After being inspired by Wimbledon earlier this year I took the plunge and joined a tennis club. Being me, I thought I could dive right back in where I left off 10 years ago.
So I played at maximum intensity for hours, two days in a row. On the second day I could tell my body was tired. Problem was, my ego wasn’t – so I played on.
Next morning I couldn’t bend down to tie my shoelaces without a shooting pain hitting me in my bum cheek and radiating down my leg. Yep, I’d overdone it.
I recall the same happening for a variety of activities over the years. Here’s the formula;
1. Be inspired
2. Start a new activity
3. Go full throttle, get injured/fail have to take a couple of weeks off.
A few examples:
I learned about the importance of nutrition. Studied obsessively. Tried to change everything at once and nearly sent myself crazy with the extreme changes.
After a year or so I’d had enough and changed tactics. Instead of continually beating myself up I decided to go back to normality and gradually build in the changes over time (with better results and less head craziness).
Went from wearing normal trainers to de-constructed shoes (Nike frees/Vibram 5 fingers – yea the weird looking ones). No weaning period – I went straight to wearing them all day everyday.
This gradually damaged my foot. so I paid for a podiatrist to create me some orthotics and point out the obvious (that I needed to transition gradually).
After a period of resistance I relented, went back to wearing normal footwear with small periods of bare footedness.
(NOTE: I don’t think minimal shoes are bad – they were just bad for me when I wore them all day every day with no transition)
You’re probably thinking how stupid I was to go in full throttle with a track record like the one above. And I’d agree. But I’d suggest this wasn’t the biggest lesson I’ve learned from these experiences.
The biggest lesson has come from what happens after the set backs. And the value of observing my limitations to make better decisions about that specific activity in the future.
This doesn’t mean I think we should be avoiding failure or setbacks (I believe sometimes we need to fail to know where our limits are).
But with new activities, whether taking up sport, starting working out at the gym or trying to improve our diet, I’ve come to accept that there’s going to be a learning curve where things might not be so smooth.
It’s OK to fail, so long as we come back wiser, with a new knowledge of what works for us… and what doesn’t. It’s totally fine to start something, fall off the wagon, and then get back on… but better