine someone takes a hot, grotesquely large knife to your butt and then slowly and continuously slices down your leg, sometimes all the way to your ankle. Great, right?
It was the simple things that we take for granted every day that became ridiculously difficult and painful. But with time, I healed. And I forgot about the pain.
I forgot what it was like to wake up every morning hunched over with hair disheveled like Golem from Lord of the Rings. I forgot what it was like to have to very carefully do a supported pistol squat into my car and hope no one heard my muffled screams of anguish as my spine temporarily bent to fit through the door. It's amazing how our minds forget. I suppose this is why women have more than one child. If childbirth was an overall positive experience, we forget the discomfort of what it's like to have a small human rip its way through our bodies into the world. I say that like I've had a kid, I have not. So kuddos to all you moms, and to my own mom, thanks for doing that for me, you kind bad ass, you.
Coming fresh off my injury, I swore I would never allow myself to injure myself to that degree again, whatever it took. But a few months later, after feeling back to my "invincable" self (that is my own false confidence speaking), and repeatedly slouching lazily in my chair, squatting heavier weights than I should have been, and just generally forgetting that my back had a dormant, but angry disc just waiting to get pissed off again, it decided to remind me.
Oh Yeah, That...
So here we are again. As I write this I have ice and e-stem on my spine, and of course I am sitting like a serial killer in my chair (you must have outstanding posture at all times if you've had a back injury).
The most interesting part about any hardship are the psychological impacts it can have. The physical pain of this injury definitely sucks, but I know at some point during the day it's going to dissipate and I'll be at least able to stand straight. It's wrestling with the mental gorillas along the way that has been challenging.
In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes:
Whatever we face, we have a choice: will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them? The world is constantly testing us. It asks, are you worthy? Can you get past the things that will inevitably fall in your way? Will you stand up and show us what you're made of?
Embracing a difficult circumstance or situation is not easy. What would be easy is complaining about it to any loving friend or family member who will listen, feeling sorry for oneself, making excuses, playing the victim, or allowing negative shoulder guy to tell us things will never improve, or at least not fast enough.
But what does that help?
You know as well as I do, that it helps nothing. Furthermore, people truly do not enjoy being around a whiner and complainer, unless they are stuck in the brain of a high school drama queen. And now that I think about it, I do know some energy vampires like that. I'll give you their number if you want to complain. You guys can build straw houses of negativity and banks of sadness together.
The overall resounding point I am trying to make, is that our vulnerabilities and shortcomings can actually give us incredible strength. My vulnerability to share this glaring weak point with you, is not for you to lose confidence in my ability as a coach and trainer; but, instead to share the silver-lining of this situation in that now I can coach and connect better with people dealing with injuries, specifically to their back, better than ever before.
Moreover, it's vital that kids learn how to properly move and cope with adversity at a young age, and that adults unlearn bad movement patterns and relearn how to do them properly. I do not think I would be dealing with this now had I learned at a younger age how to properly brace, hinge, and work prehab and mobility exercises into my workouts.
Of course, this is a huge motivator as to why I love what I do now. Yet sometimes I cannot believe how difficult it is for young athletes, even some coaches, and adults, to buy into the weight room and to put work into their bodies. I believe we have this perception of "strength and conditioning" as lifting heavy and running sprints. Folks, it's so much more than that.
And finally, perhaps one of the most unrecognized area of strength and conditioning, is the relationship and culture building piece that good coaches weave into their workouts. We are able to create environments where athletes must overcome obstacles, are made to struggle and suffer, which naturally spurs their ability to build life skills like leadership, responsibility, developing a positive and relentless mindset, pain management of any kind, and so much more.
There is no conclusion
In conclusion, there is no conclusion (heh). Life is a cyclical process of self-discovery and growth. If we aren't challenged to step outside of our comfort zone within this process then we will never grow to greater heights. So regardless of what you're going through, injury, loss, change, whatever... you've got this.
Read a Book Every Month Challenge
How Young is Too Young to Start Lifting?
What I Wish I Knew As a Young Athlete
Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com
When you think of your health and areas to improve upon, often you immediately think of diet and exercise. While both of these areas are extremely important to your health and require attention, there are also other aspects of your daily life that impact your health. Let’s take a look at a few of these areas and discuss tips that you can incorporate into your daily life.
Hydration Is the Key to Success
It is so easy to get busy in your day and forget all about drinking water, but hydration is a vital aspect to your overall health. It's more than just simply quenching a thirst. According to Healthline, hydration impacts your energy levels, ability to focus and concentrate, digestion, and metabolism levels.
