The path to getting the results we want is never the smooth, easy road we imagine it is going to be.
For almost 47 years old, with a history of 20 years of smoking, heavy drinking and yo-yo obesity, now I am in pretty good shape for a guy my age. I’m healthy, full of energy, got zero health complaints, I’m fit-as-a-fiddle, I train every day and barring a couple of minor muscular niggles, I am fit and strong in every way. ‘Minor muscular niggles’, yeah I have a few of those, currently the main one is a rotator cuff issue in my right shoulder that’s been holding back progress on my bench press for almost nine long months. I used to get frustrated about the aches and pains, but over the years I have now come to realise they are just part of life training over the age of 40, I just have to live with them.
I was having this conversation the other day with a coaching client of mine, we were talking about working around the minor niggles. He was frustrated by a neck/shoulder ache that was stopping him doing his upper body training properly, and I was encouraging him to train more lower body while his upper body strength is compromised. This is life, the journey is never smooth, it never goes to plan, there are always hiccups along the way. My client was having a crap day, he was feeling down about his training, things not going to plan, progress too slow. This week he can’t train upper body properly because of this neck/shoulder ache, all last month he was off running because of a touch of shin splints, he was feeling exasperated, “I just want to get on a train hard every day! It’s not fair! It’s slowing my progress, all these damned injuries!”
The ups and downs
I can empathise, I have been there myself. The road to success is never the smooth journey we want it to be. When we start out on our health transformation, to lose the excess weight and get all fit and healthy, we imagine in our minds that it will all go smoothly. We imagine that after years of not doing the right things, not looking after ourselves, smoking, drinking, eating too much fattening food, not exercising, making the wrong choices, we imagine that once we start ‘being good’ and doing all the right things, then everything will be good, everything will work well, everything will go in our favour. We have some unquestioned mental faith in the depths of our mind that quietly assumes that we are switching from ‘being naughty’ to ‘being good’ and therefore nothing will go wrong, the quiet forces of the universe will line up in our favour and everything will be perfect, it will all go in our favour.
Then we start, and for the first month or two things often start out well, weight falling off, we get over the ‘OMG I am so unfit’ and start to find aspects of exercise that we quite enjoy. Days are early, resolve is high, results come quickly. Oh the joy of it all! And then we hit our first plateau. Down to Earth with an almighty thump.
Two months in, two stone down, the weight loss slows to a crawl and we pick up our first training injury. And so the honeymoon period is over, and the real work begins. What can I say? It’s hard. People reading this who have done it, you’re nodding right now and saying ‘oh yeah, oh brother, I know just what you’re talking about’ and folks reading this now who have never been fat and had to lose it all, you folks who have always been slim, you have no idea what I am talking about.
Hiccups along the way
I had someone came up to chat with me in the lunch break at one of my seminars last year, and he shook my hand and thanked me for a good morning, he said he was feeling inspired and learning some great stuff, and then he said “…but it’s OK for you, I mean look at you mate, you’re in good shape, you’re slim and fit, you’ve got your pecs all squeezed into your tight t-shirt, you’ve got your flat stomach, you run marathons and you lift weights, you rock climb and you play squash, you know how to cook all these healthy meals, you know all about what not to eat…you know mate, it’s OK for you, you make it all sound easy when you are telling us what to do, but some of us have a lot more work to do to be able to do the things that you can do. We’re not all you!” He then went on to tell me of this injury he has to work around, that food allergy he has to watch out for, and this work commitments that he has to fit the rest of his life around. He told me of his unsupportive spouse, his career commitments, his lack of cooking skills and his financial pressures.
I really understand. I truly do understand all those things, all those headaches, hiccups and obstacles we face. Because I have faced them all too. When I am standing up there in my tight t-shirt delivering my seminar, I’m talking to a room full of people, many of whom are at Ground Zero on their health transformation, Day One of their own personal weight loss journey…meanwhile I’m standing up there at year eleven. Year. Eleven. Eleven years earlier I was at my own Ground Zero, Day One on my own personal weight loss and health transformation journey. At that time I too would have looked up at ‘tight t-shirt man’ and thought ‘well it’s OK for you pal, you’re all slim and fit and healthy…’ and I would have thought that guy didn’t understand the challenges I faced.
For eleven years I have overcome all those obstacles myself, every one of them. I have had a gazillion hiccups along the way and I can promise you the road to success is never the smooth, easy, endlessly-upwards journey we imagine it is going to be. I’ve had shin splints, a fractured right tibia, right knee surgery, a fracture in my left foot, a broken toe, every running injury in the book. I ran my first marathon with a fracture in my lower leg still healing. I ran that marathon with only 1 training run in the 12 weeks before the event. I fractured my spine on L2 and L4 in a training accident in 2012. I have had muscle spasms in my back so bad I couldn’t stand up straight and walk. I have had to retire from running completely because of a destroyed meniscus in my knee. I have broken a toe and several fingers in training. I fell over 200 feet down the side of a mountain in 2014 and bust five ribs. I have had pulls, sprains and strains in almost every muscle I can think of. I have had to stop training for a week here, a fortnight there, a month here and three months there more times than I can possibly remember.
I have had running injuries, climbing injuries, cuts, scratches, breaks and bruises. Bike crashes, expensive bike crashes. I’ve ripped clothes, ripped skin, busted bones and shed blood, sweat and tears. I’ve had to juggle it all with family life. Three young children, my own businesses, endless 15-hour workdays. I’ve been through losing my mother to cancer in her 60s, the loss of friends and family members. I’ve been through the sleep-loss of young children, the emotional ups-and-downs of married life, near bankruptcy in business, the highs and lows of recession, and more.
I always say I lost 7 stone 3, or 101 pounds of fat, 46 kilos to my European friends. In reality I have probably lost 200 pounds of fat, counting all the times it went up and down. You lose two stone, then plateau and put one back on again. Then you have to lose that one again before breaking new ground and losing more. And so it goes on.
Hiccups along the way? I’ve broken bones, lost loved ones, built businesses and had almost every injury in the book. How come I get to be the slim fit guy in the tight t-shirt teaching the weight loss seminar?
Because despite all that shit, I stuck it out.
I didn’t let those hiccups stop me. I didn’t let the shitty days take me out of the game for good. I never quit.
When it’s all going wrong, we get demoralised, we feel down, we feel like giving up. We hit these plateaus and the voice in our head says “What’s the point? It’s not working any more, you might as well give up.” And “See, dummy, you’re injured again. You didn’t have all this hassle when you were a couch potato, this exercise malarkey is bad for you!! You might as well just stop and go back to the DVD and a tub of ice cream, that didn’t hurt, you didn’t ache all over then!” Those voices in our head would screw us over if we let them, they would stop us every time. We have to learn to master the voices and stay the course. It’s these ups and downs, these plateaus in our progress, these hiccups that derail most people’s weight loss efforts and cause most people’s plans to fall by the way side.
Success is not the smooth journey we imagine. The road forward is fraught with hazards and hiccups. I am sorry, that’s just how it is. When you actually start using your body to work hard after a decade or two of neglecting it…it grumbles back at you! It aches and moans, it creaks and groans. Now and then something breaks, you’re out for weeks or even months with an injury. You have to learn to train around your injuries and aches and pains.
Legs hurt? Train upper body.
Shoulder injury? Work lower body.
Can’t run? Cycle.
Can’t cycle? Swim.
You have to learn to do whatever it takes to keep making progress, no matter how slow.
Just don’t ever quit.
If you want the results, damn the hiccups, you have to find a way. The rewards go to those who stay the course.
Never, ever quit.
That’s how winning happens.