Stretch & strain

One of the fitness faux pas that I am most often guilty of is not stretching before and after a workout. As a lifter and a former dancer, I should know better. But I often get so excited to dive into the meaty part of my workouts (the part where I am throwing around heavy weights) that I don't want to take the time to stretch. And a few weeks ago, I really paid for it. Half way through a particularly challenging leg workout I felt my lower back tweak in that way that all athletes know means your hamstrings are so tight they are throwing your back out of alignment. That one tweak led to three weeks off from my normal weight routine and having to ice and take it easy just when I was getting back into the swing of things after the holidays. If there is one thing that most people know about me, I am not a fan of taking it easy. I am a much bigger fan of full speed ahead. Of pushing things to the very limit. However, sometimes your body jumps in and tells you to stop. If there is one thing I have learned from a history of torn muscles, strained tendons, broken toes, and inflamed IT bands, it is that the best thing to do when your body is telling you to stop is to do so. Immediately.

As frustrating as it can be for us strong willed forward motion folk to slow down, sometimes the best thing we can do when we hit a snag is to pause and reassess. Whether it is in the gym, at home, or at the office, obstacles and impasses offer up a chance for us the grow as individuals. The key is for us to recognize the actions that got us to the point of breaking, and learn from it. Only once we realize how we got there can we use it as an opportunity to recover and create a superior outcome.

In fitness, I find these opportunities in injuries. As much as they frustrate me, they also force me to recenter, to focus on eating clean, and changing my routine to train lighter which allows me to truly hone in and perfect my form. I often take time when injured to re-up and re-integrate my yoga practice into the rest of my gym life, and also take time each day to stretch to slowly rebuild my strength.

The results of taking this time never ceases to amaze me. What I originally envisioned as a huge hindrance turns out to be a huge opportunity to strengthen and rebuild my foundation. I walk away stronger than I was pre-injury, and during my recovery I have built a set of tools from which I can only grow even farther, and avoid further injury by making the same mistakes. More than anything else though, my injuries force me to become more flexible, both physically and mentally, a skill that sustains me in every aspect of my life.

I think the thing I love most about being an athlete and a gym junkie is that every lesson you learn in training can translate directly to your life outside of those gym walls. I can't think of two principles that applies more in the world of business that I live in more than that of recovery and flexibility. After all, as all of us who have gotten our asses handed to us at one point or another know, people care much less about our failings and mistakes, than they do about home we come back from them.

So how do we get back up when we've been knocked down? I had one particularly substantial ego bruising experience about six months ago that had me answering this question after I was turned down following a job interview. In my entire career, I have never interviewed with someone and not been offered a job in return, so this experience stung particularly deep.

However, life isn't about the obstacles we face, it is about the ways we overcome them. Getting turned down for the job really made me stop and really think about where I wanted to go in my career. I had jumped to interview with the company largely because they were the first offer that had come my way in a while. As much as I liked their team and their products, the lack of work/life balance I saw among many of their employees didn't fit with who I am as a person and a parent. Even though it hurt my ego to not be chosen, it was a blessing in disguise because it made me realize what I wanted out of a company, and compelled me to wholeheartedly go after (and get a job with!) a company that resonated with me professionally and personally.

In my life, I don't ever want to stop growing or learning. Recovering from injury, whether it is professional, personal, or physical, presents us all with an incredible chance and challenge to grow as a person. When you rise to meet that challenge, you can only become stronger, and will continue down the path to becoming the most unstoppable version of yourself. My advice is to meet life and it's challenges head on. And, of course, try to find time to stretch your body and your brain so that you can be flexible enough to handle whatever life may choose to throw your way.