Adequate water intake is important, but many people struggle to drink enough for different reasons.
Soon, this will become a part of your daily routine, and your body will thank you for it.
Your Skin is Your largest Organ
Not only does water benefit the inner workings of your body, but it also improves the function of the largest organ you have: your skin. Skin is often thrown to the back burner as an aspect of vanity, but it is an important area of overall health.
When your skin is healthy, it improves its ability to act as a strong barrier against bacteria and infection. In addition to daily care routines, you may want to consider creating an at-home spa day. Turn your bathroom into a steam room by running hot water in the shower to open the pores on your skin. Slather on a soothing body and face mask, and then lock in the moisture with a hydrating face and body cream.
Taking these moments to care for your skin will not only be advantageous to your physical health, but it is rejuvenating and stress relieving as well.
Healthy Teeth Are More Than Just Pretty
Just like skincare is often categorized as vanity, sparkling white teeth are also considered an aspect of appearance and vanity. While it’s true that white teeth are not necessarily an indicator of good oral health, it is still important to recognize that daily dental hygiene improves your overall health.
According to US News, periodontal disease affects one out of two Americans, increasing your risk of coronary arterial disease, peripheral arterial disease, and stroke.
Thankfully, you can incorporate simple daily habits to improve your oral health and prevent these diseases. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss at least once a day, and cut down on your sugar intake. Healthy teeth are more than just pretty; they impact the health of your entire body.
Life Isn't too Short to Sleep
You may have heard the phrase “Life is too short to sleep” or some other variation. While the implication to make the most of your time is valuable, deprioritizing sleep is harmful to your health.
Adequate sleep is beneficial to your health by:
You may find it difficult to get enough sleep, but there are some helpful tips to increase the amount you sleep and improve the quality. Try increasing your exercise and decreasing your caffeine to prepare your body to sleep well at night. If you are busy with many responsibilities, you may benefit from setting a set sleeping schedule to ensure you are getting the rest you need.
The Wrap Up
Set your intentions and develop daily habits. Prioritizing sleep, developing good oral health, caring for your skin, and staying hydrated are all important aspects of your overall health.
Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com
Approximately 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, yet two-thirds remain obese. One of the reasons behind this epidemic is the fact that people get lured into trying a fad diet — sometimes more than once — that promises to torch calories and melt fat without changing your diet or hitting the gym. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, and that means losing weight the safe way with a combination of diet, exercise, and wellness-focused discipline.
Address Mental health
Mental illnesses such as binge eating disorder, night eating syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression should be treated in conjunction with a diet and exercise program. Studies indicate that there’s a link between mental health and obesity — depression can prompt obesity, and obesity can prompt depression. Along with focusing on losing weight and learning that food is for survival and not comfort, it’s crucial that underlying mental health issues are addressed in order to break the vicious cycle.
Manage Your Stress
Stress-related, mindless eating involves consuming food — sometimes in a large amount — even when you’re not hungry. Approximately 27 percent of adults in the US admit that eating is a form of stress management, while 34 percent say eating unhealthy foods due to stress is a habit. Not only do these actions create feelings of guilt and shame, but they also make it impossible to lose weight and keep it off. While seeing a therapist can help you manage your feelings, there are several wellness-based approaches you can take to manage your stress levels.
Make it convenient to work out
Not having time is one of the biggest excuses people use to avoid working out. Make that excuse next to impossible by setting up a home gym equipped with cost-effective equipment, like adjustable resistance bands, a Swiss ball, and kettlebells. Check out local resale shops or online websites that sell previously-used goods to see if you can find these items at a lower cost. Instead of paying for an expensive gym membership, bring the instructor into your living room by downloading a workout app to help you with form, safety, and motivation.
Make Healthy Eating Fun
The words “balanced” and “diet” need not feel like a punishment. In fact, you can create endless combinations of tasty dishes and snacks utilizing healthy ingredients that don’t taste like rabbit food. Take up a cooking course, or scour YouTube for ideas. The more variety you have in your diet, the less apt you’ll be to slip.
To ensure safety, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise plan. This is particularly important if you have any underlying medical conditions where overexertion or food restriction may have a counter effect on your wellness. Remember, don’t beat yourself up if you have a slip up. Not only is it normal, but it can help you become stronger for the long term.
