Push forward. No matter what. That is what I think, no matter what happens. Good things. Bad things. Anything. No matter what happens, push forward. Has this philosophy served me well over time? I believe so. Could you adopt some of this philosophy for yourself and benefit by it? YES. If it can work for me, it can work for you.
Let’s talk about it.
Today, I just set another PR (personal record) in an exercise that very much involves the muscles of the “posterior chain”. The muscles that I am talking about specifically are the “hamstrings”, the “glutes”, and the “lower back”. I am simply using the common names, or slang names, for each of these muscle groups, but for those of you out there that may want confirmation that I have spent my requisite time in the appropriate fields of academics, I am talking about semi-membranosus, semi-tendinosus, biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and erectors spinae. Yes, and I just wrote that off the top of my head. Anyway, BACK to it (haha pun definitely intended). So, where was I? Right… I set a new PR today in the SLDL. SLDL is the abbreviation I use for Straight-Legged Dead Lifts. It occurs to me, at this very moment, that we may need a quality video of that exercise on here for good reference. I will work on that, but for now maybe you can search for an example on youtube…? My new PR is 345 x 4, 395 x 4.
Why the heck is it important that I set a new PR in the SLDL? Mostly because I suffered a SEVERE back injury in November-ish of 1999 (13 years ago, roughly). I am not prone to exaggerating about injuries. Usually, if I am hurt or sick, you would not even know because I don’t like to admit I am hurt or sick, even to myself. But one cold day, at about 5:15 AM, at a gym in Methuen, Massachusetts, I suffered the worst injury of my career. It was nobody’s fault but my own. I had decided in my head that because of my strength levels at that time, it was pointless for me to load the bar with anything less than 225 lbs to start warming up with. Back then, I was squatting regularly with about 500 lbs, ATG (Ass to The GRASS!) with no belt, no wraps, sometimes barefoot. And I was using a stricter than normal form due to the recommendations of a coach I was following at that time.
Well, the combination of the cold morning, stricter form, and the newly-formulated Paul Newt Arrogant Warm-up Routine was just too much. I loaded the bar with 225 lbs and started squatting, virtually seconds after I entered the gym. On my 6th rep, I felt something snap in my lower back. Immediate excruciating pain. I continued for 4 more reps anyway. Why? Because, I am the only one who tells me “stop”. I put the bar back on the rack and started seeing stars because the pain was so intense. I got sick to my stomach. I started to sweat. I had to sit down. I entered Stage 1 of the 5 steps of dealing with a crisis situation- DENIAL. “It’s not that bad”, “I’m not really hurt”, “It will pass”, “I just need a minute”, “NO, THIS DIDN’T JUST HAPPEN!”.
But it did.
The next morning when I woke up, I immediately knew something was VERY wrong. I couldn’t get out of bed. I could barely move. I almost started to panic. I thought maybe I was paralyzed, that I had damaged my spinal cord. I immediately thought about killing myself if I was paralyzed. Then, my anger kicked in. Ah, anger… my old friend… YOU will NEVER leave me, will you? “GET UP!”, the voice in my head shrieked angrily. Wanting to live long enough to have my revenge on my bad fortune, I forced myself out of that bed and somehow managed to go stand in the shower. It took me a half hour to travel less than 20 feet. I stayed in the shower for nearly 2 hours, exhausting all the hot water and finally just standing there shivering in pain while I let the now freezing cold water from the showerhead hit my lower back. That first day was a long day. The first day of a very long time that I suffered the agony of having a “bad back”.
From the years 1999-2005, I tried SO MANY different ways to try to rehabilitate my lower back to it’s former greatness. Some met with moderate success. Others re-injured me and set me back months, or even years, of progress. There was one thing that dramatically helped me and kept me going even in the midst of several nights when I cried myself to sleep in utter frustration. Everytime I failed to rehabilitate my back with the method of the moment, I looked at it as one step closer to finding the solution I was searching for. Keeping the strong positive belief in my head that, eventually, I will find the solution, saved me. On top of that, I had a decidedly cheery attitude about what to do about my weight training. If my back was acting up again, I would occupy my mind and body with learning something else that didn’t require a healthy, functioning lower back. “If I can’t squat, I will just explore new ways to improve my press”. I held the attitude that, no matter what, I was going to PUSH FORWARD. Even in the midst of the primary injury day and all the re-injury days, I NEVER stopped going to the gym. I never stopped weight training.
“Today my back is HEALED.”
In late 2005, I finally developed an effective lower back rehabilitation protocol. Years of trial and error coupled with 2-4 hours of reading per day finally paid off. Today my back is HEALED. It gives me chills to even say that. I am very lucky to say, that as of this writing, I have absolutely no injuries and no pain. I am coming up on setting new lifetimes PRs, PRs that were set in my 20s, before my lower back injury.
And now I have an extremely effective rehab protocol for healing injured backs…
Remember, no matter what happens to you, PUSH FORWARD.
UPDATE January 2017:My lower back continues to be strong, flexible, and pain free- sometimes I forget I ever injured it. Additionally, the philosophy of Push Forward has remained and served me well. In July 2015, I had a triple bypass surgery (CABG) – the inevitable result of having an untreated food allergy that broke down my body for 30 years. As of this writing, I have made a full recovery. Learn how you too can recover from anything by following my posts here on The Perfect 105.