I'll start today's post with a simple question: What do you do when life gets in the way?
Are you a do-er? Do you press in to the resistance, pushing forward despite the things (or people) that are trying to keep you down?
Or are you the type of person who wilts under the pressure? When the going gets tough, you let the tough get going--pretty soon you're swamped with late deadlines, an increasingly non-existent social life, as well as an increasingly flabby waste line due to the sugary caffeinated beverages you've been consuming to keep yourself awake to get some work done.
At any given point in our lives, I am certain we have all experienced a bit of both of the above worlds. When life gets hard, when the Big Man puts us through trials that we must endure, it can be challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel--especially when it feels like you're drowning inside of it.
Lately, professionally, there has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding my future. Without divulging too many details, the scenario is increased risk for everyone employed at my place of work, with increased reward down the road if we succeed at transitioning the way we are trying to. For the time being, though, times have been tough, and will continue to be until we see forward progress.
The timing of all of this couldn't have been worse, either. My wife and I recently purchased our first home together at the beginning of June. We moved in on the seventh, only to for me to find out a week and a half later "the plan" of our transition from just a training center to a full on performance center that includes chiropractic, massage, semi-private training, as well as one-on-one training. To say I'm excited for the long term prospects is an understatement. However, to say that I'm nervous for the short term future would be an understatement as well. Everything is on the line for everyone, failure isn't an option.
This is one of those "back up against the wall, succeed against all odds" scenarios, I feel like. I've been there before, like when I was right out of college searching for a teaching job--unsuccessfully, mind you--and I started looking for anything, anyone who would provide employment. The bottom line was I had rent and groceries to pay for, and no income. I needed something. I ended up being a bellman at a five star hotel--not exactly what I got a Master's degree for...but when times get tough, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is or should be beneath you. That job allowed me the freedom to save a little and eventually I started personal training and transitioned in to my current career.
To bring this back around to fitness, though, is that in my current situation, as well as my previous one, I switched in to "maintenance mode" when my back was up against the wall. You know the feeling, right? When it comes to either sinking or swimming, sometimes the best option is to just tread water, until you can muster up the energy to start swimming again. Well, for about the last month or so, I've been treading water in my training.
I've written quite a bit about my annoying persistent Mother's Thumb tendonitis. It's kept me from bearing weight on my right hand for about 10 weeks now. Couple that with a long-term shoulder impingement that is heal-ING but not quite there yet, and mix in the stress of my current work situation, and I haven't got the greatest recipe for strength gains, fat loss, etc. etc. bla bla. But that's okay!
Is there something wrong with maintaining the status quo? I should say not, especially if the status quo is something you're pretty satisfied with. As a college athlete in the off-season, my number one goal was simply to maintain a good level of strength and conditioning. I knew it wasn't possible, or healthy, to train year-round at the level of intensity demanded of me during my sports season. That kind of training results in injuries and mental fatigue more often than not. So why would I train like that all of the time when my primary goal is to heal up a few nagging injuries and make it out of the next few months alive? Right. I think I just answered my own question...
When my life gets in the way, I just flip that switch, so to speak, and go in to maintenance mode--the mode of training that will preserve my strength and quality of movement, but won't quite be enough to improve it. For me, that's twice a week of strength training with maybe a high intensity circuit of some kind thrown in there mid-week. I have been getting back in to kettlebell complexes now that my hand is feeling better--but for the longest time I would just set up a timer at work and do some intervals with a weighted sled, some kettlebell swings, or whatever, for about 10-15 minutes and call it good. Any more training and I'd be making progress, any less, and I wouldn't even be maintaining. It's a fine line to walk, and I'm sure every person is just a bit different when it comes to what they need to do in order to "maintain".
I hope my honesty will inspire those of you out there who may have your backs to the wall at this point, too. Don't let your body go--exercise is the best stress reliever I know of, even if it only lasts for the duration of the training session. You'll only compound your stress when you see the negative changes to your body as a result of how other areas of your life are affecting you.
My goal as a coach, and as an athlete myself, is to be as transparent as possible. There are no shortcuts, no secrets, and no magic pills. The only thing separating yourself between you and your goals is good, old fashioned, Rocky IV style hard-ass work. Get through it, come out on the other side and take a deep breath, and get back at the grind!