When I discovered Audiobooks, the efficiency in which I learned was completely transformed. For many of us, we have to intentionally set aside time in the morning or before bed to read.
Usually, it's not for lack of desire to learn or read that we have to force ourselves to make time, it's just... life. Life has a tricky way of sucking our time away from us every day before we even bat an eye.
Yet, it doesn't take away the importance of daily learning and self-growth. The life hack that will allow you to reclaim your time for this is sharing learning not with just your visual sense, but your auditory sense as well.
Think about all the time during your day that your hands are busy, but your brain is idle. This could be in front of the mirror in the morning, commuting to and from work or school, on your lunch break, getting ready for bed, and so on. I bet you could scrape together at least 30 minutes out of your daily mundane tasks pretty easily.
It took a few months to master, but I feel that I've now gotten into a solid routine to maximize my time for learning throughout the day, every day. Typically, I physically read one to two books a year, which is a depressing statistic; however, in 2018 I listened to 19 books, and this does not count relistening to some of them.
Talk about an exponential increase in brain food consumption!
Every morning while getting ready, I listen to The Daily*, a podcast by the New York Times that updates me on major current events. It's usually 20 to 30 minutes, which is perfect.
Then, instead of listening to music, I spend my driving time (anywhere from an accumulated 30-90 minutes a day) listening to books. There's nothing better than being behind the wheel, turning up the volume up on an audiobook, closing your eyes... and... wait, okay don't close your eyes, but you get it.
Driving is a perfect time to learn. I'm fairly confident it has helped my road rage as well, but not the lead foot unfortunately.
I use Audible for my brain candy. They require a monthly subscription; however, that includes one "free" book, so typically the monthly fee costs less than the actual book, making it a great deal for the reader. They also offer various deals throughout the year.
Another option would be using your local library and checking out audiobooks for free. The only downfall to that is you won't have them forever, of course.
Regardless of how you read or listen, here are a few of my favorite listens from the past year that I recommend!
*I have no stake in the promotion of The Daily, Audible, or any of the following books.
Daring Greatly by Berne Brown
If you haven't heard of her, Berne Brown is a queen. She is a shame and vulnerability researcher, who has spent much of her adult life studying human connection. Her Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability has accrued 38 million views since she gave it in 2010.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is a game changer, and one of the books that I have listened to multiple times. It is no surprise that it became a #1 New York Times Best Seller.
"What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being, rather than knowing, requires showing up and allowing ourselves to be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable. The first step of that journey is understanding where we are, what we're up against, and where we need to go."
Relentless by Tim Grover
The full title of this book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, is what first drew me in. I thought, with a title like that, there's no way the content in this book won't be relatable to my mission as a coach and trainer, and spontaneously clicked the sample listen. I was immediately hooked.
I recommend this one mostly for athletes, particularly ones who find themselves consumed with the daily grind of getting better.
During my collegiate and professional basketball playing days, I was obsessed with improvement. Oftentimes to the demise of my social life, being the first person to arrive and the last person to leave practice, as well as the only person in the gym at odd hours of the morning or night.
My obsession felt lonely at the time, but there are many athletes and people out there with the relentless pursuit to improve at their passion.
Tim Grover really speaks to this misunderstood obsession of devoting oneself to improvement in the realm of athletics. He specifically talks about basketball, as he has trained greats like Kobe Bryant. Yet, I think if you find yourself so passionately committed to something to the point where people start to think you're weird, this book is for you.
"Excellence isn't only about hitting the gym and working up a sweat, that's the smallest part of what you have to do. Physical ability can only take you so far. The fact is, you can't train your body or excel at anything before you train your mind. You can't commit to excellence before your mind is ready to take you there. Teach the mind, train the body."
The 5 Second Rule By Mel Robbins
If you haven't heard of Mel Robbins, write her name down immediately. She is well known for giving one of the most motivational Ted Talks of all time, How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over.
She knows how to deeply connect with the human spirit, shamelessly sharing her own struggles and experiences and then giving us the science behind what makes us tick.
The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, will have you making actionable change in your life immediately.
After all, everyone can talk about the things they need to do and why, but doing it is another story, right? Robbins embraces this reality and gives the reader a kick in the butt to take action.
"Doing the work to improve your life is simple, you can do it. And it's work you want to do because it's the most important work there is, it's the work of learning how to love yourself and trust yourself enough to stop waiting and to start leaning into all the magic, opportunity, and joy that your life, work and relationships have to offer."
