How many times have you taken up sport, a hobby, something that tickled your fancy to pursue because its enjoyable and thought it would make you happier? Sports are appealing as they bring achievement and a sense of satisfaction. Any kind of reward is part of human psychology and something many folks set their sights on: becoming the best in their chosen thing whether it be running the 200 metre sprint at the Olympics, or the next innovator to cut down on the earth’s resources to reduce carbon footprint and save the planet. Both are huge achievements.
When people start a hobby, which could be anything, it is with the aim to become skilled at it and improve and potentially even shine. If this is a fitness related endeavour, like one I recently embarked on myself, it usually has added benefits of living a healthier lifestyle too.
For example, let’s talk about strength training. How many of you have wanted to try a new exercise? In fact, maybe you’ve never stepped foot in a gym and that is the first hurdle to overcome before you even pick up a dumbbell.
Throughout my experience and observations over the last 10 years working with people, I’ve seen lots of what I like to describe as ‘coming out the gates too hot’.
Yes! If you guessed what that means already, hat tip.
What I mean by this phrase is people tend to go balls deep, cut corners and learn too quickly. The impulse we feel to do this is normal. The world has changed and we get things we want on demand with a click on a button. It’s too easy to pull up Amazon and buy anything within seconds to be delivered the next day. We call this instant gratification. Our brains all work this way like it or not.
When we decide to pursue new skills and learn the ins-and-outs of something and we realise this can’t be bought, it could be enough to not even begin.
Knowing this turns people off because the patience, effort and commitment required is a big discourager. When considering the potential mistakes and set backs you’ll have along the way, the first thought is to jump ship and never face it. To carry on living never knowing “what if I tried?”
In the context of fitness and health, they both must be earned. Yes unfortunately there’s no magic pill you can swallow to bring you all pillars of fitness and rock the body you dream of.
Imagine for sec, you would’ve heard about such a thing already, no?
We need to be cognizant of the actual journey we’re taking and the discipline necessary to becoming better in your chosen thing. Start being openminded, be excited for the new adventure, learn to be patience and fall in love with the journey daily.
The reason I’m writing this is to do with my own recent experience.
With us all in lockdown this year and some spare time on my hands, I acquired an itch to try running. So I gave it a shot. I live in the city so every time you step outside and you’re bound to see somebody jogging down the street. I’ve lived here 5 years and I’ve never had any interest in running, can’t say why, maybe it’s because I know it’s not the best form of exercise with our sedentary lifestyles and lack of poor movement capabilities. Apart from this, the aerobic benefits are great, and being outside in the fresh air with the wind on your face and sense of feeling free alone is a strong reason to start running. I’m no professional runner, but I can see when someone should pull back before they get hurt. That’s when it’s time to start strength training instead, and work on joint health alongside mobility needed to run optimally.
As the week went on I found an enjoyment for running, finishing at the end was rewarding and how I felt improving kept me going 2-3x per week. I was going hard, pushing the needle each run and going further than before. I was surprised with how well I was performing. Then I got too big for my boots, I wanted to run half a marathon. I truly believed I had the mental and physical strength to complete 20k. My personal expectations were high, I knew I could push through the long run ahead. From my previous progress I was sure this was in the bag for me. On reflection, any pro running coach would’ve probably advised against it. When I compare my mindset to a beginner starting with me to build muscle and strength, I would never pick up the heaviest weight and insist they lift it. It’s stupid- asking for trouble with an injury bound to happen.
So my question to myself was: why I didn’t I take my own advice?
I truly have no answer. Perhaps with the newbie progress I got overly confident and ego got the better of me.
So that day I ran 18k and called it quits, knowing full well I’m not far from finishing. To be honest the real reason I stopped was that I was running out of time and needed to get back ready for work, but I was aware that I had been dealing with a small niggle on the inside of my knee half way round. That night I went to bed with no sign of pain or swelling but the next morning, my knee was inflamed, sore to stand on and the sensation actually made me feel sick when I tried to walk. I eventually treated the knee and found the cause. It meant running had to stop for a couple months and I was annoyed with myself for that, but more importantly, it had affected my lifting sessions. I wasn’t able to do certain exercises which meant performing alternatives and this was very frustrating – I’d never had an injury, even with my intense lifting sessions. If I asked people what sport had the higher chance of hurting yourself running or lifting weights, they’d pick weight training for sure. I disagree. Running used to be on my list of low impact cardio with low risks, but I’ve changed my mind since. That said there’s risk for either, and the poison is in the dose.
The lesson I’ve been reminded about, which I wanted to share with others, is to remember anything worth achieving in life takes consistency and repeated daily efforts. My take is this: if you could be the best in your craft right now instantly, would you? Because I know I would prefer to have earned and lived the experiences and deserved my way to the top, knowing full well that I earned it.