Do more of what you suck at, to get better at what you love

I know we all would rather do the sexy stuff. The sweating, the panting, the things that make us look good, that we can brag about in the pub or on social media. But take some time to do the things you need to do, the things you have neglected and probably suck at a bit and you will make improvements in the things you love too.

I have definitely fallen victim to this in the past. I enjoy the buzz I get from pushing my body to its limits but I pushed too hard, too often. One morning I was feeling a bit tight but shrugged it off and went out trail running anyway. As I jumped over a fence I felt my back go. This was the final straw and my back had had enough and didn’t I know it. The next twelve months consisted of multiple physiotherapy sessions, lots of hanging upside down and even traction. One physio told me I’d probably never run. Enough was enough, nothing worked, I’d pushed it too far and it was time to go under the knife.

After the surgery I took up all the things I had been promising my body for the last god knows how long I would do. It is obvious to me now I had waited too long to add this into my routine, hopefully you won’t wait as long as I did and you will avoid the pain I went through. When I started I couldn’t even sit upright and bending over was a physical effort, my hands barely touching my knees let alone my toes. My high intensity running was switched for a daily routine of yoga, Wim Hoff breathing, stretching and hanging.

For me, sexy was replaced with the necessary, this was the only way I was coming back from injury and proving I would be able to get out running and back to the things I loved. I spent a full year focusing on my recovery, making small but significant gains, repeating movement patterns, building the strength back and not pushing myself too much too soon. It wasn’t easy physically or mentally, I wanted to be out there with everyone competing but the reality check I got when I was in so much pain I could no longer even play with my kids, let alone run, kept me focused and determined to recover as much and as quickly as possible.

After six months I slowly started running again, getting out for some short runs and testing my back, warming up properly beforehand and spending the necessary time on stretching and recovery afterwards. A year after my surgery I got my personal best on a 10k course that I have been running for over 10 years, since then I have made the podium on a few races and even won a couple too. Not only was I back from injury but the work I had put in was proving to make me better than I was before. Even though I am now back to full fitness I still wake up with sufficient time to perform my daily routine of breathing, stretching and mobility drills.

After my injury I find myself appreciating more than ever the importance of quality recovery between sessions. I am a lot more aware of, and give a lot more respect to the twinges I feel and the triggers which could set me right back to where I was pre-surgery. From my years as a personal trainer and athlete I have found recovery time is often under appreciated and mostly misunderstood. I have a lot of clients who find recovery time difficult and worry about what they aren’t doing in this time, seeing it as lost training time. Ideally you should rest and recover twice as much as you stress your body; if you run for an hour dedicate two hours to quality recovery time. Recovery is not just sitting on your butt watching back to back episodes of Game of Thrones. It is drinking water, eating good food, stretching, walking, slow time good form exercises and sleeping well.

We are all made differently, we all respond to stresses and strains differently, some of us can touch our toes with no problem, some of us can reach our arms above our head and some can’t. I recently started instructing movement and mobility classes to share what I’ve learnt and help people to learn more about what their bodies can and can’t do and to teach methods and techniques to help people make improvements. The classes have been well attended with a wide range of people with different goals. However one of the guys who came to the first session, a very fit runner, told me he didn’t really enjoy the session as he felt like he was the ‘worst’ in the room. He had come to the session knowing his mobility wasn’t great, wanting to learn more so he could work on it, yet despite this when he was surrounded by other people he let his ego take a knock believing everyone else was ‘better’ than him. Unfortunately this stopped him from attending the next class, even though he knew there was a lot he could learn and implement and improvements to be made.

Mobility is becoming a hot topic in the fitness arena. However, it is not just something that athletes should be spending time on. Modern day living is placing stresses and strains on our bodies which are compromising our ability to perform basic functional movements. Everyone is starting to realise the importance of being more active and moving more. I believe this will progress further into appreciating the important of moving more freely and incorporating time into our daily routines to make this happen.

So do yourself a favour and consider the following points;

Find out where you are compromised in your mobility and spend time working on it. Whether you are a runner, swimmer, cyclist, walker you will see benefits in your sports and daily lives from working on those areas where you are restricted.

Remember there should be no ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than anyone else when it comes to things like mobility and yoga which are helping you to achieve your goals.

Take the time to recovery properly; your mind and body will thank you for it and you will be giving yourself the time needed to actually realise the physical gains you should be making from all your hard training sessions.

Don’t let your ego hold you back from doing what you know will be good for you in the end. The gains may seem small and they will take time, but it will be worth it in the end.

Find out more about what we do and what you can do to work on the things we all suck at by exploring our website and signing up to the member zone. To find out about my mobility classes click on this link to my website: Barny O'Neill PT.

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