At the beginning of the year, I decided my fitness goal would be to do a pull up.
Yesterday, I got my chin over the bar unassisted. The last time I did that I was 13.
Technically, it was a chin up, but in that moment it didn’t matter. I still had the realization that I was able to do something that even 6 months ago felt very far away and that was pretty damn cool.
It got me thinking, why did I pick this as a goal? Why did it matter? What made it feel important and not arbitrary?
And finally, I’ve said I wanted to do a pull up before. What made this the year that I actually saw visible progress?
A few factors were involved.
First, this was the first year that I wasn’t in active pain, coming back from an injury or afraid I couldn’t trust myself to do hard things, because I have an extensive history of overdoing it.
I didn’t get to this place on accident.
I’ve written about this before, but in 2013, I suffered neural impingements in both arms after decades of training on unstable shoulders and massage school caught up with me.
I’d been injured before, but that particular injury was unpleasant and debilitating enough (try not being able to grip a steering wheel without nerve pain and numbness) that it completely changed the way I practiced movement.
Rest became a priority. I grudgingly accepted moderation as my new philosophy. I devoted my time to rebuilding my foundation. No big, fancy exercises. Just stability, mobility, gentle resistance work and walking. Basically, I followed my own damn advice and started doing the things I was teaching to my clients.
I got better. I stopped having pain. Gradually, I got brave and started to try harder things and I started to feel fairly content with where I was.
At the beginning of this year though, I got restless. I started to ask myself “What are you building this foundation for?”
The short answer? To be able to do shit and in turn show other people that they can also do shit and (forgive that I sound like a broken record) pain and suffering are not required.
I don’t want my biggest physical accomplishments to have happened when I was 13. I want to be living through them now.
Yes, foundational work, be it strengthening your hips, mobilizing your spine or stabilizing your shoulders is important for moving well, reducing tension and pain and decreasing your risk of injury.
That stuff is important, but there’s a reason why it’s called the basics. It’s just the beginning. Once you have that down, you can take your body and your fitness pretty much anywhere.
Too often we look at difficult movement skills like a pull up and think we have to go all Rocky on it. That there needs to be all this sacrifice, pain and suffering. That the eye of the tiger should be blaring in the background. That if it doesn’t hurt, you didn’t earn it.
Let me be clear. You have to show up, be consistent and put in the work, but pain (and eye of the tiger) is optional. Personally, I like to workout to vampire fantasy audio books 😉
This was the year I started consistently going into the weight room. For the past 16 weeks, I’ve shown up consistently several days a week.
Was every single workout like a Disney movie? Ah, no.
Some days I told myself suck it up buttercup, dragged my ass in and knocked it out as quickly as I could fueled by the belief that if I put in the work, something good would happen.
For the most part though, it was enjoyable. Nothing hurt. It took effort, but it wasn’t punishing. I was a little sore, but I wasn’t wrecked. I wasn’t throwing tires over my head or doing handstands on stacked free weights. Mostly I was hanging from a bar and doing some deadlifts and bicep curls.
None of that would have been possible without the shift in my mindset that took place in 2013 or the time I spent rebuilding my foundation.
The difference between then and now is that today everything I do is built on a solid foundation. In many ways I started working on getting my chin over a bar 4 years ago. I just didn’t know it yet.
Could I have done it without all the rotator cuff, core and hip exercises? Obviously, but the difference is that I can take that strength, body awareness and control and put it towards anywhere I want.
Today is about a pull up. Next month? I don’t know, but I love that the possibilities feel limitless.
So, if you’re where I was in 2013, know that I get how frustrating that is and how far away you might feel from being able to do the things you want to, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
It can get better and small consistent steps might very well be the thing that takes you to where you want to be.
P.S. Speaking of foundations, I’m happy to announce that the waitlist for Hips Don’t Lie, an 8 week at home program to kick stiffness and pain by building hip strength, improving balance and increasing flexibility is officially open!
I’ve been working behind the scenes on this for the last several months. It’s got a beginner and advanced version so #nohipsleftbehind, tutorials and a super rad bonus from a friend + movement expert, whose work I admire and value.
Want to learn more + get freebies, discounts when the program launches? Join the waitlist here.