The Price of Exuberance

Or: How My Ego Broke My Body

Yes, I’m trying to stand up straight. No, that’s not normal.

I Know Better

A few days ago, I made a distinct error in judgment. I got excited during a workout and did more than I should have. I’m human, I was having fun, and I should have skipped that last set.

To set the stage, I’ve been running regularly for over a year, in which time I’ve lost over 20 pounds and dropped to approximately 20% body fat. My body feels better than it has in a long time, and I was ready to re-introduce barbell work.

Wednesday of last week, I chose to skip my 4+ mile run and do a functional strength workout incorporating deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and jump rope. And it was glorious. Not that I set any personal bests or  did anything remarkable other than I did string together more double-unders than I expected to accomplish.

I ran on Thursday. It was a good run, and provided the things I’ve come to need from runs: the requirement to focus on the mental  challenge of running on uneven ground and the mental exhaustion that allows the negative voices in my brain to fall asleep for a while.

At Least . . . I Should Know Better

And then Friday happened. Olympic lifts are highly technical movements, and I understand the dangers of doing too much too soon. My planned workout was to do 5 sets of 5 reps of clean & jerks at 65 pounds. I felt this weight was light enough I would be able to just focus on my form and would be able to easily finish the workout without problems.

My body started sending me hints my plan was unreasonable sometime near the beginning of the third round. The muscles were more tired than I expected, but nowhere near failure.

By the end of the fourth round, my body told me it was tired, and I remember thinking, “I should be happy with this. Just put the weights away and call it a day.” But my ego and brain swindled me into thinking, “It’ll be fine. Don’t just give up because you’re a little tired. The first four sets were fine…you’ll be fine.”

So I put on one of my “pump up” songs, rested a little longer, let the music get my adrenaline start flowing, stepped up to the barbell . . . I’m not sure if I pulled too hard from the ground or caught the bar too far forward, but I dumped the bar and knew something wasn’t right.

Face Challenges with Optimism

post-lift selfie July 3, 2020
The pain hasn’t really set in yet . . . but it was there.

I instantly recognized the feeling and knew my back was in trouble. My optimism made me think it wouldn’t be too bad. But it took 4 days before I recovered enough to stand in front of the mirror to take the picture at the top of this post. It’s not as obvious in this photo, but I spent most of the weekend with my left shoulder about 3 inches lower than my right.

This is the formula for many workout injuries I’ve heard: excitement to resume being active, overconfidence in your own ability, and pushing through the signals your body sends.

Did I Screw Up?

If I had been working with a personal trainer, they would have accepted too much responsibility for this injury. Since I was on my own, reacquainting myself with movements I’ve done before, no one can take any of the responsibility from me.

It’s my fault I injured myself. I let my ego be too strong. And the price I paid was high: I’m closing in on 5 days and I can barely walk a half mile without discomfort.

When you get excited to face a challenge, remember: your brain and your ego can write checks your body can’t cash. In a state of exuberance, our judgment gets clouded and we need to be more careful about the decisions we make.

Sometimes the hardest thing is stopping. Whether it’s one more jump, one more singletrack, or one more mile running. Don’t take yourself out of the game. That price is hard to pay.

#DoHardStuffLiveBetter

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