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The most striking aspect of The Alchemist, to me, is that Paulo Coelho could not sell more than a few copies in the first two years after publication. Now, over 35 million copies of the book has sold.
This allegorical novel follows the journey of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, as he seeks to find out why he keeps experiencing a recurring dream. This would be a fun book to read with a friend or group, as it is full of hidden meaning open to interpretation.
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."
Get Smart! by Brian Tracy
When I first read the title of this book, I couldn't help but think it was a little cheesy. Yet, the content inside is anything but. Like Mel Robbins, Tracy implores the reader to move towards what they want.
He talks about things like the momentum principle of success, effective goal setting, developing clarity, building the discipline to concentrate, the 80/20 rule, eliminating negative emotions, and taking control of your life.
During a time in my life where I felt lost and like I had almost no control of anything, Tracy's words helped me get back into a good headspace. Get Smart! How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field in a way is a more modern rendition of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, both of which I highly recommend.
"There is a direct relationship between the amount of responsibility that you accept and the amount of control in your life. Because almost all stress and negative emotions come from feeling out of control in some way, as soon as you accept responsibility, you assert control over yourself and everything that happens to you."
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The flute intro for this audiobook is nearly as epic as the opening metaphor:
"Then something happened inside of him that transformed his life forever. He looked at this hands, he felt his body, and he heard his own voice say 'I am made of light. I am made of stars.' He looked at the stars again, and realized it's not the stars that create light, but rather light that creates the stars. 'Everything is made of light,' he said, 'and the space in between isn't empty.' And he knew that everything that exists, is one living being, and that light is the messenger of life, because it is alive and contains all information."
Navigating life is no easy task. We all experience highs and lows, and the need for answers and help during difficult times. This book is not only a comfort during those times, but a character builder and tool to cultivate self-compassion as well as understanding of others.
There is so much wisdom within the pages, it is simply a must read.
"Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be. They become very self-abusive and they use other people to abuse themselves as well. But, nobody abuses us more than we abuse ourselves."
This is me by Chrissy Metz
I tell you what, this book got me through a horrendous 16 hour Greyhound bus ride once. Before said bus ride, I have loved Chrissy Metz since her breakout role in This Is Us.
Her biography is real, touching, and all the things you'd expect from a young lady who has wrestled with being overweight her entire life while pursing spotlight roles in Hollywood and in front of the mic (she also has an incredible voice).
If a story like this doesn't make you laugh, shed a tear, and leave you inspired, Lawd help ya.
"When you're confident in your abilities, it lets other people be confident in there's too. And sometimes we have to teach each other. I know I'm still unlearning everything I learned as a kid. When I was down, people told me that is where I would stay. But, when you are so far down, the only way to go is up."
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Between Dale Carnegie's wisdom and the gentle drone of the narrator, Andrew MacMillan, every time I turned this audiobook on I felt like my grandfather was giving me advice on how to be a better person and more successful in life.
Carnegie takes on a beautiful, and what I feel some now would consider, old school approach, to building and maintaining relationships. As the title suggests, he covers ways to make people like you, to win people over to your way of thinking, and to change people without creating resentment.
It is truly a timeless read, and I highly recommend it!
"People would think they committed a crime by letting their families go six days without food. But, they will let them go for 6 days, or 6 weeks, and sometimes 6 years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave, almost as much as they crave food."
Legacy by James Kerr
Carnegie's book may have been on winning friends, but it's Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership that is about winning in general. Even if you don't like sports, or have an athletics background, this is a great book about how to be successful as individuals and in the work environment.
However, if you are an athlete or apart of a team environment now, this is a must read. Kerr dives into the legendary All Blacks rugby team, who are the winningest sports organization in the last 100 years, and shares over a dozen powerful lessons in leadership that originate from their legacy.
"Collective character is vital to success. Focus on getting the culture right, and the results will follow."
Heavy by Kiese Laymon
This American memoir caught my attention, as it received 2018 Audible Audiobook of the Year and a slew of other notable accolades such as Best Book of 2018 by the New York Times and is an Andrew Carnegie Medal and Kirkus Prize Finalist.
Laymon bravely shares his experiences with abuse, shame, joy, confusion, humiliation, and the physical and mental weight of growing up as a black man in the United States. It is powerful. Honest. And so real it makes your heart ache and question how we can let things get so bad in one of the world's "greatest" countries.
