How the hell did I end up here?

Last July I was on vacation, noticing a little pinch in my shoulder when I sat back up from taking a nap on the beach.

Last August I felt a weird pain creeping up my biceps when doing face pulls or pull ups. I took some pain killers here and there and cut out exercises that stung in my shoulder.

Last September I decided why not see a physiotherapist and get a green light for my next powerlifting cycle or some cream I could numb my shoulder pain with?

Last October I hit a 115kg (253lb) deadlift. I never felt this strong in my life. A few days later I hit a 80kg squat (176lb – all at 53kg bodyweight) and I remember that was the last workout before things went downhill.

I couldn’t hang on a bar yet alone pull myself up from it, couldn’t even unlock the empty bar on the bench press. I was doing side raises and unintentionally dropped the dumbbell because I couldn’t control my arm anymore due to the pain. I couldn’t brush my hair, wear a backpack, cycle to uni, yet alone drive a car. I had days I couldn’t pick up a folk and eat.

I will get surgery on my shoulder later this week and I want to reflect on the nagging physical pain and mental battle of the past 10 months by summing up the top 5 things I’ve learned from this injury. And they’re not just about lifting. You can apply that to any situation of your life. They’re about passion, goals, identity, mindset and about how we decide to tackle every day.

You always need a goal

I cannot not move, so since day one I have found a way to exercise around my injury. But I figured that even though I should go all in and work with what I have, motivation often was very low.

Because I didn’t have a goal. I didn’t care about how I performed on that day because it didn’t really get me anywhere. It wouldn’t get me closer to anything or further away from it. That performance wasn’t worth much to me.

If you do something without an end goal in mind, what motivates you on the days you’re not motivated? If you work for a company without getting much out of the relationship, why perform extraordinarily? If you hit the gym not aiming to improve your physique, health or strength, why push through a workout? Who would work for a degree if in the end there was no degree?

Do not wait to tackle your goals

I sometimes told myself pre- injury that I’m was going to take it lighter that day because why stress about going all in every day, when I have all the time in the world?

Well, because unexpected (un)pleasant things happen. Aka life. And its going to throw us off no matter how well we plan ahead. There never is the right time to start tackling something, you will always have motivation lows no matter how badly you want your goal. Your future is created by what you do today and if tomorrow you wake up and find a huge wall built right before your goal at least you can say you gave everything to come as close as possible to it and now you just have to take down that wall.

Passion is part of your identity

I often felt dumb complaining about my injury, knowing there is more suffering in the world than a torn labrum. But take away the horse from an equestrian, the music from the dancer, the hill from a hiker, the bike of a cyclist, the water from the rower, the legs from a runner, the barbell from a powerlifter. It freaking hurts.

Because when you’re passionate about something, that passion becomes part of your identity. That was what my mental battle was all about. Through losing my strength, muscle, outlet, endorphin rushes and feeling of empowerment I missed parts of me that I really liked and – because lifting is my passion – needed.

It’s a beautiful thing to have a passion. Don’t underestimate it. Take your own pain from not pursuing your passion seriously, even if there are worse things in the world. Our passion makes us happier, more fulfilled and balanced, so whatever that is for you – don’t put in on the backburner.

You can adapt to anything if you try hard enough

Had you told me a year ago I would do 4/6 workouts a week solely on a cardio machine I would have laughed at you. Right now its my only possibility, so I make it work, because I love to move. I had to try freaking hard every single day to adapt my mindset from “go all in, go heavy, go hard” to “I’ll hit the gym to stay in shape and ‘fit’”.

I know I can even adapt it to anything that will come my way post surgery. It might not feel as badass, but I’ll accept it for the time I have to.

But you can adapt to anything you set your mind to. Know that whenever you say “I can’t do xyz”, in reality you don’t want it enough. You can’t work out? You can’t find a way to fit it in/make it work. You can’t date that girl? You don’t want to risk being rejected. You can’t start that business? You don’t want to do make the necessary sacrifices.

Trust.

I woke up every morning having to hit a reset button and work with however much pain I had. I learned to appreciate good days even more and make the most out of bad days. I learned that pain and setbacks really are just about your mindset and only as bad as you decide to view them.

There are always worse and better days ahead. Life, pain, joy, struggle and success comes in seasons. Be prepared for things to get worse, but trust that you have times ahead of you so great you can’t even imagine them yet.

Until next week and the start of my comeback 😉

Carmen