Thursday, June 16, 2011

...rEcOveRiNg fRoM pArALySiS..

I remember the day...a long time ago...that my trainer at the time (now friend and coworker/boss) tried to teach me an exercise...a lift...the Push Jerk. It's a complicated...advanced that can be difficult to teach and learn. Luckily I have since been to an Crossfit Olympic Lifting certification where I was taught by great coaches such as Mike Burgener, Shane Hamman, Dutch Lowy, and Sage Burgener (just to name a few). There I learned a much simpler approach to teaching this movement that has made it much easier to teach other people. Unfortunately, at the time, it was much more complicated. I stood there...feeling extreme pressure. I knew people working out around me were watching...and I had been given the instructions...over and over and over. I had failed...many times...and I was afraid. There are so many movements involved that my mind was racing as I repeated the instructions to myself that I had been given at lightning speed over and the hips...small jump...not too aggressive...pull yourself under the in a partial squat with a full extension of the arms...then stand. I just stood there...mind racing...staring at myself in the movement. It seemed like forever and I knew I needed to try move. Suddenly, I almost felt as though I had stepped outside myself. I had all these questions running through my mind... "Why am I just standing here?" "Why can't I move?" "What if I fail?" "What if I forget?" I could see my trainer's face reflected in the mirror...puzzled look...dead silence. He said to me "What are you waiting on?" I couldn't answer. I could only stand there frozen. Eventually I did try...again...only to fail...again. I am happy to report that I have long since mastered the Push Jerk and successfully taught it to many people.As I sat down to journal my training progress for the day...frustrated...I replayed those events in my mind. I tried to make sense of what had happened. I have never been frozen like that before. It literally felt like I was paralyzed...and in retrospect...I have come to realize that I WAS...paralyzed. I was thinking so hard and I was so scared...that I suffered from mental paralysis or what OLY lifting coach Mike Burgener calls "paralysis by analysis". I also realized that this was not the first time that this had was just the first time I had become aware of it.

I never finished it, but years ago...I started reading the book, "A Return To Love" by Marianne Williamson. I remember coming across a passage that I wrote down and it reminds me of this experience and helped give me some better understanding of why this had happened to me. This is what it said...

"A lot of us know we have what it takes-the looks, the education, the talent, the credentials. But in certain areas, we're paralyzed. We're not stopped by something on the outside, but by something on the inside. Our oppression is internal. The government isn't holding us back, or hunger or poverty. We're not afraid we'll get sent to Siberia. We're just afraid, period. Our fear is free floating. We're afraid this isn't the right relationship or we're afraid it is. We're afraid they won't like us, or we're afraid they will. We're afraid of failure or we're afraid of success. We're afraid of dying young or we're afraid of growing old. We're more afraid of life than we are of death."

I think I've been a bit paralyzed myself lately. I think and think and think about all the things I want and NEED to do, and then I become frozen and the millions of instructions and questions enter my mind. I want to blame my lack of progress on outside forces...people...upset in my day to day life...injuries...etc, but the truth's not the outside that is the problem. It's me doing it to being afraid.

I don't know. Maybe other people don't do this to themselves like I do, but in the case that some of you do, I want to bring it to your attention and tell you that you can recover. You can stop being paralyzed and start moving forward again. Sometimes there will be setbacks...that's part of progressing...but if you want to be better at Cleans or Snatches...or increase the amount you Squat or Deadlift...or improve your diet and get stronger and leaner...or run have to stop being afraid and "what if"ing yourself to death and be willing to try again and again. You can't stop when you fail and you can't be afraid or worry about what the people watching may think.

There are 5 things you can do to help you along the way to recovery.

1. Find people that are good at those things and trust them to teach you. You would not hire Michael Phelps to help you improve your Back Squat. Although he is a respected athlete and has probably seen or even done squats, that is not where his expertise lies. Hire a trainer or coach that can teach you and help you improve in a specific way that he or she is good at. Read books or articles online. Become educated in what it is you are looking to accomplish.

2. Practice...over and over and over until you begin to see improvement. Even the greatest athletes, have to practice and work to be THEIR personal best and many athletes that are considered great have not always been and have failed or been told they would never do the things they did. Michael Jordan is a perfect example.

3. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and do things differently. Everyone LIKES to do what they are good at. I'd rather deadlift than push heavy weight over my head ANY day, because that's where I struggle. I'd rather run than do a complicated movement that requires agility. The problem is, that if we only do what comes easy, we can't improve our weaknesses. It's that simple. You HAVE to do things that are hard if you want to be better.

4. Be consistent and have a plan. You cannot get stronger if you lift once or twice a week ever so often and you can't be prepared for a marathon if you only run whenever you feel like it and go as far as you want. You have to methodically work towards what it is you want to accomplish. You have to KNOW what you are going to do when you step into the gym and you have to stick to the plan on the days that you don't feel like it.

5. Set real, attainable goals with real time limits and hold yourself accountable. I once asked a client what her goals were. She said, "To get in better shape." I said "What do you mean?" She continued to give generic answers until I told her this. "You are hiring me to be your guide. To get you from point A to point B. I know where we are at. We are AT point A, but if I don't know specifically where point B is, I can't get you there!" You have to have a SPECIFIC goal. It can't be to simply "be stronger". Know what that means, whether it means increasing your deadlift to twice your body weight or running a half marathon. Then you MUST give yourself a time limit that is reasonable and make no excuses. You can't push back the date or lie about progress. You hold yourself accountable to your coach or through a blog...whatever...but don't take the easy way out.

Sometimes, progress is slow. But progress is just that...PROGRESS. If you've been paralyzed. If you've been holding yourself back or giving yourself excuses or lying to yourself...start today. You may not be able to jump up, but at least wiggle your toes! You can begin by taking small steps because as long as you can at least "wiggle your toes"'re no longer paralyzed.


  1. Such an awesome post Marsha! Paralysis from fear has been my nemesis for as long as I can remember, and more often than not I have given in to it. I have been a successful athlete, but always give up when it gets too scary. I was too scared to learn to ride a bike or skateboard as a kid - what if I fall? My parents took me to swimming lessons, I learned the mechanics, but have never been able to let go enough to enjoy the deep end. Sounds silly, but yet I read your post and GOT IT. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I believe never letting your fear rule. What a great message, keep spreading the word. Get out there and live life.

  3. I love this & definitely agree. It's one reason why I started CF a few months ago, and I'm soo glad I did!