"I heard Grandma-ma. But, I saw and smelt what diabetes left of her right foot. Grandma-ma hadn't felt her foot, controlled her bowls, or really tasted her food in over a decade. This Sunday, like every Sunday before, grandma-ma wanted me to know it could all be so much worse. Like you, Grandma-ma beat the worst of white folk in the mean machinations of men every day she was alive. But ya'll taught me indirectly that unacknowledged scars accumulated in battles won, often hurt more than battles lost."
Reading doesn't always have to take a visual form. We are lucky to live in a day and age now where we can "read" with our ears. Take advantage of technology so you can sneak in some of these must reads throughout your day.
It's that time of year again. The time of year we all start realizing that we either need to rollover or refresh some of our goals and ambitions.
Why do New Year's Resolutions end up just being a nice idea for 92% of the population anyways?¹
Setting targets is easy, actually striving to reach them is another story. You know what I'm talking about.
But who is to say that this isn't the time where we overcome some hurdles, turn on some lightbulbs, get serious, and make sh*t happen?
Make Time or Excuses
The most common self-limiting statement I hear in the fitness world, is "I don't have time for that."
Trust me, I get the whole not having time concept, but let's be real with each other for a second, what you should be saying is "It's not important enough to me." Right?
If something is important enough, taking yourself or a loved one to the ER for example, then you make the time.
Okay, yes. I understand that would be an emergent issue, but what I'm really saying is that things we need to do, like eat, go to work, sleep (for some of us anyway), take the dog out, and so on, are things we always have time for.
These are necessities. Things we must do for optimal human functioning. Hold up though, couldn't we now argue that with all the research coming out on how physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of death due to its links to cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc, that exercising is a human need?²
That we are made to move.
That when we don't move, our bodies start to feel gross, even when we have chronic pain and think that rest is the answer.³
But if it's not important to you, meaning you probably don't understand the importance of it (you don't have a why), then you will not make time. And real talk again, it will catch up to you in one way or the other.
So what do you say you and I make a deal? The first goal for 2019 (no we wont' be using the word "resolution" around here), is to determine what is actually important to us and why it is important.
The next goal, determine when this fits for our schedule. Many times we don't realize that if we plan our days a little more intentionally, it frees up quite a bit of room for things we say we should do.
More real talk, you know as well as I do that if you don't verbalize this to someone, or financially commit to something, the chances of you actually doing and achieving what you would like to set out to do is far less likely of happening for more than a few weeks.
That said, our third goal is to find the person or thing that will hold us accountable. You know yourself, what will keep you motivated?
I'll share with you why it has been easy for me to stay motivated to workout. It has become automatic. But, it wasn't always that way. It was one of those things that it would happen if I had time or energy.
Now, it is just going to happen like eating breakfast or brushing my teeth. That will be an hour of my day, which by the way is only 4% of your waking time.
As an athlete, and even a few years after, I dreaded working out. It made me feel tired just thinking about it, and I felt like I had to do it to stay in shape and not get pudgy.
I now look forward to and love working out. What's the secret? I get to see people I enjoy being around, I get to release some stress from the day giving me a mental reset as well as physical reset, I don't have to think about what I'm doing at the gym, I can just go and do the work.
During a very emotionally stressful time in my life, the gym was like my sanctuary. It kept me sane. Had I not been able to get rid of that stress, I can't imagine the horrible alternatives I may have chosen.
Long story short, the hard work there then translates to other areas of my life. Such a win, and it can be for you too!
Let's Get Started
First step, write out those goals, friend.
Next step, pick your form of accountability. I can help.
Third step, establish your routine.
Fourth step, persevere dang it! Don't give up after a week because it's hard. You're better than that and know it.
Fifth step, keep coming back. Leave me a comment below, start a conversation, ask a question. I would love to help how I can, for as long as I can!
1. Diamond, Dan. "Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year's Resolutions. Here's How They Do It." Forbes. January 02, 2013. Accessed December 28, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#1487c797596b.
2. Carlson, Susan A., E. Kathleen Adams, Zhou Yang, and Janet E. Fulton. "Percentage of Deaths Associated With Inadequate Physical Activity in the United States." Preventing Chronic Disease15 (2018). doi:10.5888/pcd18.170354.
3. Geneen, Louise, Blair Smith, Clare Clarke, Denis Martin, Lesley A. Colvin, and R. Andrew Moore. "Physical Activity and Exercise for Chronic Pain in Adults: An Overview of Cochrane Reviews." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2014. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011279.